Monday, September 26, 2011

Southern Baptists Changing their Name

From Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, 1600:

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

"What's in a name?" The good bard was of the opinion that what matters is what something is, not what it is called. In addition, I suspect that what a thing is may effect how we feel about a name.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (according to its public relations firm at the time) was trying to get away from the negative implications of the word "Fried"(see Peter Keegan article in "Nation's Resturant News" 25 February 1991)and began to advertise itself as KFC and now is migrating to KGC (Kentucky Grilled Chicken). The connotations of the word "Fried" changed over time. What once was a good marketing moniker, became a public relations nightmare.

Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright said this week "There are not a lot of folks in New York City interested in going to a Southern Baptist church, or in Cheyenne, Wyoming, or Boise, Idaho."(see USAToday article at So, he announced they were exploring a change of name.

Why, I wonder, would people in New York, Cheyenne or Boise not want to go to a "Southern Baptist" church? Is it "Southern" that offends and if so why does it offend? Is it Baptist that offends and if so why does it offend? Southern Bapitsts have had 166 years to develop their "brand." Why change the name?

If it is because their actions have been so offensive that they have given "Baptist" and/or "Southern" a bad name in places like New York, Cheyenne, and Boise, then any new name, over time, will develop equally negative connotations.

I note that Kentucky Fried Chicken has started grilling chicken (changing their actions) to coincide with their name change. Will Southern Baptists change, becoming less "baptist" or less "southern?"

Baptists of other stripes and Southerners as well, might well be pleased that the words "Southern" and "Baptist" will no longer be associated with this particular group of Christians. Perhaps those words, in so far as they have developed negative connotations in places like New York, Cheyenne, and Boise, will be born again, washed clean, made new and given a new life. As a southerner and a friend of baptists, I can hope.

But, I wonder, would Southern Baptists, by any other name, smell as sweet?

Note: Since the initial PR release, it has been conjectured that the real reason for the Kentucky Fried Chicken name change was the word "Kentucky" not the word "Fried." Nonetheless, the current move to "Grilled" is certainly and obviously an attempt to supplant "Fried."


Steve Finnell said...
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Stephen Fox said...


Email me in Collinsville. We need to talk about some matters you will identify with immediately--see immigration threads at SBC trends and the CBF posts.
One of my alternatives but will be checkin Once I get email there will put you on the A-list (lol)
They're building a log cabin at Trade Day--click over to my blog. And I imagine you saw the piece by Rick Bragg in Southern Living