May 8, 2015

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! Psalm 8:1

Our society is obsessed with names. Think of the importance we attach to them. We agonize over the right first one for our children, something unique and meaningful yet not so crazy that it’ll get made fun of. Our last names usually come from ancestors who were tagged according to their traits, characteristics or jobs.

Or what about these phrases? A “name brand” is special. When someone “makes a name” for him or herself, it means they’re well known. Both products and people then have to “live up” to their name.

Which is why I find the following news so disturbing. The National Park Service has signed a $2.5 million marketing agreement with Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewer, to raise cash and awareness for the Park Service’s 2016 centennial and “Find Your Park” campaign. In consequence, Budweiser cans and bottles will feature images of the Statue of Liberty, and parks will host Bud-branded events like summer concerts inside park properties.

In 1998, the Park Service’s then-director issued a directive prohibiting donations associated with any “product, service, or enterprise that would reflect adversely on the NPS mission and image, such as alcohol or tobacco products,” according to the Denver Post article about this partnership. But I guess that’s gone by the wayside. And the National Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress for fiscal year 2015, encourages the Park Service to pursue private funding, including “naming rights to any unit of the National Park System or a National Park System facility, including a visitor center.”

I don’t cotton to the idea of tying the parks in with alcohol nor with the possibility of assigning “naming rights” within them. As a baseball fan, I’ve witnessed the absurd onslaught of stadiums taking on the names of large corporate donors—Globe Life Park in Texas, the Chicago White Sox’s U.S. Cellular Field, Petco Park in San Diego and the dumbest one of all, O.co Coliseum in Oakland, to mention a few (and yes, three stadiums bear the names of beer brands). And now the national parks! I can see it now—The Google Grand Canyon

Okay, so I exaggerate. But names are important to us. They stand for something—an identity, a reputation—and as such are not to be taken on lightly. That’s true not only in the secular world, but among religions as well.

God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit have so many names, or designations, in the Bible that I can’t list them here. Instead I refer you to this extensive (but not exhaustive) list. All reflect Their distinctive qualities and attributes, but perhaps God’s is best summed up in one title: Yahweh. This term is used 6,823 times in the Old Testament and is tied to His holiness (Leviticus 44:44, 45), His hatred of sin (Genesis 6:3-7) and His gracious provision of redemption (Isaiah 53:1, 5, 6, 10). It’s from the Hebrew verb “to be,” and was succinctly given as an answer to Moses when He asked God for His name: “I AM” (Exodus 3:13-15).

Jesus shares that same label: “God highly exalted [Jesus], and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [Yahweh], to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

This association between the Park Service and Anheuser-Busch InBev may rake in the dough, but I don’t believe it’s a good choice for the parks. But I gladly take on the “name above every name,” who first reached out to me—and called me by name (Isaiah 43:1).

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