Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Messiah

Tennessee resident Jaleesa Martin and her child’s father were unable to agree on whose surname their son should have. Finding themselves at an impasse, they appeared before Cocke County Chancery Court judge Lu Ann Ballew to decide the matter once and for all. To their dismay, Judge Ballew decided that it was the child’s first name that needed her attention and ordered that it be changed from Messiah to Martin.
Magistrate Ballew
The judge's reasoning was that, “The word Messiah is a title and it's a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Jesus Christ". She further elaborated that due to the area’s large Christian population, the name could “put him at odds with a lot of people and at this point he has had no choice in what his name is”. Jaleesa was shocked that the judge possessed the authority to rename her child on the grounds of religious belief and has vowed to appeal the decision.

While I would never name my child Messiah (or Lu Ann for that matter), doing so does not give a judge the legal right to rename said child. While there may be instances where a representative of the court must infringe parental rights for the well-being of their offspring, this clearly doesn’t cross that threshold. Perhaps if the young man’s first name was “Antichirst” or “Douchelby” the judge should have stepped in. However, in those cases the infant was clearly saddled with a negative moniker meant to convey disdain. If anything, Messiah burdens the child with unrealistically positive expectations.

Generally, a “messiah” is the liberator or savior of a group of people. While the judge may believe that the title was only “earned” by Jesus Christ, it was liberally applied throughout the Old Testament to anointed kings and high priests. Even the Persian king Cyrus received the title (presumably for the kindness he showed the Jewish people and his support for the rebuilding of their temple) so there is certainly historical precedent concerning the title’s application to those other than Jesus. In fact, Messiah was No. 4 among the fastest-rising baby names in 2012, according to the Social Security Administration's annual list of popular baby names. If the legal system did not feel it was necessary to intervene when Frank Zappa was naming his offspring, there is certainly no reason to tell Jaleesa Martin she cannot name her kid Messiah.

As far as the young man’s geographical location is concerned, I am not sure he is in danger of being any more “at odds” with the local population due to the prevalence of Christianity. It is hard for me to imagine a local women’s prayer circle arming themselves with clubs as someone yells, “It’s about time someone taught that Messiah some respect for the Lord!” Has there been a recent wave of Jesús beatings in the Bible belt I am unaware of?

This is judicial overreach plain and simple. In all likelihood he will be issued a nickname before he starts kindergarten and no one will be the wiser. If he chooses to embrace his first name it lends itself to some pretty original pickup lines:

  • Hey sweet thing, they call me Messiah and I’m here to resurrect your evening.

  • In my father’s house are many rooms (and he is in Indianapolis till Tuesday…)

  • Perhaps after this last supper we could have a first breakfast.

  • Let me get the bartender’s attention and I’ll turn your water into wine.

  • You must live around here because I felt the sudden urge to “love thy neighbor”.

  • Blessed be the tipsy brunettes, for they shall inherit my cell number.

1 comment:

  1. What's wrong with the name - Sue for a boy.
    It worked for Johnny cash.


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