Faith adherents and non-believers alike call up religious names. California contains Santa Cruz (Holy Cross) with coastline saints like Santa Monica (pictured), San Francisco and San Diego, topped by the capitol Sacramento (for the sacrament of Eucharist). A timely name with the passing of Easter.
Mention Los Angeles, California and Corpus Christi, Texas, and you invoke angels in translation and the literal body of Christ for diversely populated hometowns that are also beach vacation destinations. Cities provide famous reminders of our search for the sacred.
To celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem, nobody need travel to the West Bank because Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Pennsylvania also have their Bethlehems. Biblical inspiration provides mailing addresses from Mt. Zion, Georgia to Beulah, Colorado and Damascus, Oregon.
The U.S. is not alone. Religious names abound globally, from Christchurch, New Zealand to the nation of El Salvador (The Savior). The Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Pagan and other religious traditions lent their language to places here and there. Tel Aviv in modern Israel historically harkens back to the scriptural prophet Ezekiel. Other examples of religious place names are Makkah al-Mukarramah (the Holy City of Mecca) in today’s Saudi Arabia, Mahakali (the Goddess Kali Ma) in contemporary Nepal, and Stone Henge in England.
Combined these places receive a fraction of the traffic that daily flows through Los Angeles, Corpus Christi and the Bethlehems, yet they still pinpoint the global fascination with religious naming. While formal religion may not be in our DNA, spirituality is. We simply cannot live in this world without spiritually motivated imprint to our linguistic consciousness. In all times we evoke the greater power behind the names of wherever we live and move and have our being. Name it whatever you want, timeless love remains real. We want to believe. Name the Infinite whatever you want, God meets that desire wherever we are.