The Paper Epithet

In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all.  He also was descended from Rapha.  When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him.

  • 1 Chronicles 20:6-7

I live in disgrace all day long,
    and my face is covered with shame
at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me,
    because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge.

  • Psalm 44:15-16

Calling people names is never a good thing.  Many Christians jumped on the “Politically Correct” bandwagon when the early stages were basically not using the ethnic and cultural epithets toward groups of people that you are not a member of.  In other words, non-Italians should not refer to Italians with the slur that had been used against Italians.  And heaven forbid you call a Polish person by “that” name.

Of course, one reason why name calling is bad is that you might run into Jonathan son of Shimea, brother of David.  Did Jonathan even hesitate?  The details are lacking here and in 2 Samuel 21.  This huge guy taunted.  He was killed.  End of story.  Jonathan might have said, “Bow your head before the king!  Oh, your head came off.  Sorry!”

Of course, I hope many Christians have gotten off the PC bandwagon when pronouncing your Christian beliefs became offensive.  PC is not about being polite.  PC is control, a lack of freedom.  PC is Satan’s plot to silence Christians.  Maybe it did not start out that way, but with the sin nature that we all have, it does not take Satan long to corrupt anything, even things that started with good intentions.  The key here is that man cannot fix man.  God can do that, but we cannot.

But back to name calling and specifically taunting people by using the “paper” epithet.  What do I mean by that?  I was called a “Paper Eagle” many times while I was the scoutmaster of a scout troop in North Augusta, SC.  A “paper” anything is that thing in name only.  You have a piece of paper that says you are “something.”  Thus, you are a “paper something.”  One match applied at the right spot, and you are then nothing.

The second Scripture above talks of the enemy taunting them for the motivation of revenge.  So, maybe we need to look at motivation.

I was being taunted by the parents of the other boys, because the boys needed to have a monthly campout.  Of course, the motivation for the taunts could have been jealousy that I was an Eagle and they were not or simply bullying to get me to break the rules of the BSA.  Yet, because these same parents drug their feet regarding the planning of such campouts and paying the dues and extra cash to buy the food for the campouts, it was impossible to schedule a campout more often than every other month.  Then, when the date was approaching, these same parents were busy that weekend and they could not help.  Ahh!  Let the child hear you call the scoutmaster a paper eagle to deflect your guilt away from you.  That shows great maturity!

I was one of the region’s instructors, the only one at our council, in child protection, often having people from other councils and regions attend my classes.  You had to have two-deep leadership to prevent one adult abusing the children or a child claiming abuse and there were no witnesses to say the abuse did not occur.  Protection in both directions.  I had already gone on a campout with a friend of mine as my extra leader.  The boys in the other tent were rough-housing and the boy that was “slow” got into a fight.  To keep him from punching everyone senseless in his rage, one of the other boys grabbed him by the neck.  The “slow” boy complained that his neck was broken.  Of course, it was not, but there was swelling and tenderness.  My friend took the boy in his pickup to the ER while I stood guard, no sleep at all that night, alone, hovering over thirty boys who had already proven to be unworthy of the uniforms that they were wearing.  Okay, most had never bought the uniforms.

So, we were lucky to plan and execute a campout more often than once each quarter.  After one year of this, the troop fired me.  I know.  You cannot fire a volunteer, but they said that I was too much of a hero and someone that the boys could not relate to or to which they could aspire.  Okay, because of the laziness and lack of parenting skills of the fathers, I was a “paper eagle,” but now, I was a hero, unreachable by the boys?  They were almost right.  A couple of years later after I was kicked out, I heard that one of the boys made Eagle.  I was glad that I had a small part in that.

But what is a paper Eagle?  There may really be such people.  You may or may not have done all the things that an eagle is supposed to do, but the scoutmaster and the board of review signs off, “on paper”, saying that you really did it.  If you can tell falsehoods as well as your scoutmaster, then the only hurdle is to convince the council’s Eagle board of review and you are in.  Thus, an eagle in name only.  But scouting is often equated to camping, and when an eagle scout does not go camping…

As I got older, I began to hate camping.  I think my time in the Army, which was not camping, might have been the turning point.  I had a sergeant who would get off the truck when we reached our field training location.  He would run a hundred feet away from everyone else, and then scream, “I hate the field!!!”  Afterwards, he was fine.  Did that make him a “paper sergeant?”  He went on to become a Sgt. Major.  Someone saw something in him beyond his distaste for “playing Army.”  I thought he was the best sergeant that I had, outside the couple of sergeants of higher rank. 

But since my time as a scoutmaster was after my time in the military, the camping became a chore, especially when I was in charge.  I loved teaching the boys the skills, but my back would not cooperate after a night trying to sleep on the hard ground.

The trouble with calling someone a “paper” anything, is that the only proof that you really earned those achievements, after the fact, was the paperwork.

But as the first Scripture hints, taunting can make people angry.  And as the second Scripture says that revenge may be one motivation, but jealousy, deflection from your own inadequacies, and other such things can be the cause of such taunting.  And it is so childish.  Maybe one of the root causes of taunting is that the 20-somethings, 30-somethings, and 40-somethings simply failed to grow up.  I have heard 80-somethings begin to taunt each other in the park.  Passers-by laugh at the spectacle until the first punch is thrown.

An offshoot of the greatest commandment and the other equal to it is that we must love one another.  Taunting is not accomplishing that.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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