The nice thing about nicknames is that they aren’t real and probably should not be taken too seriously. I have NEVER, EVER seen or heard of one being put up for a vote by any deliberative body. In other words, the people coming up with the nickname just sort of do it on their own authority.
How strange that a committee formed on its own authority and not that of the Southern Baptist Convention did not feel empowered to just start using a totally optional nickname without asking for official say-so. If they want to start referring to Southern Baptists as “Great Commission Baptists” as a nickname, then no one can stop them. They can also call us “those Fried Chicken Eaters,” those “Back Row Baptists,” those “Chick-fil-A Addicts” or those “Bible Thumping Jesus People.”
Nicknames are not legislated or collectively endorsed. Someone throws one out there and just waits to see if it sticks. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t.
In the church I am privileged to pastor, we have a number of older gentlemen who were tagged with colorful nicknames a number of years ago which have managed to stick. We have a “Chicken” whose name derives from a temper tantrum he threw as a boy in which he slaughtered some of the chickens in the yard. We have an “Acorn.” We have both a “Moose” and a “Goose.” We even call a man with the most mild temperament you will ever experience (think Mr. Magoo on a sedative) by the name “Killer.”
Now some people do strongly resist any effort by others to call them by their nickname. For some reason, one man named Dave absolutely does not care for anyone at all to call him by the nickname “Buster.” His eyes narrow, his lips frown, his head shakes back and forth and you just know that he really, really does not care to be called by this nickname.
You know, I actually honor that. I mean, a nickname is something friends use. If your friend doesn’t like it, then you don’t use it, because your friend is more important to you than the nickname is. Hmm.
But here’s the thing. You don’t go down to the Department of Motor Vehicles and change your drivers license. You don’t change your voters registration card. And you don’t ask all of your friends by a show of hands if you can start going by this other name now. Nicknames are initiated unilaterally by an individual who just uses it.
Ironically, unlike most of the processes of Baptist life, nicknames actually fall outside of the congregational, democratic processes I have elsewhere argued so strongly for us to observe as a denomination.
If we were planning officially to change our name, then I would argue we need to vote. If we were planning officially to designate a new name as our “DBA” or our “Doing Business As” moniker, then I would argue we need to vote.
But if it’s only a nickname anyway, and by definition an optional one at that, then I appeal to the Committee on Order of Business not to schedule this vote and subject our Baptist “Muckety-mucks” (see what I did there?) to a pointless and possibly embarrassing debate.
That’s just the way nicknames work. Use it or don’t. Take it or leave it. But don’t vote on it as if it were something official when it’s not. If you do that, I’ll just have to call you a “Fuddy-duddy.”
And I won’t need anyone’s permission to do it.