Mt. Diablo and the d-word (sigh)

As controversies about the d-word go, this one is actually pretty mild. In this case, the “devout Christian” is not a mother who stood by while the queen of her alternative religious groups allegedly starved her young son to death (or worse) and then watched his tiny body stuffed into a suitcase with mothballs and fabric softener.

No, this time around we’re talking about God, the devil and Ronald Reagan — in about that order.

Here’s the top of the Los Angeles Times report to set the context:

Arthur Mijares never saw it coming when he filed the federal paperwork to change the name of Contra Costa County’s most famous landmark from Mt. Diablo to Mt. Reagan.

It’s not that he’s such a big fan of the 40th president of the United States. It’s just that he believes, as a devout Christian, that naming a peak of such beauty and importance after the devil — even in Spanish — is “derogatory, pejorative, offensive, obscene, blasphemous and profane.”

“I just happen to be an ordinary man that worships God,” Mijares said by way of explanation. “He gave me this task in my prayer time. I said, ‘Lord, they’re going to think I’m a loon.’ ”

Mijares didn’t know the half of it.

Now, it appears that thousands of people think that this whole changing-the-mountain-name thing is pretty stupid and they are willing to say so in loud and, we are told, profane voices. That’s fine. There’s some good information there.

But how do we know that the accursed Mijares is a “devout Christian” and what does that have to do with the story? Well, he believes in God, he prays and he kind of likes Reagan.

Yup — that sounds like a “devout Christian” to me.

Actually, it sounds like pretty typical, vague American religious stuff to me. Dig around here at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and you’ll see what I mean.

In other words, this vague information may or may not indicate that he is a devout Christian. There may be other information that shows this and shows that this label is relevant to the story. However, this information is not in this story.

Otherwise, it’s a pretty solid and detailed report. I liked this detail about the infamous — but popular — name:

The twin-peaked Mt. Diablo, which dominates the East Bay landscape, is a sacred site to the Golden State’s Native American tribes. The Miwok believed the mountain was originally an island, “from which Coyote and his assistant, Golden Eagle, made the world as we know it,” according to American Indian Quarterly’s fall 1989 edition.

Its name has long swirled with controversy. As legend has it, in 1805, Spanish soldiers were chasing a band of Bay Miwok who had escaped from a mission and apprehended them in a thicket at the base of a dramatic mountain. Darkness fell, and the Miwok disappeared. When day broke, the mountain was shrouded in fog, and the soldiers realized that they’d been duped. So they dubbed the area Monte del Diablo, Thicket of the Devil.

Details are great. Your GetReligionistas are very fond of them. We are less fond of vague, irrelevant labels.

But you knew that already, right?

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Bob Smietana

    I’m with you Terry–that’s odd. Think we’d at least get a church name. Wonder if he’s one of those devout nonchurchgoers.

  • Jerry

    Since I live not too far from the foot of the mountain, I saw this story unfold, but did not think it very important from either a journalistic or political perspective.

    But now that you brought it up, the mountain, its history and name has a rich history which I think wikipedia covers well:

  • Bern

    If Mr. Mijares described himself as a “devout Christian” than the phrase belongs in quotes, in both the subhead and body. If he did not, then nothing else in what is quoted identifies him even as a Christian. Plenty of non-Christians believe in and pray to God and maybe some of them also get tasked with applying to the federal government to re-name a mountain. Which Mr. Mijares has apparently done now twice. Democracy at work!

  • Julia

    I’m waiting for some devout Christian to file a petition to change the scandalous name of the Grand Tetons near Jackson Hole, WY.

  • Mollie


    That’s hilarious. I’d always thought the Tetons were named after the Indian tribe. Now I’ll never be sure!