I don’t know who names diseases, but the branding department of psychology wins, hands down. [I want to make it clear that I am not diminishing any of the following psychological conditions. As an arachnophobe, the struggle is real.] Psychologists began to diagnose and name a great number of phobias in the late 19th and early 20th century. They had an appreciation for etymologies and classic Greek language.
Some great examples:
· Triskaidekaphobia: Greek triskaideka (thirteen) + phobia (fear)
· Xenophobia – Greek xenos (stranger, foreigner) + phobia (fear)
· Heliophobia – Greek Helios (God of the Sun) + phobia (fear)
· Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia—Latin sesquipedalian (literal meaning: a foot and half long) with ad hoc combining forms of monstrum (“monster”) and hippopotamus (intended to exaggerate the length of the word itself and the idea of the size of the words being feared), + -phobia. Put all of that together and we have the fear of long words…says a word that is 35 letters long…
Another example that fits this day is agoraphobia—Greek agora (public gathering place) + phobia. COVID-19 has made us all agoraphobic to a degree. For the health and welfare of all people schools closed, churches closed their buildings (although the work of the Church continues), bars and restaurants closed. The agoraphobes and introverts celebrated. The claustrophobes (Latin claustrum “to lock” + phobia) and extroverts linger in parking lots and church buildings looking for someone to talk to. Being in a crowd these days can literally kill you.
The ‘crowd’ in Jesus’ story comes to the forefront today. They seem unnamed, vague, faceless. They are a fickle crowd. This crowd that cheered and sang at Jesus arrival in Jerusalem has become a crowd that jeers and taunts him on the way to the cross. They cry for Barabbas. They cry for blood. They cry, “Crucify!”. And then, the crowd is silent.
Probably for the best. They’ve said enough.
I wonder what we say on days like this, in weeks like this, in months like this. Do we demonstrate our own fickleness? Do we cheer and sing AND jeer and taunt? Do we speak the steadfast truth in our hearts—I love you…I hope for you…Please be safe. Silence might be the best thing we can share together tonight and tomorrow. Words fail to capture the scope of what God has done and continues to do. A simple nod, a knowing gaze, an affirming wink to one another will do. The nodding, the gazing, the winking need not end on Sunday. They can continue as a quiet affirmation of our commitment to the collective crowd of our humanity.
I love you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.