In the second creation story from the book of Genesis (yes, there are two…at least two), the Divine brings creatures to the Adam (dust-ling) to see what they would name them (Genesis 2:19). In this creation story it is arguably the first instance of human agency that the Divine invites the human into without any stipulations. Whatever the human names the thing, that is its name. It’s a wonderful instance of human-Divine cooperation in the ordering of the world.
Names are important, Beloved.
They help us understand ourselves. They help others understand us. Names connect us to our past, and are offered on those we love and cherish as a blessing for the future. In these ways names are beautiful, wonderful, and helpful.
Names are important, Beloved…because they matter.
And because they matter, we must also recognize that they can be damaging.
Names that stigmatize drive wedges between humans.
Names that belittle cast people, places, and things in a light that can steal their dignity and cloud their inherent goodness.
Names wrongly applied, like the insistence of some to identify our siblings in the trans community by anything other than their preferred pronouns or chosen first names, harm others with intention.
In these ways names are weapons of cruelty.
Names matter, Beloved.
In thinking about our Guiding Principles, the curation team at Anam Cara believes we must be a community that names things. Taking our cues from that second creation story, we trust that the Divine intends us to be cooperators and even co-conspirators (in the most positive way) in naming what we see around us.
Acts of racism must be named as racist (looking at you school boards banning books that talk about race).
Acts of homophobia must be named as harmful (again, looking at you school boards who ban books talking about sexuality).
Acts of indignity, injustice, and ones that rob others of their imago Dei must be named with honesty and unflinching courage.
And, while we’re naming things, we’ll intentionally be keen to remind others (and ourselves) that they are loved in their imperfection, are beautiful with scars, have the right to be called what they want to be called, and don’t deserve many of the labels the world puts on them.
And the world is excellent at misnaming things.
Imagine if a neighborhood didn’t have to be labeled “up and coming” to be attractive to investors.
Imagine if a child didn’t have to be “free lunch” labeled at school, because everyone got free lunch (this works, by the way, to cut stigma…it’s working in Raleigh right now!).
Imagine if no one ever worried about Critical Race Theory being taught in schools because it’s understood that teaching about racism isn’t demeaning, but rather not teaching about it, is.
In fact: it is literally critical.
Imagine if kids didn’t grow up thinking sex is a bad word, but rather a powerful one. Imagine if adults didn’t have to live thinking that putting a check next to the “married” box made you whole, or that mental health was a scarlet letter, or that popular media didn’t run the table on what counts as beautiful, successful, or powerful.
Jesus was big on naming things: the religious elites were called hypocrites, the last were called first (and the first, last), the outcast was called favored, the child was called a spiritual sage…Jesus named things all the time!
It’s almost like Jesus knew that names were important.
Names are important, Beloved…and we intend to honor that truth.