I’ve been thinking about blogging for a while now, but today’s the day for my first real shot at it.  And, since I’m about the billionth person to add a blog site, there weren’t an abundance of names available to give to my blog.  So, I went with the mascots from the three schools I attended.

The Warriors at Western Oaks Elementary and Junior High in Oklahoma City were an impressive bunch.  Several of my classmates went on to play collegiately in a variety of sports and some even made the “big leagues” in their respective sports. 

The Tigers of Jim Hill High School in Jackson, Mississippi have varying degrees of success, particularly in basketball and track.  Our baseball team, where I manned third base for a couple of years, was competitive with everyone, but we couldn’t quite get past Wingfield, which still hurts to this day.  The boys did go on to a state championship a year of two after I graduated.

When I chose to attend Trevecca Nazarene College (now University) in Nashville, I became a Trojan.  In 1969, the Trevecca student body chose the Trojan as a mascot over the other options – and I’m not kidding – Titans or Preachers.  While the Trojan nickname could be debated, I certainly think, given the options, those students in the late 60s chose wisely.

Names matter.  Mascot names matter a lot to a lot of people, especially if they have monetary or emotional capital invested.  A person’s name ought to matter even more.

In the recent political season that just wrapped up, there was a lot of name-calling going on.  The name a person has on their birth certificate is generally not a matter of debate.  But, it’s the names, or labels, attached to the person’s name that has me worried about us these days.

We’re almost always attaching something extra to a person’s name.  It’s part of the human equation, I guess, to describe a person based on how we see them and that works its way into how we deal with them.

If we like the way they think, we can imagine having a good relationship with them.  If we don’t agree with their way of thinking, then we probably won’t be inviting them out to lunch or over to our house or to our church.

Much of what we’ve seen in the recent elections only re-enforces this notion in my mind.  The “Divided” States of America, as some are now referring to us, is not just an observation, it’s an indictment against the very ideals on which we were founded as a nation.  Differences of opinion need not mandate an inability to get along or work together or care for one another.

Disagreements and name-calling are as old as time.  The problem is, we are just more aware of this reality than ever before.  Facebook, Twitter, text messages and myriad other forms of artificial interaction have allowed us to take shots at each other that rival semi-automatic weapons in their rapid fire delivery and devastation.  Used to be that if you had something against someone, you pretty much had to either say it in person, send it in a letter, or tell the town gossip.  Now, you can sit at a computer or punch it in on a smart phone and figuratively bomb a person’s name in no time at all.

With a 24-hour news cycle on cable TV and the internet, there is virtually no way to hide from the names we hear in the news, complete with descriptors about their behavior.  I get that. But, maybe we can do something about it.  Maybe we could be a part of something that could really help everyone.

Here’s why I think we can, and should, do better.  We could stop some of the viciousness within our own lives as we say the names of our family and loved ones.  The names we attach to our co-workers could carry a little less hostility, even if that sentiment isn’t returned.  Wouldn’t our churches be better served if we called on the One whose name we collectively bear rather than calling our brothers and sisters unflattering names that demean our shared faith?

What I’m really trying to get at is pretty simple.  If you really need to call someone a name, make it a good one.  Chances are, that person already has a lot they need to work on.  Maybe a little positive encouragement from you will help them get headed in the right direction.  In so doing, you’ll be headed in the right direction, too.