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As you may be aware, armed protesters have holed themselves up in a federal building in Oregon to protest the massive overreach of the government in control of land in the western US, which has included land grabs for, frankly, reasons I can’t begin to fathom. What do they want with it? Is Uncle Sam planning on grazing his flock of senators – already fattened by taxpayer money – on the wild grass of the West? Perhaps the federal government needs the land for collateral to secure more loans from China. Who really knows? The media isn’t saying.

But that’s not all the media is keeping from you. CNN barely even mentions the related problem:

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon (CNN) – Now, they have a name.

That’s it. The first sentence of CNN’s coverage is the lead-in for everything I want to talk about today. Sorry for the misleading headline. Consider it a satire. I’ve had this complaint coming for a long time and now is the perfect opportunity, as someone was cast into the national spotlight who really exemplifies this problem. America was founded (mostly) by Protestants and Protestants universally claim to be better versed in the Scriptures than us Catholics, so what on earth is this?

“Neither Ammon Bundy nor anyone within his group/organization speak for the Hammond family…”

Ammon? Did the Bundys really name their son Ammon? I’m not trying to be mean, really. My name is Micah and when I was in 8th grade, studying mineral science, one chapter began, “Mica is an example of great cleavage.” I didn’t live that down for some time. But Ammon? I can only imagine it was taken from the Bible. Where else have you heard the name? Ammon, son of Lot, right? And grandson of Lot.

Wait, what?

Ammon was the result of incest between Lot and his daughter when she got him drunk. Why on earth would someone want to name their son after him? Yet there’s a huge tradition in Protestant America of taking names from bad people and places in the Bible and perpetuating them in our society.

Let’s take a brief survey of place names:

  • Canaan – The pagan name of the Promised Land, derived from the son of Ham, cursed by no less than Noah himself as the offspring of incest when Ham “saw his father’s nakedness,” Hebrew euphemism for sleeping with his mom. By the way, like Lot when his daughters seduced him, Noah was drunk at the time of this incident, but the Bible never says his wife was. Just throwing that out there. Anyway, there are municipalities called Canaan in California, Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
  • Corinth – A city known in New Testament times for sexual immorality (it was a port city), there are Corinths in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia.
  • Gahanna – A slight deviation from the name of a burning trash yard outside Jerusalem, which Jesus used for as a metaphor for Hell, Gahanna can be found in Ohio.
  • Goshen – This was the land where the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt. Probably not a great location to idealize for the land of the free and home of the brave! You can find this on the map in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Yikes! That’s over half the states in the country!
  • Hell – Yep, this place can be found in Michigan. Some people think all of Michigan is hell.
  • Jericho – You can find this sinful, defiant town – home to the Bible’s most famous prostitute – and subject of total annihilation by sound waves (and divine power) in Arkansas, California, Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
  • Moab – Cousin of Ammon, whose mother, Lot’s other daughter, also seduced Lot with alcohol so he could sire her son, has a town named for him in Utah. I’ll leave it to the readers to draw the connection between Moab’s story and the dominant religion of Utah.
  • Ninevah – The Assyrian capital that was nearly wiped out by God until Jonah reluctantly – very reluctantly – preached there has namesakes in Indiana and New York.
  • Palestine – Named for the region inhabited by the Philistines, those perpetual thorns in ancient Israel’s side, you’ll find Palestine isn’t just a partially recognized country in the Middle East, it’s also a town in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Texas, and West Virginia.
  • Sodom – That city God destroyed with fire and brimstone from the heavens for its energetic embrace of forced homosexual activity? Yep, there are copycats in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.

Here are a few honorable mentions which are not Biblical but still pretty darn terrible names for people and places:

  • Mahomet – French for Mohammed, there’s one in Illinois. One my way to Steubenville from my hometown of Omaha, I often saw the “Lutheran Church of Mahomet” from the interstate. Always good for a chuckle.
  • Increase Mather – Notoriously known for the Salem Witch Trials, this poor guy’s name indicated his parents would have been fans of Joel Osteen. (Salem, incidentally, is from the Hebrew for peace and was the town of Melchizedek, one of the good guys!)
  • Fly-Fornication – Good advice, terrible name. This was another Puritan one. They apparently didn’t care much about schoolyard bullying. There’s a whole list of bad Puritan names here. This list will be finished with my personal favorites from that link:
  • If-Christ-Had-Not-Died-for-Thee-Thou-Hadst-been-Damned – I’m getting the feeling the Puritans were the type to list “Bible” as their favorite book on Facebook, just in case anyone didn’t think they were holy enough. Admit it, you did it, too.
  • Die-Well – What a lovely name for a newborn…
  • Continent – His twin brother was Incontinent. (Just kidding. Maybe.)
  • Humiliation – According to the article, this guy gave BOTH of his sons the same horrible name. How humiliating.
  • Reformation – His nickname was “Overcompensating Protestant.”
  • Abstinence – Probably not how you got here, kid.
  • Helpless – Agreed. Poor kid probably amounted to NOTHING! Thanks, mom and dad!

What about you? Does your state have an awfully named person or historical figure? (Please, no living people. That’s just mean.)

Now that we’re over with that distraction from the news, say a prayer for peaceful resolution to the Oregon standoff.