This week, the Southern Baptist Convention announced it is launching yet another committee to examine changing its name. The goal is to better reflect the fact that, aside from folks who live at the North Pole, they’re not necessarily always geographically “Southern” anymore. Whether or not the name change will go through is up in the air — this is the eighth attempt at renaming the organization.
But it isn’t just the Southern Baptists. Name change fever is in the water. The interwebs are abuzz with the announcement by Netflix this week that it’s changing the name of its DVD service to Qwikster — a name that conjures up images of oil changes and bunnies with chocolate milk. Campus Crusade for Christ, in a move which resulted in a public relations nightmare, recently announced it was changing its name to Cru (rowing teams or short haircuts, anyone?).
Often, name changes are a result of corporate mergers. If you were a customer of AT&T Wireless back in the day, your cell phone company for a time was renamed Cingular — until, of course, it reverted back to AT&T. Kinko’s became FedEx Kinkos, and then just FedEx, even though everybody still calls it Kinko’s.
Women seem to have perfected the art of the name change, since the most common changes of name happen with marriage. Women bear well the burden of changing all their documentation and notifying their friends — unless the husband takes his wife’s name, in which case the man bears the brunt of jokes for the rest of his days.
When I was a kid, I knew a girl named Nicole who, for whatever reason, felt inspired to change her name to Michelle. And, for whatever reason, her parents relented and legally changed her first name. I can’t recall exactly, but she may have been referred to as “Micole” for a while thereafter.
The changing of one’s name does have biblical precedence. Abram became Abraham. Simon became Peter. Saul became Paul. The book of Revelation even tells us that the ones who overcome will be given a white stone with a new name written on it (Rev. 2:17). All of these changes, I think, reflect a radical inward transformation. The new name represents the new man.
This recent spate of name changes, however, seems to tout the continuity of the old. Qwikster will offer the same great service, same red envelopes, etc. Cru will remain committed to the Great Commission, etc. Those proposing the Southern Baptist Convention’s name change aren’t seeking a change in the its mission.
Ultimately, I think, we make our names more than they make us. After all, Amazon.com isn’t a website about a South American river, and few are under the impression that it is. Will Qwikster, Cru, and the Earthen Baptist Convention (What do you think, SBC committee?) make radical differences in the groups that carry those names? Probably not. But then again, they can always change it back.