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Is this the day the music died in the land of Don McLean’s American Pie?

What's in a name? Quite a lot, in fact. Some years ago, the theologian Joseph Haroutunian was talking with some friends. Born in Turkey, and nurtured in the Armenian Evangelical Church, he'd come to the USA and become a Presbyterian and university professor in his new setting.

His friends, noting how unusual his name was and also how difficult it was to spell and pronounce, asked him, "Why not change it to something more straightforward like Howarth or Harden?" "And what do those names mean?" he asked, to which they replied: "Oh, nothing really, they're just names."

His reply was priceless. "My father was called Haroutunian, which means 'resurrection'. When someone asks who I am, I tell them I'm proud to be a son of resurrection, that's who I am!"

Of course, that was in the days when the USA was prepared, indeed happy, to open its doors to those from different backgrounds. And in that milieu, where numerous ethnicities made for a diverse melting pot of peoples and perspectives, the new world was more often than not energised and enriched. That's certainly not how the new administration sees it.

Its worldview seems to be to view the world out there, beyond America's borders and shores, as a trading pawn at best and a threat at worst.

'America first' is a mantra that might play out as bold, brash music to those who voted so, but to most others it sounds like discordant white noise that grates on the ear and troubles the soul. There's hardly a grace note to be heard anywhere. Is this the day the music died in the land of Don McLean and his American Pie?

The biblical witness, when not misquoted, misinterpreted or manipulated to serve some grotesque ideology antithetical to the gospel, has a lyrical melody running throughout its script. It's this - remember to respect, welcome, befriend and help if needs be "the widow, the orphan and the stranger in your midst".

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If America, or any other country, is seeking a way to enhance its greatness, it might want to make that imperative a central and abiding policy.

If not, it's simply blasphemy to mention greatness and God in the same breath.

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