What’s your name?

Warning: Today’s post contains course, vulgar, ugly, and profane language that will (and should be) offensive to many. It is not intended to shock, alienate, offend, or provoke; but merely to expose and enlighten. If you’re easily offended, please stop here. If not, please proceed with grace and discretion.

I live near an elementary school, and today on my morning run I noticed the school sign on the front lawn, pictured at the head of this post. The following is the result of that sighting:

Exhibit A: “Bitch, ho, whore, slut, skank, fag, faggot, homo, queer, tranny, lesbo, dyke, nerd, geek, weirdo, loser, retard, dumb, stupid, idiot, bat-crap crazy, psycho, wetback, spic, fat, fatty, fat-so, pervert, towel-head, camel jockey, sand monkey, worthless, useless, hopeless, waste of space, drunk, alky, druggie, junkie, crack-head, crack-whore, meth-head, hillbilly, redneck, bum, bastard, half-breed, bigot, Nazi, fascist, racist, infidel, heathen, Buddhahead, chink, chigger, Jew-bag, gringo, goody-two-shoes, Jesus freak, son-of-a-bitch, darky, spook, coon, cracker, whitey, honkey, asshole, prick, tool, pussy, coward, weakling, sissy, cry-baby, douche, douche-bag, scumbag, creep, shit-for-brains …” (I’m glad that’s over … now I think I’ll go take a very long, very hot shower). As if this list were not ugly enough already, there are actually a few obvious names that I omitted; as they are SO offensive that I couldn’t bring myself to put them in print. In the interest of salvaging a small shred of decency, I’ll leave those to your imagination.

Exhibit A is a partial list of some of the names we’ve all heard one person, (that is, a human being who is imbued with the image of the divine), pin upon another person, (who is equally imbued with the divine spark). To my sorrow, I fear that I’ve heard some of these same venomous and deadly words spill from my own mouth (or echo in my own mind) as well … always with devastating, often irreparable result.

Seeing that sign today set me to thinking not only about the names themselves, but also about why we would spew such venom upon another or others. Generally, I believe we do so intending to injure, intimidate, diminish, demean, discount, marginalize, embarrass, humiliate, bully, or manipulate. When we do this, we essentially take the entirety of an immeasurably complex human being, (one constituted of an infinite number of thoughts, feelings, experiences, qualities, chemicals, cells, atoms, hopes, dreams, successes, fears, failures, questions, answers, achievements, and more); and reduce them down to one single attribute … one that is ugly, hurtful, bereft of dignity; and aimed at stripping another carrier of the image of a kind, gracious, good and loving God of all redeeming human (and yes, divine) worth. And why would we do such a thing? I don’t think I can provide a very satisfying explanation other than to suggest that when we do so, like kids on the schoolyard, we’re just quite simply … blind. I think the school sign was just a gentle reminder to all of us to … well … just open our eyes.

Fortunately, God’s eyes are open … always; and He is not blind … ever. He sees all of us in a different light … the light of a love and grace that cannot be measured. And this love, this grace, dispensed by and through a shockingly humble Savior, compels Him to do a little name-calling of His own. Exhibit B is a brief (and partial) sampling of some of His favorites.

Exhibit B: “Worthwhile, treasured, delightful, washed, pure as the fresh-driven snow, good, clean, priceless, protected, forgiven, not forgotten, perfected, adopted, beautiful, found, filled with dignity, salvageable, repairable, eminently fascinating, loveable, brilliant, a shining star, the light of the world, the salt of the earth, daughter, son, princess, prince, friend, apple of my eye, beloved, pearl of great price, capable of recovery, charming, redeemable, likeable, irresistible, worth searching for, worth finding, worth having, worth keeping, worth hearing, worth remembering, worth spending time with, worth saving, worth dying for …”

These are but a few of the names that the Almighty chooses to pin on you and me … as well as every single individual whom any of us have ever pinned with any of the refuse from Exhibit A … quite a contrast.

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21 Responses to What’s your name?

  1. Anita says:

    This is probably my favorite blog you have written. Well said! It really does open ones eyes when you have a school, that feels they must put up a sign to bring this to everyones attention. I liked Exhibit B the most. Again, thank you for making me think, and keep these blogs coming.

    • randyneff says:

      Thank you again for being such a vital part of this process, Anita. I’m always touched to hear from you. And I WILL keep this thing coming. I hope you’ll keep coming back and sharing your presence here with me and all of us. See you again soon … RN

  2. Karen A. Fentress says:

    A fine post Randy. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Keep writing. Best, Karen

    • randyneff says:

      Hi, Karen! Thank you for taking a minute to read and resond. It’s great to hear from you.
      I will certainly keep writing … as long as I think I have something worth writing. I hope you’ll keep reading & sharing your ideas too. Hope to see you again soon …

      RN

  3. Denise says:

    Well dear one, you have done it again. Sometimes the very best way to make people take notice is to shock them a little first! It IS sad to think that a school is such a hot source of such “put downs” and insults but youth are often worse than adults. Think James said it best “with the tounge we praise our Lord and Father and with it we curse men who have been made is God’s likeness.” (James 3:9) I know how I have always felt when anyone said anything against one of my girls, can you imagine how it hurts God to hear us say ugly things against any of His children? Thanks for reminding us that we need to watch our tounge and use it to encourage and build not breakdown and destroy. Keep ’em coming, brother…I love ’em.

  4. randyneff says:

    Thank you, Denise! You’re one of my greatest cheerleaders, and it’s so nice having you in my corner … I’m in yours, too! Keep pressing on!

  5. cathy burnham mick says:

    How much like Vicky you are, and how worthy of the great love she had for you. When my girls were little, I was so careful to never say anything they did was “stupid”, because kids will live up to whatever potential you give them. Amen my friend.

    • randyneff says:

      Cathy!

      And how wonderful it is to hear from you! Thank you for such kind and uplifting words.
      This has to be the most touching thing spoken to me in many years. Vicky was (and continues
      to be) a shining light and an angel in my life … oh how I love her… and miss her. She
      and Mike both left an indelible mark on this world. All of us who got to bask in their light
      are better people for having received such a gift.

      I’m so excited that you found my blog. I hope you’ll come back again and again. And please,
      please, pleaase keep in touch. Much love to you & yours …

      RN

      • cathy burnham mick says:

        Same to you my extra brother. There isn’t one day that I don’ t thank God that He gave me Vicky as a friend and a sister. I always remember how thrilled she used to be when you came home. Her smile could light up the world, and my soul. I miss her so much. Love you and your whole family dearly. Ps, technologically impaired, found this somehow by accident from your facebook post.

  6. Ben W. says:

    Hi Randy,

    Well done. The unfortunate truth is that it is a lot easier to speak those words than it is to read them. The fortunate Truth is how blessed we are to have a Lord who; although saddened by the words, finds the Grace to forgive and love us when we do.

    Thank you Cousin for continuing to make us think.

    • randyneff says:

      Brilliantly stated, Ben. And it’s great to hear from you …
      thank you for taking the time and effort to be a part of
      this. I hope I’ll get to see you sometime soon at a family
      reunion or some type of get-together. Until then, please come
      back again, bro.

      RN

  7. Doug Tennant says:

    Randy, as the recipient of quite a few of those “Exhibit A” terms, your blog made a few old scars sting more than I’d like to admit. There are still a couple guys I wonder what I ever did to make them hate me so much. But. I’m blessed to know in comparison how truly wonderful it is to be forgiven, beautiful, brilliant, a prince, likeable, and indeed, ** worth dying for ** by my God. My heart can’t contain my joy. Those other guys? They must have had their own miseries to make them try to feel better by tearing someone else down, which is usually the case. No wonder we’re advised to turn the other cheek and love our enemies. My biggest problem, remembering those guys, is when I turn the other cheek, not inviting them to kiss it. Indescribable joy is a peculiar revenge. :o)

    • randyneff says:

      You just elevated this thing from the realm of the theoretical to that of reality, Doug.
      I have to admit that it’s a bit easier and less threatening for me to function in the realm of theory and ideas. When reality comes knocking, then things take on a whole new tenor. Let me say that I’m grieved by the things you’ve endured at the hands (or more accurately, mouths) of others. And yes, it’s a pretty sure bet that the purveyors of your pain are (or were) lost in the darkness of their own miseries and blindness as well. Nonetheless, I’m inspired by your ability to retain perspective, grace, and hope in the wake of it. I’m honored to call you a friend, and I hope I’ll get to cross your path in person some time soon. Onward and upward, bro. Thank you for being a vital part of this.

    • Denise says:

      Doug, I can’t help but respond to you. I LOVE your last sentence!!! Thank you for being willing to be a voice for many of us who still carry scars from the insensitive and careless words of individuals from our days of youth…and quiet often from persons we have encountered as adults. I work in the public schools and one of my jobs is to teach anti-bullying. What I strive on a regular basis to make young people (and sadly adults) understand is that the bully who takes your lunch money or trips you or even pushes or shoves you does not do near the damage or cause near the hurt as the one who calls names, insults, belittles or simply says unkind things. It all boils down to R-E- S-P-E-C-T. It IS up to us… those who believe in the amazing grace of our Lord and Savior… to keep turning the other cheek and to refuse to allow ANYONE to steal from us the dignity and value that His blood has given us and to be a witness to that fact for others who may have encountered the same hurt and pain. We must always remember: Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world! Blessings to you.

  8. Randy – Well written and serious food for thought. Seeing people daily who are recipients of Exhibit A continually brings the question “why would anyone so intentionally hurt another person?” You nailed it – we are so often blind – and we all need to do a better job. Thank you for the inspiration to see more clearly.

    • randyneff says:

      Hi, Cindi! It’s so great to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time to read my post
      and send back such insightful (and encouraging) feedback. I’m so happy to know you’re
      out there. I hope you’ll come back early and often.

      RN

  9. Rick Keith says:

    As usual, Randy, I applaud your effort.
    I don’t subscribe to the idea that the Bible is the word of god, but you left out a couple names to be called by those Bible literalists: “abominations”, “worthy of death”.
    “Shall be put to death” is the verdict for many things shy of looking at each other cross-eyed.

    Working on Sabbath, disrespecting parents, disobeying priests, loving a man as a woman, being raped but not shouting out loud enough within a city. I’m pretty sure there’s more.

    • randyneff says:

      And as usual, I applaud YOUR effort too, Rick! Thanks again for taking the time, and for bringing your unique (and incredibly valuable) insights and questions to the table. One of the things I love about you and the ways in which you think is the fact that you always challenge me to take a good hard honest look at my own preconceived notions, ideas, and beliefs; as well as the basis for them. And this is a truly great thing. I believe it was Aristotle who said that “an unexamined life is not worth living.” (If I’m incorrect on that quote, I’m pretty sure I’ve come to the right guy to set me straight on it; as it’s clear that you’re incredibly well read, highly informed, and very insightful on many fronts).

      As for your question itself, I’ll be the first to admit that even after more than 40 years of reading and studying the Bible, there is MUCH in it and about it that still continues to baffle and confound me (especially in the Old Testament). Indeed, I’m not exaggerating to say that there’s so much more in it and about it that I do NOT know than what I do. I’ve read it in its entirety many times, and still come away scratching my head on so many things … often the very things that you accurately cited in this question, and many more. However, when taken as a whole, I find an underlying stream of what I believe to be truth about a God who truly is good, and who for some unfathomable reason has chosen to favor me and even love me … even though I’m riddled with many many (very real) faults and failings … even though I continue EVEN TODAY to falter and fail again and again. I see an underlying theme of a God who pursues me (and all of us), much like I currently pursue a mate with which to share my own life … (I’m currently single, but hope not to be forever). I see a theme of redemption and hope for us from the seemingly never-ending struggle we have with all of the crap that we engage in … mostly in relation to one another … the scourge of human mistreatment and hate that we see played out before us every day (ex: racism; hate and bigotry against anyone who’s not just like us; pedophilia; countless forms of abuse of one another in every direction; lack of compassion for the hungry, the vulnerable, the lonely, the sick, the poor, endless crime, endless suffering, etc., etc., etc. … a list that could go on for days). I truly believe that God sees all of these things, and grieves for it, and begs with us … pleads with us to join with Him in the process of helping to create a “new world” so to speak in which we learn to live together in a new and better way. It always baffles me that we as humans see all the suffering around us, and the first finger of blame we rush to point is in God’s chest, when it’s so clear and easy to see that nearly all of the evils we see in front of us were actually perpetrated by selfish humans (like me). I think God simply calls us to take an honest look at all of this, and at ourselves, and join HIm in the amazing process of letting “His kingdom come, and His will be done ON EARTH, just as it’s done in Heaven.” And I think that’s what Jesus was really trying to show us in his life … much more so than just how to have the “right religion,” or go to the “right church,” or “get to heaven.”

      I also have come to understand that as it relates to the Bible itself, it WAS written by humans … imperfect humans who lived in a specific time, a specific culture, using language that was specific to that time and culture, replete with oral tradition, analogy, hyperbole, symbolism, poetry, allegory; and yes, human biases. These ideas (I’d call facts) are difficult for a traditional biblical literalist to embrace for many reasons (perhaps we can explore those reasons later). There seems to be a tradition that insists upon reading and interpreting the Bible as if it were written 5 minutes ago, rather than in some cases 5000 years ago. This kind of thinking essentially replaces the cultures and events of antiquity with our own … in my view, a rather pompous and misguided thing to do. When we rip the Bible out of the culture and time in which it was written, and insist that it is a literal and “inerrant” empirical account of events and ideas, we leave ourselves open to some very convoluted questions and quandries (many of which it’s clear that you’ve noted in your own life … and wisely so). Another grave error many of us make is that we mistake the Bible (a collection of writings) for God himself … i.e. we elevate what is essentially a book to the level of deity, and God will never be small enough to be jammed into a book.

      That’s not to say that the book has no value. I guess ultimately, I’ve found enough in it to conclude that it’s in a sense a roadmap for me. But just as a roadmap will never be as magnificent as the land it represents, the Bible will never contain the God (i.e. Jesus) in his entirety. I think that God gives me (and any of us who are willing to “ask, seek, and knock”) a little grain of biblical truth from time to time … just enough to keep me asking, seeking, and knocking … just enough to inspire the smallest kernal of faith that he might actually be real … and that I actually CAN trust Him. He said we only needed a faith as big as a mustard seed to change our life and the world with it. I know my own faith is tiny … I have more doubts than belief. I’m hoping to grow it to the size of a mustard seed. It’s taking me all of my life to do it.

      I’m so glad you’re my friend, Rick … you’ve helped me to grow that seed.

      Much love & honor, bro.

  10. Rick Keith says:

    Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
    My reply to someone who used that quote on me, “The unlived life is not worth living. How one lives, including self-reflection, merits the judgement *worth living*.

    I agree 100% on your assessment of the Bible’s time, place, culture being important in knowing what’s within. I applaud you when you wrote, “There seems to be a tradition that insists upon reading and interpreting the Bible as if it were written 5 minutes ago, rather than in some cases 5000 years ago.”

    And I agree, I think the Bible has much value. For those who argue, “we have to believe all of it or none of it” are the type of Fundamentalists that should be beaten with a rod. And I can cite Bible verses to justify their beating.

    The Bible is as flawed, and as valuable, as the men who wrote it, copied it, translated it, edited it, but not as flawed as those who wrongfully interpret it in order to fill coffers, line pockets, hammer on their fellow man to gain power.

    You overreach, Randy, when you call “these ideas” facts. They are not. They are not verifiable.
    However, it can be verified that the Bible has been amended, edited, miscopied, mistranslated through the years.

    Lastly, the Bible may be a fine road map for you, Randy, because you are a decent person, who looks for the path you wish to take, and sees a worthy road map.

    It may also be a road map for someone nefarious. Someone with big hair and a Rolex, for example.
    The Bible is like a tool box. It takes little effort to find the tool within to assist a fellow man, and little effort to find another tool to twist a man’s arm behind his back, or to pin him down.

  11. Reblogged this on grandbohemia and commented:
    From the archive of my friend Randy Neff. This popped up in my Facebook memories today from the first time I shared it. And still just as good.

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