Hurricane Ian seems oddly christened. In its original Gaellic, Ian means “God is good.” As a suffix, ”ian” indicates that its root has the same qualities. (Thus we know that a guardian shares the characteristics of a guard, or a librarian can be identified by whatever a library might be.)
Right now it may be hard to see Ian, the catastrophic hurricane, as something good. There doesn’t seem to be much of God’s providence in this horrific event. For now, the eventual goodness remains unseen or even unknowable, so it might not make sense to remember this event with anything that has “ian” in its name. To name ourselves as “Ians” of any kind.
Some of us do identify ourselves by this linguistic device. There are Presbyterians—people who esteem highly the New Testament office of presbyter. Some folks call themselves Unitarians—one way to honor cosmic unity. And there are, of course, *Lutherians, who connect their history and identity to a 16th-century monk, scholar and all-around good guy. Seen this way, Ian-suffixed people might seem to be a motley crew consisting of ecclesiastical bureaucrats, seekers of social harmony or Germanophiles.
But there is one more place where the -ian suffix attaches to us like SuperGlue. We call ourselves Christians, folks who hope to take on the same qualities as someone called Christ Jesus.
So here we are, with a not-so-good hurricane not yet out of our rearview mirrors, still trying to make sense out of the short- and long-term effects of this disaster. What actions and attitudes does our Ian—our Christian name—suggest we should engage and hold dear? What parts of God’s goodness can we carry out?
One intriguing, hopeful and challenging answer: What would Christ do….?
*This word is not a typo. This mispronounced and misspelled appellation still echoes in some parts of the general population!
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