When I heard that the President had renamed the highest peak in the United States I was not surprised. People like to lay claim to high places and having traveled to Alaska and witnessed the majesty of the peak in question, I understand the point of the debate. However, as a Christian, I see no reason to make a mountain out of this molehill.
Names change based on the people who see themselves as in a position to name something. Adam is Adam because God called him that but then Adam took over the name game. We’ve been calling it “King of the Mountain” ever since. I dare say that what we call most places today is not what the first people who laid eyes on it called them.
The proverbial king of the mountain gets to name it – just like your parents named you. So, what did your parents name you? Did you live up or into that name? Along the way did you change your name or adopt a new name or amend the original name you were given? How about a pet name, an alias or a title?
It has been my experience that people like nothing more than to be called by name. They are sensitive to how it is pronounced and they are quick to let you know if you get it wrong. Names matter to us. Its why name-calling cuts us to the core and why Trademark law is such a robust part of our legal system.
The subject today is a mountain, its place among a particular people and therefore, it’s debated name. That’s the way it works. The people who possess the land call the mountains what they will. Its a process that’s as old as recorded history and its a good lesson for a nation that’s too young to remember when our cities were called by other names.
Or are we? New York was once New Amsterdam.
And, there’s precedence for reversing course on names: Cape Canaveral was called Cape Kennedy for 10 years (1963-1973) and then returned to its original name. Notably, the Kennedy Space Center is located at Cape Canaveral.
There are other mountains whose contested names are more serious. Think for a moment about the hill in the middle of the city of Jerusalem. It is known among Jews as The Temple Mount. It is considered the holiest site in all of Judaism. It is where the first and second Temples stood but today most Jews only have access to a portion of the Western Wall. Why is that? Because Muslims control the mountain and they have named it The Dome of the Rock. That’s a mountain, not a molehill.
Speaking of mountains and molehills, what mountains really matter to you? Mt. Ararat where the Bible says Noah’s Ark landed after the flood? Or maybe Mt. Sinai (also known as Horeb and Paran) where Moses received the 10 Commandments? How about the Mountain of Transfiguration where Jesus’ glory as God was revealed to Peter, James and John? Or the Mount of Olives where Jesus prayed, was betrayed and arrested? Or Calvary. Some mountains matter more than others – and it ultimately does not matter if another people calls them by another name.
Does the fact that someone else calls your former home their home change the reality that it was home to you? I think we’re making mountains out of molehills when we get too worked up about a mountain that matters a great deal to people other than us. If Denali is the name that bears out meaning to the people of Alaska then let the mountain be called Denali. It may be the highest mountain in the United States of America today but its name is a molehill issue. Don’t you suppose the Russians likely called it something else prior to 1867 when Alaska became the 49th state?
What to call it? Molehill.