Jesus had a penchant for giving people nicknames. He called Peter, who was often anxious, and sometimes foolish, the Rock. It had the effect of buoying him up, in the eyes of the others at least, who may well have been tempted to poke fun at him.
Jesus called James and John, the sons of Zebedee, the Sons of Thunder. He knew their dad, a guy with a fishing boat who may have yelled a lot. And James and John must have been quiet fellows, because they are not quoted in the gospels as being anything more than just there. But a nickname like Sons of Thunder held out a lot of promise, that Jesus knew they had real stuff inside.
Jesus called Mary ‘Magdala’, which Oxford scholars now say means the Tower in Aramaic. For years it was said Magdala was the name of Mary’s town, but it turns out there never was any such town, and the town whose name is sort of vaguely like Magdala did not exist till for at least ten centuries after they lived. So Jesus’ nickname reflects how much he relied on Mary. She was his Tower of Strength. And seems to have been the head disciple. Maybe she was short, at least shorter than the men, and calling her the Tower would have made her smile and feel confident about herself.
It’s no wonder Jesus liked giving fond names, because he had borne a number of them all his life. From John, he got the names Awaited and Anointed, and Lamb of God. And from God, the name Beloved came to him, as he emerged from the water of his baptism.
From the Angel came the name Jesus, meaning Savior, some say. And from his mother came quite a number of names, including Prince (don’t all mothers call their sons this?) of Peace and son of the Most High God.
And all of this makes me think of the Wizard of Oz, in that scene where Dorothy pulls back the curtain and unmasks him as an ordinary man using smoke and mirrors to make something big of himself. Remember that? And Dorothy cries out in alarm: You are a very bad man! And the wizard cries out, No, I am a very good man, but I am a very bad wizard!
And then the Wizard-No-More proves he is a good man by tending to the needs of the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man. Despondent, they grieve the loss of their magic healing.
The Scarecrow has no brains, he says. And the Wizard gives him a diploma and tells him about the confidence it will give people and thereby, him.
The Lion says he is a coward. An the Wizard gives him a medal, for the same reasons.
The Tin Man says he lacks a heart, and the Wizard gives him a certificate of philanthropy, again, to impress people and to gain confidence in himself. And all this, the work of an ordinary, caring man, works.
And now we are being subjected to the tongue of a master nicknamer. Donald Trump, whose penchant is for nicknames that are nasty and mean. Crooked Hillary. Lying Ted. Little Marco. And this week, for Chuck Shumer, Head Clown. He calls the CIA, the country’s main Intelligence Agency, Witch Hunters.
The main Witch Hunter seems to be Trump himself, who belittles everyone who dares to speak in his presence. Anyone who pulls back the curtain on Trump Tower and shows that inside all the glittering mirrors is an ordinary man, now getting old, armed with a tongue honed in the art of belittling, a man whose meanness is legendary among his employees, and who has so little self-confidence that he kicks the shins of everyone who gets in his way.
He went to church for two hours on Christmas Eve, his press release said. Odd, to count the minutes on Christmas Eve. Odder still to completely miss the message: we are here to bless and not to curse. We are plunged in the water of baptism to become brothers and sisters to the whole world. Not to belittle, but to lift up everyone.
Oh dear. Did Trump call his brother and sisters belittling names? Is this why they never show up anywhere?
In ten days a true President will step down from office, and a fake, who fooled a lot of folks into believing in him, will step up. We await a courageous Child to come forth and unmask the bad man.
Image: Oz Wiki- Wikia.