I have unfortunately watched a video I wish I could take back out of my head. In it, a Florida woman begins shouting at two young men with olive skin who are shooting video near an airport. For about five minutes, she screams questions their way about being terrorists (they are Brazilian). What makes me want to write about this to you today is that one of her shouts is that they don't love Jesus.
We all immediately sense the wrong in her actions, and there would be no point in repeating any of this, except for a thought I had in watching it. I thought back to the Old Testament, and the time when God's name was unpronounceable and hidden except to one priest, in one holy place, at one time of year. Beyond that, God's name could not be spoken--certainly, in any case, not with authority--and to this day, the four-letter "Tetragrammaton" of God must borrow vowels from other words, or words from other languages, in order to be read aloud in church.
My theology is not of a highly secretive God; the God I love loves to be known, and knowledge and love go hand in hand. In listening, however, to this Florida woman's filmed fracas, I found myself wishing she could not use Jesus' name in her misanthropy. I wondered how Jesus can possibly keep calm at such abuse of his loving person. I ached at the disparity between her use of his name, and Jesus' actual self: a personality of care, a demeanor of compassion and sacrifice.
Maybe there is good reason for there to be an aspect of God's name that is unknowable to us--unspeakable, and therefore unable to be misused. I have often been caught by phrases that help us see God anew. In India, Jesus is often introduced to seekers as "a man on the Indian road." In "Into the Wild," Ron says to Alex McCandless: "I know you've got your problems with the church, too. But there's some kind of bigger thing we can all appreciate, and it sounds like you don't mind calling it God." But a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.
There are two approaches, both in the Bible and available to us. One is to keep our faith unspoken, and try to live it so the love shines through. Another is to love in the name of Christ, and be a force of reclaiming Jesus' name, in love and humbleness. In the end, my own thinking has led me to the latter: for if I cannot tell people from whence love comes, by one name or another and however imperfectly demonstrated, then the source of my joy will be hidden, and the world will be at a loss to find it.
May God's name be never screamed; but still always shared, in love, in beauty and in truth.