The Great Re-Brand

Re-branding is all the craze lately. Anytime your product or organization gets a black eye, you re-brand it so that you can put a different face and message on it. The church is no different really. We have often engaged in this from time to time. The protestant reformation was an attempt to re-brand Christianity and put out a different message than had existed before ¬†(yes, I am aware this is a gross over simplification), the Anabaptist movement, the church of England, etc. All of it re-branding Christianity to present a different message. This is not to say that attempting to re-brand the church is not occasionally necessary, or that it is a bad thing, but in doing so, we need to ask what have we lost along the way. Who have we alienated and cut off? In our efforts to re-brand the faith delivered once and for all to the saints (Jude 1:3 after all, who can pass up a chance to reference Jude?) have we lost some of the parts that matter the most? Let’s look at some examples.

Politics is almost all about re-branding so that politicians can be seen as somehow representative of the general population. The most successful example of this type of re-branding is probably the issue of civil rights. During the civil rights era, the dixie-crats had successfully branded the democratic party as a whole as being for the ‘Jim Crow’ laws and the Republican party was the party of civil rights. Fast forward, and the democratic party is seen as the party of civil rights and the republican party is branded as less than friendly to those who are not Caucasian. The truth doesn’t really matter, because that is how it has been branded. The history of the two parties, good and bad on both sides, is lost and somehow now unimportant, and that is a shame.

We often try to re-brand the church. We claim to be orthodox in our faith, yet we use the creeds that orthodox faith hinges on to divide instead of to unite as was the intention. In the effort to re-brand, we succeeded, but the creeds that should unite now divide. We lost something important. We have become more accepting of diverse people and lifestyles in our churches (note I did not say that we do or should endorse all lifestyles) so that we can be seen as more modern, but in doing so, we have managed to cut off the conservative arm of the church universal and branded them as unintelligent, backwards and irrelevant. Just so you know, that is nearly 16 million Southern Baptists alone, not to mention conservative United Methodists, etc. We can not afford to do that. the re-branding has largely worked, and caused a split between brothers and sisters in Christ that I am convinced breaks the heart of the God we claim to be re-branding for. We re-brand and leave our brothers and sisters behind.

We make attempts at re-branding ourselves. From drug addict to recovering addict, from ‘bad person’ to ‘good person’, from poor to wealthy, etc. We lose weight so that we can be re-branded as healthy instead of obese, we buy new clothes so we can be re-branded as stylish and not behind the times, unless we go to a consignment or second hand shop so that we can be re-branded as retro. We join churches so we can be re-branded as Christian, we protest so we can be re-branded as supporting a cause. We re-brand and leave our past, and all to often the people in it, behind.

In all of the re-branding that we do, we seem to have forgotten one rather important thing as Christians…we are not the ones that are responsible for re-branding anything. We can not claim the world for God and re-brand it as ‘Christian’. After all the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. (1 Corinthians 10:26; Psalm 24:1). We can not really even re-brand ourselves as we do not change ourselves, but God, through Christ and the power of the Spirit is what changes us. We are indeed re-branded, but not of our own power and will, but rather by the Grace and Mercy of God. We are re-branded as royal priests (o how I wish I were better at acting as one), as living stones for God to build upon (not to be used as ammunition in a catapult to destroy and tear down)(1 Peter 2:5). We have been re-branded by God through Christ, but we still insist, in our arrogance, pride, and perhaps even idolatry, continue to try to re-brand ourselves. We seem to fight against all the things that God has re-branded us as. What have we lost in all of this? We have lost our identity as brothers and sisters in Christ, we have lost our way following the path of God, we have lost our hearts for those who do not know Christ by focusing inward on our squabbles and disagreements, but, and perhaps most tragically, we have lost ourselves, as the only identity we should strive for, the only re-branding we should ever desire, is the simple¬†re-brand that is now I follow the one true Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. End rant.

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7 Replies to “The Great Re-Brand”

  1. Rebranding is nothing new. Early to mid-19th century American history is filled with attempts by spiritual inheritors of the Federalists’ agenda to reinvent themselves. It only stopped shortly before the Civil War – the South’s Lost Cause or War Between the States – when the modern Republican Party wrapped itself in the flag of nationalism.

  2. Said, (and sad) rebranding comes in different shapes and forms and justifications… I do believe that there is a line that we can’t cross (or plural, lines we can’t cross). I used the verb “can’t” because once you cross these lines (speaking about Christianity) the identity of the Christian faith is blurred if not completely disappears. If we are to believe the traditional teaching on the work of the Holy Spirit we must know and see the buzzing red lights as to when these lines are under threats of being
    crossed, but unfortunately there are many who will still ignore the warning signs. Christianity is not necessarily something to be popular; whatever it is the Gate is always straight and the pathway leading to it is narrow, not fitting for a large crowd, but the pursuit of popularity nowadays can be pinpointed as perhaps the main driving force behind the current rebranding of Christianity…
    In all I am still not sure if the even most watered down version of the Gospel, even with the filtering of historical (currently considered) errors, and disputed texts, if the Gospel allows for a progressive and updating rebranding of the Church.

  3. “we have managed to cut off the conservative arm of the church universal and branded them as unintelligent, backwards and irrelevant. Just so you know, that is nearly 16 million Southern Baptists alone”

    Since you mention the SBC, the rebranding and cutting off is mostly self-inflicted. The more progressive leaders of the denomination never asked for their perspective to be the only one and were happy to coexist with more conservative people. It is the latter who argued that these moderates had never been true Baptists to begin with and should decamp. If a denomination decides that its hallmark will be rejection of the scholarly consensus and of alternative viewpoints, I don’t see why it would be inappropriate to state that this is in fact what defines them. I would still refrain from describing them as “unintelligent” since I know that it is not the case, but “epistemically closed” and “unwilling to tolerate other perspectives” fits the bill.

    My mostly liberal Catholic college had both very liberal theology professors and several conservative professors who were very active in the anti-gay-rights movement. None of their were ever asked to leave or to keep quiet. Is there a SBC seminary that has professors who take a less than conservative approach to anything?

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that all Southern Baptists are like that, especially since the SBC is made up of independent churches. But it remains the general character of the denomination.

    1. The Southern Baptist Convention is it’s own worst enemy. From the beginning, it was associated with slavery rather than abolition. Southern Baptists were also instrumental in perpetuating segregation and child labor. To further compound Southern Baptist difficulties, the Convention has managed to uniformly position itself on the losing side of almost every social issue in the 20th century.

      Then, there are the contradictions. For over a century, the Convention as been a safe haven for Masons. More amusingly, Southern Baptists began taking marching orders from Rome on the issue of abortion!

      Until the late 20th century conservative-moderate split – in which conservatives engineered a takeover of the Convention – Southern Baptists enjoyed exponential membership growth. After that, before going into decline in the early 21st century, membership growth became more logarithmic.

      1. If you can find a copy, an amusing and worthwhile read regarding the infighting that eventually lead to the undoing of the Southern Baptist Convention is Russell Brantley’s The Education of Jonathan Beam. The book was originally published by Macmillan in 1962. A trained journalist, with a wicked sense of humor, Brantley had a long association with Wake Forest – a former Southern Baptist Convention institution of higher learning.

  4. If you are a conservative Christian that believes in 7 day creation (6 and a rest), you are most often put aside by liberal and most moderates. In the UMC as an example, even the great (cough cough choke) Adam Hamilton, the great moderate hope, sets you aside as an example of what is wrong with Christianity. Are you asked to be quiet? No, you are just insulted, told that you are a huge part of what is wrong with the church, and dismissed without thought. That is the result of that particular stance. The SBC is an easy example as they hold this as doctrine and are the largest protestant denomination in America. Most liberals and moderates simply dismiss them as being a part of the problem, not part of the body. That is the net result of re-branding…not on the part of the SBC, but on the part of those who hold to evolution decided that they must be uneducated and therefor of no value. It happens in other denominations on smaller scales as well, the SBC was simply an easy example.

    1. Much of the debate is little more than a battle of old ideas versus new ideas. New ideas are often considered dangerous to an entrenched status quo. Having a new idea regarding salvation in a religion-saturated society got Jesus killed. Much the same thing almost happened to Paul and Barnabas in Lystra.

      As much as anything these days, although the phenomenon is nothing new, today’s intrachurch conflict is also a generational power struggle pitting an older generation against a younger one at a time when social instability is rampant. It matters little whether they’re public or private – or even somewhere in between – few institutions in society are trusted these days. Thus, in many ways, the battle over theology is also involves a crisis of trust.

      One thing that makes to present discord different from previous philosophical whizzing in the wind contests is current challenges to the status quo are largely secular. This can be a bewildering battlefield for those accustomed to parsing Bible versus with the theological equivalent of a microtome. Simply relying on Bronze Age theoscience is no longer adequate to carry the day. Oversimplifications, such as claiming evolutionists believe men came from monkeys, only makes creationists look more like caricatures than serious defenders of the faith.

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