Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Era (02/03/11)
TITLE: By Any Other Name
By Eric Wharton
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Owen ducked his head. He had actually done his homework this time, but wasn’t entirely confident of its contents. He slid down into his chair to try to make himself an unappealing target from the roving eye of Mr. Menuto, his ninth grade World History teacher.
"Come on, now," his teacher continued. "Why do we have to drag this out every time?"
A few hands slipped slowly into the air, but the teacher ignored them. "Let's start with someone new," he said. He began scanning the students, seeking out the lurkers. It didn't take him long to find Owen trying his best to hide behind Sally Ferguson, who was about as wide as a lamppost.
"Owen," he said, his voice elevated and carrying a certain amount of glee. "Your report was on Tutankhamen, right? Let's hear it."
Owen groaned audibly. Resigned to his fate, he flipped over the cover of his one-page report and began reading, "Tutankhamen was an Egyptian Pharaoh who ruled from 1333 to 1323 BC, whose name meant—"
Owen's voice droned on through the two-minute report. He wondered if the rest of the class were as bored listening to him as he was reading it. When he was through he folded his hands over the report and stared at Mr. Menuto, waiting.
"Owen, that was … unexpected. Really, that was not too bad. But you need to refrain from using the old BC term instead of the preferred one, BCE, which means Before the Common Era."
Owen usually refrained from asking questions in class, choosing to remain under the radar. Yet something bothered him about that statement. His Sunday School teacher had always used the term BC when teaching about Old Testament times.
"What's wrong with saying BC?"
"Well, we just don't use it anymore. Our calendar is no longer just for people of the Christian faith. We need to use a more appropriate term to indicate the boundary between the old era and the new one."
"What does BC mean?" It was another student, Justin Cole, who sat on the other side of the room from Owen. Between the gulf that separated them a quiet murmuring had begun.
"It's an acronym meaning Before Christ," Mr. Menuto began. "But that was just the title for a man that was supposedly born then. Most historians now think they even got the date wrong. It's best just to ignore it in favor of a less offensive term."
"But it's still basically when Jesus Christ was born, that hasn’t changed." Owen had become animated. "What good does it do to change how we refer to it?"
Mr. Menuto was beginning to get irritated, clearly trying to control himself. "Look Owen, we don't have time for this. Besides, we're supposed to keep religion out of school. I think it's best we move on."
Owen shrugged his shoulders, remaining silent … thoughtful. It simply made no sense. Why change the term used to describe an event without acknowledging the event itself. No matter what they called it, it remained the point in time when Christ was born. Still, he wasn't about to argue with his teacher and get in trouble.
"Okay," said Mr. Menuto, regaining his composure. "Any questions about Owen's report?"
A hand shot up from the back of the room.
"What's the deal with this Jesus Christ dude?"
As his History teacher struggled to answer, Owen smiled to himself. His Sunday School teacher had once told them, God’s nature will always be clearly seen and understood.
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