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My parents knew a Harry Butts; I knew an April Showers—really. What were you thinking Mr. and Mrs. Butts?—you, too, Mr. and Mrs. Showers?
A few days ago in Slate.com, Joseph Norwood wrote an article entitled A Boy Named ‘Humiliation’: Some Wacky, Cruel, and Bizarre Puritan Names (September 13). Norwood doesn’t strike me as a fan of the Puritans. He describes them as a movement that “argued amongst themselves, schismed, predicted the end of the world, and still found time to fight the English Civil War.” I wouldn’t describe them that way. Norwood adds “perhaps their greatest gift to history…is their wonderfully strange taste in names.” And I would argue they gave us a lot more than that.
He combed 16th, 17th, and 18th century UK records and concluded that “Puritan parents chose names that served to remind the child about sin and pain.” That’s a negative way of looking at it. To be fairer, Puritans often chose names reflecting their deep faith and spiritual hope for their newborn sons and daughters.
Here are a few names Norwood uncovered, labeling them “utterly strange.” He found a man named Praise-God. His full name was Praise-God Barebone. Praise-God had a son named If-Christ-Had-Not-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned and another son named Jesus-Christ-Came-Into-The-World-To-Save. When Praise’s wife yelled out the back door, did she holler, “Damned and Saved, time for dinner”? Other names found included Fear-God, Joy-In-Sorrow, Fear-Not, Die-Well, No-merit, Helpless, Obedience, and Sorry-For-Sin.
I will concede to Norwood, a bit over the top. But even he had to agree they had some sweet names, too: Tenacious, Happy, Felicity, Hope, Verity, and Trinity.
Many Puritan parents selected names based upon what was important to them. And what were important to them were their God and the spiritual hope they had for their children.
What if our kids were named based upon what was overly important to us? If honest about it, there would be sons and daughters named Facebook, Shopping Again, 12th Man, Get-Money, Retirement, and It’s-All-About-Me. Those aren’t names we would want for any of our children.
But if our kids’ names reflected our passions and priorities; our heart’s desires—there would be some embarrassing names running up to us and pulling on our leg.
As Christian parents, we want our sons and daughters to be named Righteous, Forgiven, and Child-of-the-King. If that is so, and I know that it is, let us communicate our greatest hope for them—and let us do so often. And may we order our lives in such a way that those are the names they want to be called.
Pastor Rich Hamlin
September 19, 2013