My wife’s real name is Karen and you should know that I love her dearly. She is kind, gentle and compassionate. She has a smile that brightens my darkest days. She has a calm and sweet temperament that blesses my soul. God has given me the amazing privilege of going through life joined at the heart with the most pleasant person I have ever met. If you were to ask me how favorably I view my wife, I would be at a loss for words to describe her highly enough.
Not to change the subject (a phrase we strangely use whenever we do indeed change the subject), but at the risk of offending women named Lucretia everywhere, I must confess that there is something about the sound of that name which I find objectionable. It might be the “kree” syllable, which reminds me of “Cretan” or “secretion,” neither of which conjures up particularly pleasant images. I do not demean the women themselves when I reveal my dislike for their name. But the fact is, I much prefer the name Karen. It sounds very much like the word “caring,” which as I’ve already mentioned fits her to a tee.
Now suppose my wife changed her name to Lucretia. Although I would still not care for the name, this action would not change one bit the way that I feel about her. What I am trying to illustrate is that how a person feels about a person, place or thing should never be confused with how a person feels about the NAME of that person, place or thing. These are two completely different ideas, and any research strategy designed to evaluate the two separate ideas must be worded carefully enough to satisfy this crucial distinction.
A recent Lifeway Research study being touted in support of a name change for Southern Baptists reported that forty percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of our Southern Baptist denomination itself. Hallelujah! Jesus clearly warned us, “Woe to you when all people speak well of you…” (Luke 6:26) Since only sixty percent of Americans are speaking well of us, we are clearly keeping a safe distance from the sinful 100% mark Jesus warned us to avoid.
I actually prefer for Alec Baldwin, Michael Moore, Hugh Hefner and Lady Gaga to think poorly of Southern Baptists and the biblical family values and scriptural principles for which we stand. As we identify with Christ, we align ourselves with ideas such as moral absolutism, supernaturalism, creationism and social conservatism which will always be opposed by the enemies of God in our society.
Although I believe it is unnecessary for Southern Baptists to go out of our way to offend our godless culture, I nevertheless believe that as we live for Christ and preach His Word faithfully, we are bound to attract both followers and opponents, and the existence of these opponents proves only our faithfulness to Jesus and not the necessity for us to change the name by which we are called in order to cater to the alleged preferences of the lost.
All of this brings me to my primary point: The research Lifeway presented does nothing to address the way Americans feel about our NAME, but merely presents the way Americans feel about our DENOMINATION. In other words, a properly designed study to explore the effect of a denominational name change upon the attitudes of Americans at large absolutely requires that we ask them the specific question: “If Southern Baptists changed their denominational name, would you view them more favorably, less favorably, or about the same?”
In the absence of any such research specifically geared to the name change issue, the best we might hope to accomplish is to give Americans a different moniker by which to identify the denomination 40% of them will continue to dislike, just as Jesus told us to expect that they would.
Southern Baptists, please read very carefully. When we ask the wrong questions, we are inevitably bound to arrive at the wrong conclusions.
The idea that changing our NAME will somehow change the way Americans view our DENOMINATION is just as seriously flawed as the idea that I would love my wife less if her name were Lucretia.