Baby ‘Messiah’ not welcome in the land of the free?

Heidi Wigdahl/Associated Press – This photo provided by Heidi Wigdahl of WBIR-TV shows seven-month old Martin DeShawn McCullough being held … Continued

Heidi Wigdahl/Associated Press – This photo provided by Heidi Wigdahl of WBIR-TV shows seven-month old Martin DeShawn McCullough being held by his mom Jaleesa Martin. A judge in eastern Tennessee changed the boy’s first name to Martin from “Messiah’. Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew ordered the name change last week, saying Messiah is a title that has been earned by one person “and that one person is Jesus Christ.”

 A judge in Tennessee, my very own state, has decreed—from the bench—that, henceforth and forthwith, Messiah DeShawn McCullough shall be known as “Martin.” The legal proceeding began with a dispute between the baby’s mother and father over a surname, but ended in Child Support Magistrate Lu Ann Ballew assigning the child a new first name by judicial fiat because “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.”

Parents, go up in your attics and pull out your files. It turns out that in the United States of America, you cannot use titles as names for your children. So, you need to go through your records to be sure you’ve identified all your children and affirmed their names as non-titles before the feds show up at your door with a warrant and a copy of “Baby Names Made Easy.”

You have some time, of course, before the authorities come to arrest your clever, meaningful, or simply whimsical names. The G-men will be busy with the celebrities for awhile. The first on the Federal New-American-Moniker-Endorsement-and-Licensing-Edict-for-States List (also known as the NAMELESs List) is Michael Jackson’s son Prince, who, everyone knows, bears as his first name a title which has been earned by only one person and that one person is the Artist Formerly Known as Prince.

The government of the land of the free will force Sylvester Stallone to change the name of his daughter from Sage to Sally, because Sage is a title and it’s a title that has only been earned by one person and that one person is Durvasas. She’ll have company when the judiciary forces Isaiah Washington’s daughter to lose the name Thyme. And Gwyneth Paltrow will face prison if she doesn’t change her daughter’s name “Apple” to “Amy.” Apple’s not really a title, but it does infringe on a registered trademark.

Diane Keaton’s sone Duke will be parted, judiciously, from his name—maybe “Darren” or “Darrel” will do—since “Duke” is a title that has only been earned by Gene Chandler.

There’s some dispute as to whether Grace Slick’s daughter was named “god” on paper or only in the Jefferson Airplane singer’s head, but, in any case, she’ll have to lose that name, because, obviously, only Robert Plant has earned that title. Though I suppose there could be some extended legal wrangling over whether or not Plant’s title is necessarily “Golden God” and the legal extent to which god Slick’s lower-case “g” matters.

Speaking of “golden,” Mike Myers’s son Spike will have to give up his name, obviously, since only one metal stake has earned this title and that one metal stake is in the Cantor Museum at Stanford.

Alicia Keys will have to change her son’s name from “Egypt” to “Ernie,” since Egypt is a title that has only been earned by one country and that country is… well… Egypt.

Actor Armand Hammer: I don’t know what that guy’s going to do.

In a moment of inspiration 14 years ago, I named my son Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Since titles are out, I guess I’ll just change his name to “Junior.”

Judge Ballew justifies her order by explaining that the name Messiah “could put [Martin] at odds with a lot of people.” The visionary judge had Cocke County’s predominantly Christian population in mind, of course, and it’s a good thing she was thinking about the boy’s social future. We know how ferociously Christians attack people who so flagrantly profane the name of their deity. Don’t try to tell me that the dog poop my friend Jesus Martinez found in his front yard last week is just a coincidence.

And don’t worry about the good judge’s own social standing for declaring from the bench that Jesus has earned the title “Messiah.” There aren’t a lot of Jewish people in Cocke County.

It occurs to me that Barbara Hershey’s and David Carradine’s son “Free” will soon be “Frank.” Free is a title that has only been earned by one people, and that people used to be U.S. citizens.

David Mason is an associate professor at Rhodes College in Memphis. He is the author of “Theatre and Religion on Krishna’s Stage” and “My Mormonism: a primer for non-Mormons and Mormons, alike.” He is currently writing a biography of Brigham Young for Routledge. Follow him on Twitter.

 

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  • alltheroadrunnin

    The judge has no problem with the other name, “DeShawn?” Half of them are in prison, a quarter of them getting ready to go to prison, and another quarter of them just getting out. Any that remain are employed by the NFL. What’s in a name? A rose, so on and so forth….

  • alltheroadrunnin

    The judge has no problem with the other name, “DeShawn?” Half of them are in prison, a quarter of them getting ready to go to prison, and another quarter of them just getting out. Any that remain are employed by the NFL. What’s in a name? A rose, so on and so forth….

  • Chadwick Pendragon

    But it is fine to call your child Luke, Paul, or Moses, even a spanish family to name a child Jesus. Oh, lets not forget Mary’s for girls. If you are going to throw “the book” at someone, you should include all the titles, not just one. Or, let’s go to war with all the nations that call their gods, Messiahs. Its, mental defects like these that not only give religions a bad name, but also show how much church and state need to break up, and pushed to opposite sides of the room. They are a terrible couple. These are your JUDGES, America! Your people of powerful positions. And we just sit by, and let it all happen. Next, they are going to “rule” that stoning your wife for adultery is a Bible condoned act, and hence, should be legal. Wake up and smell the Camel Poo, its all over the place. Name your child God, for all I care. Its more real than the invisible entity, and could grow up to be the person to bring world peace. If not, put things into context.

    “Yeah, God was out spooning the neighbors daughter, so we had to ground him for a month. Sorry, Jesus, he cannot come out and play.”

  • Chadwick Pendragon

    But it is fine to call your child Luke, Paul, or Moses, even a spanish family to name a child Jesus. Oh, lets not forget Mary’s for girls. If you are going to throw “the book” at someone, you should include all the titles, not just one. Or, let’s go to war with all the nations that call their gods, Messiahs. Its, mental defects like these that not only give religions a bad name, but also show how much church and state need to break up, and pushed to opposite sides of the room. They are a terrible couple. These are your JUDGES, America! Your people of powerful positions. And we just sit by, and let it all happen. Next, they are going to “rule” that stoning your wife for adultery is a Bible condoned act, and hence, should be legal. Wake up and smell the Camel Poo, its all over the place. Name your child God, for all I care. Its more real than the invisible entity, and could grow up to be the person to bring world peace. If not, put things into context.

    “Yeah, God was out spooning the neighbors daughter, so we had to ground him for a month. Sorry, Jesus, he cannot come out and play.”

  • di89

    If you’re going to be a theocrat, at least use decent theology.

    Jesus didn’t EARN that title–makes him sound like he was a prophet who got a promotion.

  • di89

    If you’re going to be a theocrat, at least use decent theology.

    Jesus didn’t EARN that title–makes him sound like he was a prophet who got a promotion.

  • pjs-1965

    I suppose anybody who happens to be called Jesus Gonzalez doesn’t have a legal name anymore.

  • pjs-1965

    I suppose anybody who happens to be called Jesus Gonzalez doesn’t have a legal name anymore.

  • pjs-1965

    Anyway, consirder the state: Tennessee. That explains a few things.

  • pjs-1965

    Anyway, consirder the state: Tennessee. That explains a few things.

  • Catken1

    Nor was he the only one – the term simply means “anointed one” and was used for anyone considered to be “anointed” by God for some particular purpose. For example, Cyrus the Great was called “Messiah” for his role in allowing the rebuilding of the Temple.

  • Catken1

    Nor was he the only one – the term simply means “anointed one” and was used for anyone considered to be “anointed” by God for some particular purpose. For example, Cyrus the Great was called “Messiah” for his role in allowing the rebuilding of the Temple.

  • csintala79

    Jews would disagree that Jesus “earned” the title of messiah. Essentialoly they see him as a fraud; the title is vacant and waiting on a holder. Who are gentiles to be dictating the meaning of the religious concepts of Jews. The judge shouldn’t be engaging in arbitration of religious labels.

  • csintala79

    Jews would disagree that Jesus “earned” the title of messiah. Essentialoly they see him as a fraud; the title is vacant and waiting on a holder. Who are gentiles to be dictating the meaning of the religious concepts of Jews. The judge shouldn’t be engaging in arbitration of religious labels.

  • csintala79

    Jesus is a given name, not the title of a religious leader or personage. One of the correct forms of addressing the Saviior is Jesus Chirst or, more ecorrectly, Jesus, the Chirst. Both messiah and Christ are titles, not personal names.

  • csintala79

    Jesus is a given name, not the title of a religious leader or personage. One of the correct forms of addressing the Saviior is Jesus Chirst or, more ecorrectly, Jesus, the Chirst. Both messiah and Christ are titles, not personal names.

  • csintala79

    Parents who give their children outrageous or exotic names may be exercising their individual freedom but at their children’s’ expense. It is doubtful that going through life known as “Moon Unit” is very comfortable. Many nations have a list of allowed given names. One reason this is done is to spare children being the butt of jokes and derision. The child has to carry the ludicrous or inflammatory name through life, not the parent.

  • csintala79

    Parents who give their children outrageous or exotic names may be exercising their individual freedom but at their children’s’ expense. It is doubtful that going through life known as “Moon Unit” is very comfortable. Many nations have a list of allowed given names. One reason this is done is to spare children being the butt of jokes and derision. The child has to carry the ludicrous or inflammatory name through life, not the parent.

  • tombukowski

    The Daddy state has spoken. They’ll decide who gets the keys to the car. Disbar her.

  • tombukowski

    The Daddy state has spoken. They’ll decide who gets the keys to the car. Disbar her.

  • tombukowski

    Whose “savior”?

  • tombukowski

    Whose “savior”?

  • tmkelley

    An appropriately named county as well, as this judge has, apparently, gone off half-Cocked.

    Sorry…

  • tmkelley

    An appropriately named county as well, as this judge has, apparently, gone off half-Cocked.

    Sorry…

  • di89

    Jesus is a version of Joshua so even then, Jesus did not have a unique name.

  • di89

    Jesus is a version of Joshua so even then, Jesus did not have a unique name.

  • di89

    That’s who David Koresh (a variation on Cyrus) picked his messiah name from….

  • di89

    That’s who David Koresh (a variation on Cyrus) picked his messiah name from….

  • Jimof1913

    When I first heard this on TV I thought:
    1. the parents are lower class
    2. they have less than high school education
    3. they don’t attend church

    While they might have the legal right to name their child Messiah one has to wonder what life would be like for their child. Kids, especial teenagers, can be cruel. Will private organizations that believe in God, ie; the Boys Scouts, churches, Catholic schools, etc, accept him? Will teachers and other who believe in God call him by his name? And if they don’t will the ACLU sue them for religious discrimination?

    What’s cute for the parents may not be cute long term for their child.

  • Jimof1913

    When I first heard this on TV I thought:
    1. the parents are lower class
    2. they have less than high school education
    3. they don’t attend church

    While they might have the legal right to name their child Messiah one has to wonder what life would be like for their child. Kids, especial teenagers, can be cruel. Will private organizations that believe in God, ie; the Boys Scouts, churches, Catholic schools, etc, accept him? Will teachers and other who believe in God call him by his name? And if they don’t will the ACLU sue them for religious discrimination?

    What’s cute for the parents may not be cute long term for their child.

  • Tender Hooligan

    So it’s ok for a child to be named Theo, which literally translates as God?
    It seems that these parents were quite aspirational in their choice of name. Oh, but wait…the second name DeShawn brings the poor little lad back down to earth again.
    I wonder what the ruling is on calling your child Satan? I bet no one would mess with him.

  • Tender Hooligan

    So it’s ok for a child to be named Theo, which literally translates as God?
    It seems that these parents were quite aspirational in their choice of name. Oh, but wait…the second name DeShawn brings the poor little lad back down to earth again.
    I wonder what the ruling is on calling your child Satan? I bet no one would mess with him.

  • Tender Hooligan

    Excellent. A few years back I was teaching English as a foreign language. I had a class containing both Jesus and Mohammed. Also in the same class was Attila (a Hungarian, seriously). Oh yes, and a Norweigan called Egon Toast. I could go on….

  • Tender Hooligan

    Excellent. A few years back I was teaching English as a foreign language. I had a class containing both Jesus and Mohammed. Also in the same class was Attila (a Hungarian, seriously). Oh yes, and a Norweigan called Egon Toast. I could go on….

  • di89

    I’ve worked with an Attila and an Adonis.

  • di89

    I’ve worked with an Attila and an Adonis.

  • di89

    That’s funny…extreme evangelicals are usually absolutists on parental rights. You know, homeschooling a kid who at sixteen can’t write a paragraph or read a map is part of God’s plan.

    Or is that only for their own kids, not other people’s?

  • di89

    That’s funny…extreme evangelicals are usually absolutists on parental rights. You know, homeschooling a kid who at sixteen can’t write a paragraph or read a map is part of God’s plan.

    Or is that only for their own kids, not other people’s?

  • Just some guy, ok?

    “Messiah” doesn’t even mean “God”. Nor does it mean son of God.

    What if the parents had named him “Masiah” or some other spelling that still sounded the same? Also, the judge is wrong, others in history have been called Messiah – meaning ruler annointed by God.

  • Just some guy, ok?

    “Messiah” doesn’t even mean “God”. Nor does it mean son of God.

    What if the parents had named him “Masiah” or some other spelling that still sounded the same? Also, the judge is wrong, others in history have been called Messiah – meaning ruler annointed by God.

  • Just some guy, ok?

    So nobody can be named Prince, Earl or Duke, right? And stop calling your pets Rex, King, or Duchess.

  • Just some guy, ok?

    So nobody can be named Prince, Earl or Duke, right? And stop calling your pets Rex, King, or Duchess.

  • kingcranky

    Who does “them” refer to?

  • kingcranky

    Who does “them” refer to?

  • Catken1

    Well, yeah.
    They are, after all, also the ones who argue that everyone’s children, whatever their faith, ought to be pushed to worship their god in public schools. Right?

  • Catken1

    Well, yeah.
    They are, after all, also the ones who argue that everyone’s children, whatever their faith, ought to be pushed to worship their god in public schools. Right?

  • Catken1

    Actually, it’s the deeply religious parents who CHOOSE names like “Messiah”, in my experience.
    And I agree that it’s a bad choice, but it’s not the judge’s choice to make.

  • Catken1

    Actually, it’s the deeply religious parents who CHOOSE names like “Messiah”, in my experience.
    And I agree that it’s a bad choice, but it’s not the judge’s choice to make.

  • Catken1

    Maybe, but such a list has to be drawn up evenly and fairly, without promoting the interests of any religion above others.

  • Catken1

    Maybe, but such a list has to be drawn up evenly and fairly, without promoting the interests of any religion above others.

  • leibowde84

    What an embarrassing decision. He wore his religious bias on his sleeves while making a legal ruling. This is pretty much a slap to the face of our forefathers, and pretty much anyone who is scared of the idea of a national religion. I am ashamed that this fraud still wears the robe, and I hope that the Governor of Tennessee is moral enough to kick him off the bench.

  • leibowde84

    What an embarrassing decision. He wore his religious bias on his sleeves while making a legal ruling. This is pretty much a slap to the face of our forefathers, and pretty much anyone who is scared of the idea of a national religion. I am ashamed that this fraud still wears the robe, and I hope that the Governor of Tennessee is moral enough to kick him off the bench.

  • leibowde84

    So, judges have the right to use their own speculation to deny parental rights now? Despicable.

  • leibowde84

    So, judges have the right to use their own speculation to deny parental rights now? Despicable.

  • leibowde84

    Americans should fight for the rights of fellow Americans to deny that Jesus was the Messiah and, as such, the name should be available to everyone. This is not a Christian Nation. The Constitution is extremely clear on that. You can disagree with the notion at its core, but that does not mean that it was a basic foundation of our nation to completely separate Church and State. The only thing that makes me feel better is that disrespectful traditionalist morons like this are becoming fewer and fewer in our great country.

  • leibowde84

    Americans should fight for the rights of fellow Americans to deny that Jesus was the Messiah and, as such, the name should be available to everyone. This is not a Christian Nation. The Constitution is extremely clear on that. You can disagree with the notion at its core, but that does not mean that it was a basic foundation of our nation to completely separate Church and State. The only thing that makes me feel better is that disrespectful traditionalist morons like this are becoming fewer and fewer in our great country.

  • Catken1

    Even those Americans who affirm that Jesus was the Messiah (though I am not one of them) need not deny that there were others given that title throughout history. Perhaps they were not considered divine, but whether or not you believe that Jesus was divine (I don’t), that’s not what the title Messiah means – it only means “anointed.”

  • Catken1

    Even those Americans who affirm that Jesus was the Messiah (though I am not one of them) need not deny that there were others given that title throughout history. Perhaps they were not considered divine, but whether or not you believe that Jesus was divine (I don’t), that’s not what the title Messiah means – it only means “anointed.”

  • di89

    And we should keep the secular war memorial Soledad Cross up because it’s not religious, but taking it down is an attack on Christianity.

  • di89

    And we should keep the secular war memorial Soledad Cross up because it’s not religious, but taking it down is an attack on Christianity.