The branding dilemma for Southern Baptists — and Republicans

Rick Santorum addresses supporters at  First Redeemer Church – a Southern Baptist congregation -- in Cumming, Ga., last Sunday. Newt Gingrich will attend the 10:30 a.m. service at the same church this Sunday. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Rick Santorum addresses supporters at First Redeemer Church – a Southern Baptist congregation -- in Cumming, Ga., last Sunday. Newt Gingrich will attend the 10:30 a.m. service at the same church this Sunday. Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Late last year, the Southern Baptist Convention completed an eye-opening study that included this fact: Knowing that a church is Southern Baptist would make four out of 10 Americans less likely to become a member of what is – for now – the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

In the political world, this is known as unfavorable name recognition. And it’s a killer. Ask Newt Gingrich.

So this week it was no surprise that, for 24 hours, at least, leaders of the denomination considered dropping – after 166 years — one of the most iconic and successful brand names in American culture.

Republicans should pay close attention to this, for the parallels are deep and striking. The strength of both institutions is rooted in the traditional South. Membership in both is aging, white – and slowly declining. Each has problems appealing to minorities. Gender gaps are another common bond.

Finally, over the last several decades, both Southern Baptists and Republicans have created an orthodox set of beliefs to determine who, really and truly, is one of their number.

Bryant Wright is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Cobb County. He is concerned with souls, not votes.

“So many of our church-starts outside the South and Southwest have complained about the struggle with the identity of the Southern Baptist name,” Wright said in a telephone interview from Nashville. “It’s not exactly the thing that causes people to come in droves.”

For Wright, the parochial barrier is the largest hurdle. Consider, he said, going to Birmingham, Ala., and attempting to establish a congregation under the name of “First Yankee Baptist Church.”

But a regional name doesn’t just hurt Baptist expansion plans. Residents of the North and Midwest are moving here to metro Atlanta. So the word “Southern” also becomes “an impediment in the South,” Wright said.

The big difference between Republicans and Baptists is the fact that Wright would rather be right than president. Of the United States, I mean.

Southern Baptists have adapted. For instance, Hispanics are a targeted demographic, and the denomination’s more moderate attitude toward illegal immigration doesn’t play well among GOP rank-and-file.

But Wright doesn’t see his denomination backing away from core principles that, admittedly, may make it harder to grow – such as its belief in the word-for-word truth of the Bible, or its 2000 decision to end the ordination of women. “Even though that’s very politically incorrect and counterculture,” Wright added.

This is what religions are about. This is why they have martyrs.

Political parties are entirely different vessels, according to David Key, director of Baptist studies at the Emory University Candler School of Theology.

Richard Nixon’s 1968 Southern strategy aside, Key notes that the reassertion of fundamentalist control within the Southern Baptist Convention – a bitter fight that spanned the late ’70s and early ’80s – served as a precursor to the Christian Right’s rise within GOP ranks.

Both were a rejection of Jimmy Carter’s style of mixing religion and politics, Key said, in favor of one championed by the Rev. Jerry Falwell.

“What Republicans are dealing with is a branding issue. Is Rick Santorum going to be our brand? Or is Mitt Romney going to be our brand? Southern Baptists are just much further down that road of orthodoxy. There’s a difference of degree,” Key said.

“In the political world, Reagan didn’t deliver as some thought he would on the kind of agenda items that were promised,” Key said. Many Christian conservatives were likewise disappointed in both Bush presidencies.

“But Rick Santorum is really the first candidate, if he wins the nomination, who could begin to do the same thing in the Republican party as was done in the Southern Baptist Convention,” Key said. Though he admits that Republicans might not be able to make themselves as right-believing as Southern Baptists.

“The political system may not allow for the orthodoxy that the [convention] did,” Key said.

Political parties will tolerate martyrdom for a single election cycle, but no more. They are about power, not sainthood.

This week, Southern Baptists decided to take a middle road. The same study that indicated that “Southern” was a problem for Baptists also pointed to a growth area – people who considered themselves non-denominational Christians. Theological independents, if you will.

The Southern Baptist name will not be officially dropped. Too much of a legal quagmire, said Wright.

Instead, though it is not final yet, churches with identity concerns may soon be able to drop the words “Southern Baptist” and call themselves “Great Commission.” As in “First Great Commission Church of Akron, Ohio.”

So one day, we may see Great Commission Republicans, too.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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92 comments Add your comment

Centrist

February 22nd, 2012
6:02 pm

Isn’t this a repeat blog?

The Goobernator

February 22nd, 2012
6:14 pm

A young paster took over our family church after the retirement of our elder pastor. He went to the SBC Convention, returned, and promptly resigned. He could not lead a SBC church after witnessing the ungodly behavior and un-Christian political doctrines presented.

DJ Sniper

February 22nd, 2012
6:18 pm

This is why I stopped going to church a while back. I’m also not a religious person either.

Ok I'll play along

February 22nd, 2012
6:19 pm

Names a name but at the heart is the same. amway=quixtar, bankhead hwy outside 285 is now Veterans Memorial; Metropolitan=Stewart Avenue. You can only fool the new folks. At the heart of all of this is Santorum has no platform and this is the only “card” he has left in the deck.

Auntie Christ

February 22nd, 2012
6:34 pm

Gosh, why would anyone not want the term “southern” as part of their identity, what with our proud heritage of slavery, rape, murder, lynchings and white supremacy groups like the klan and white citizen councils. I’m surprised that people all over the world aren’t insisting on making it part of their moniker.

Let’s not forget our proud christian heritage too, starting with the inquisition, 1000’s of pogroms against jews, conversion of African and native Americans at the point of a gun, and their greatest hit of all time, the holocaust. We are so christian that we have more people in prison, per capita tha Mao’s China, and the only western nation still exercising capital punishment.

santorum says satan has his sights set on America, and he and the republicans will save us from satan. Pray tell rick, would satan have changed a thing in the history of the south and the christians just described?

jconservative

February 22nd, 2012
6:46 pm

A cult by any other name is still a cult.

Roach

February 22nd, 2012
6:47 pm

Don’t get it. You go through all the machinations so you can drive people out, then you want to grow, Clue: those people outside? You threw them out. You’re still intolerant bully bigots, and the folks you drove out haven’t forgotten. Victory is sweet, isn’t it?

double

February 22nd, 2012
6:49 pm

Don’t belittle southern.Years back Southern Bakeries slogan. ” I would go North to get southern Bread.”

Centrist

February 22nd, 2012
6:51 pm

Back from the beach walk and admittedly buzzed.

Yep, this is a repeat blog. But despite Mr. Jim Galloway’s wishful thinking*, the Republican party is about equally as strong as the Democrats. Both are now being defined by their respective right and left wings. The U.S. House will remain Republican because the economic TEA party issues have hit a chord. The U.S. will be about evenly split even though the short tails of incumbent Obama should help (and he will likely be re-elected).

Four years from now will likely be an open presidential election, and the Republican party might be stronger after 8 years of Obama’s leftist tilt. Relatively new faces like Rubio may be invigorating. A LOT can happen in 4 years.

* Galloway’s wishful thinking: “Republicans should pay close attention to this, for the parallels are deep and striking. The strength of both institutions is rooted in the traditional South. Membership in both is aging, white – and slowly declining. Each has problems appealing to minorities. Gender gaps are another common bond.”

PeaPatch

February 22nd, 2012
6:59 pm

Sorry. Just sounds too much like marketing to me. The SBC thinking of running everybody else out of business? Something about the whole idea seems wrongheaded. I don’t like it.

Ron Olliff

February 22nd, 2012
7:01 pm

Come on Jim, you’re letteing your Democrat party loyalites color you’re reporting (as it does with very article). The negative name branding is a direct result liberal news media biased reporting in both cases

Skin2

February 22nd, 2012
7:02 pm

Republican south??? Not too long ago, a republican could not be elected in the south. Many in the democritic party were the biggest racists we knew. How quickly times change!

Centrist

February 22nd, 2012
7:03 pm

Another subject – the AJC pretends that this has a chance of capturing legislators and the public’s attention:

“Vasectomy bill goes viral

Rep. Yasmin Neal, who proposed a bill limiting vasectomies for men, has garnered an unanticipated level of attention. 5:42 p.m. “

jd

February 22nd, 2012
7:18 pm

My father, grandfather, and great-grandfather (Baptists who touched many a church in several states) always said that you didn’t do politics in the pulpit. I stopped going to baptist services when Charles Stanley broke that rule. Ironic isn’t it — they preach against secularism but are worshiping secular gods (Wall Street, winning at all costs) while abandoning the true mission of the church – feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visiting those in prison, being generous to the poor.

c-bear

February 22nd, 2012
7:19 pm

Churches and religion are crutches for weak minded sheeple. Not to mention a horrendous fashion show and toxic perfume fest. Great place for Jekyll/Hydes and control freaks to roost. There needs to be a church tax to go hand in hand with the sin tax.

RGB

February 22nd, 2012
7:38 pm

Baptist churches affiliated with the SBC don’t use the word “Southern” in their names now, so why should we expect that they would use “Great Commission” in their names going forward.

I think this is sloppy reporting, but what else is new?

Aside from gigging Christians, establishing fertile blogging ground for blasphemers and persecutors, and talking about Newt’s account at Tiffany’s, do you have any other areas of interest to offer your readers? Anything legitimate? Anything original? Or are you at the “mailing it in” stage of copy-and-paste journalism?

Surely in a town of 4 million people we can do better than this. This is the low bar.

Will

February 22nd, 2012
7:46 pm

Galloway is flogging the story because he thinks he can milk out a little more of the religion hatred crowd. There is not a story here, just politics and hatred.

A B Normal

February 22nd, 2012
7:52 pm

Hey, I have an idea . . . “Pharisee-ic Legalistic Arrogant Baptists” or PLAB’s. The full name fits and the acronym is a great smoke screen.

ZIN

February 22nd, 2012
8:03 pm

Just because ya change the name, doesn’t mean ya will change their ways. In the 1960’s the Dem’s became Repubs in the South, the name change didn’t change their ways. Most are still the same racist, backward thinking people they were before they changed their party to Republicans. A name means nothing, its what is in the heart that matters. They can call themselves Christians all they want but most do not walk the walk. Religions along with politicians have lost their way, neither one serve the real people anymore. They have both become GREEDY!

nomaj

February 22nd, 2012
8:06 pm

I, for one, appreciate the Southern Baptists taking a stand, and not being all wishy-washy, like some pointy headed secular humanist.
The Southern Baptists are right in sticking to their core principles, chief among them the belief in the word-for-word infallible truth of the Bible, just as God intended when He created the Earth 6000 years ago.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

February 22nd, 2012
8:09 pm

I hope Bryant Wright and the Southern Baptist are not as foolish as integrationist African Americans… “Knowing that a church is Southern Baptist would make four out of 10 Americans less likely to become a member of what is – for now – the nation’s largest Protestant denomination” sounds familiar to me. Fifty years ago, integrationist African American leaders in the south thought they would be more receptive of people if they considered themselves to be integrationist African Americans etc rather than separate but equal.

Integrationist African American leaders removed their well disciplined children out of their separate black schools. They encouraged African Americans to frequent well established stores and establishments of other races at the expense of their own. But more importantly, integrationist African Americans desire to be accepted by others literally decimated the sacred ties that had bind them together since leaving their mother land.

Christians should be able to put two and two together. If the churches decide to drop “Southern Baptist” and call themselves “Great Commission” because four out of 10 Americans are less likely to become a member of what is – for now – the nation’s largest Protestant denomination”, fifty years henceforth, they will experience a self-imposed perverted genocidal condition that is visited upon integrationist African Americans wherever they reside.

And that’s speaking right from my heart.

Amen?

hiram b. granbury

February 22nd, 2012
8:14 pm

nomaj,
Don’t forget the 100 billion galaxies that are visible from our galaxy, that god created just for our entertainment…

Ronnie Raygun

February 22nd, 2012
8:16 pm

How about a little truth in advertising? They should change their name from Southern Baptists to Tali-Baptists.

B. Thenet

February 22nd, 2012
8:23 pm

So spewing hate towards people that are different and being elitist ideologues are bad for recruiting?

Who knew?

Let me give them a hint, a change of heart will go much further to solve the problem than a name change.

Christianalltheway

February 22nd, 2012
8:25 pm

As our pastor recently preached, it’s not about the camp, it’s about the Kingdom. One denomination or another will not get you to heaven, but Jesus will. People may be leaving the church building, but they are still seeking a Savior. Blessed by our non-denominational church where it’s not about traditions but about the Bible. @DJ Sniper – 6:18 pm, try a church that is not for “church people,” you might be pleasantly surprised. Perfect people need not attend, and all who are not perfect are welcomed with open arms. Be blessed.

Voice of Reason

February 22nd, 2012
8:30 pm

The test is to see this portion of the church will be principled or political. I bet they will opt for politics. This is why the church is in the mess it is.

ozzfest

February 22nd, 2012
8:33 pm

PERSONALLY, I WOULD LOVE TO CHALLENGE BRYANT WRIGHT TO COME OVER TO MY HOUSE AND SIT IN THE SAME ROOM WITH MY WIFE AND MY MOTHER…AND HAVE HIM TELL ALL THREE OF US HOW WOMEN ARE “LESS” THAN MEN.

I CAN ASSURE YOU HE WOULD LEAVE MY DINING ROOM WITH A NEW FOUND UNDERSTANDING OF “THE TRUTH”…AND IF HE DID NOT ADMIT AS MUCH HE COULD GO HOME WITH TWO LESS TEETH IN HIS MOUTH.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

February 22nd, 2012
8:34 pm

Blessed are those who do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.

But their delight is in the law of the LORD, and in his law they mediate day and night.

And they shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season. Leafs shall not wither, and whatever they do shall prosper.

The opposite is true of the ungodly. They are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous. But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Amen?

nomaj

February 22nd, 2012
8:48 pm

Hiram, you’re absolutely right.
That was SO thoughtful of Him, especially nice since he put us at the center of it all, with everything else revolving around the us. This is why we’re the jewel of the celestial crown, and not like some loser place like Uranus, or some other hole in the the sky.

hiram b. granbury

February 22nd, 2012
8:54 pm

I would put Him right up there with Santa, who navigates upwards of 3 billion chimneys in one night.
He is at least just as plausible…

Matt the Brave

February 22nd, 2012
9:01 pm

Couple of things to note here: the survey of Americans was 1) given by the SBC. 2) it polled only 2000 people. 3) This is a whole bunch of nothing because the name change would never make it out of the convention because they would vote it down. 4) if you don’t think that the SBC is being run like a business, then go to your local bookstore and thumb through some Christian books about leadership and see how businesslike they are. It’s almost unsettling. The greatest problem in our churches today is that we are focusing in on things like name changes, not on what our community around us needs. If we get out of our pews and in the streets, then the perception of the SBC will change drastically.

Ye Olde Believer

February 22nd, 2012
9:05 pm

The World is flat.

td

February 22nd, 2012
9:06 pm

I agree Centrist that for some reason or the other it appears Jim enjoys religious bashing. I know he is smart enough to know that 70 to 80% of the post is going to be religious hate on this blog so I do not see why he keeps posting these type blogs?

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

February 22nd, 2012
9:10 pm

Christians should consider the way of the pathetic perverted integrationist African American leaders and their devilish black minions. When they decided to integrate with other races of people for more political power and access etc, it automatically decimated the ties that bind… Mis-educated blacks in the north stupidly boast of the ties that bind being decimated much earlier.

But after nearly 50 years of integration in the south, a great cry has gone out among integrationist African American leaders calling black people back to the unity of the good old days.

Countless African Americans including me would rather die than unite with integrationist black people and what they have become, the personification of evil, after 50 years of integration.

Southern Baptist had better beware.

Amen?

Jenn

February 22nd, 2012
9:13 pm

It really annoys me when people call Baptists Protestant. Baptists did not come from the Protestant Reformation. Sadly, most people assume any church that isn’t Catholic is Protestant.

mere

February 22nd, 2012
9:15 pm

Ozzfest, quote your sources. When has Pastor Wright ever said that women are “less” than men? Unless of course this is just you twisting his words, with no regard to context. Your version of “truth” doesn’t seem much like something worth listening too, but knowing Wright’s character, he would still give you the time of day you’re requesting.

hiram b. granbury

February 22nd, 2012
9:18 pm

td
Do you know why 70 to 80% of the post “is religious hate” on this blog? It’s because only 20 to 30% of religious people is computer literate.

H. Taylor

February 22nd, 2012
9:22 pm

Am I understanding this right? Is the implication here that the word “Southern” is the problem? “Southern” – simply denoting a geographical area of the country???? I can’t be reading that right. The problem with the Southern Baptist Church isn’t about the “Southern” part – it is about who they are and what they do, how they oppress women, how radical and self-righteous they are, etc, etc. It has nothing to do with the word, “Southern.”

Building Bridges, Not Walls

February 22nd, 2012
9:22 pm

These folks like to throw stones at big Jim for sure, but he is right on the money. The SBC is reaping what it sowed years ago and if it weren’t for the Democrats own problems with catering to their wingnut whackos, the Republican Party would be in an even bigger mess than they are now as they fall all over themselves to prove the earth is flat. What we need, folks, is education, and the Southern Baptists and Republicans share a common distrust in such a thing. They’d rather throw stones.

Ye Olde Believer

February 22nd, 2012
9:22 pm

Baptists drink in the closet and Catholics confess in the closet. It be great if they shared a closet and judged each other and left the rest of us alone to live free of their dogma.

Auntie Christ

February 22nd, 2012
9:27 pm

It’s hilarious how several commenters come here everyday and whine about the writings on this blog. They are the same people who will whine about the movie being shown at the local cinema, or the programs being shown on TV or any editorial that doesn’t conform to their opinion. It somehow is beyond their ken that you can change the tv channel if you don’t like the program, you don’t have to buy a ticket to the cinema, and you don’t have to read anyone’s blog. If you feel somehow compelled to read the articles, feel free to offer a counter argument, but spare us your tiresome whining about Jim Galloway’s point of view or the topics he chooses for discussion. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. Are you insane?

td

February 22nd, 2012
9:40 pm

Auntie Christ

February 22nd, 2012
9:27 pm

Some of us posters are attempting to turn Jim and few others from the dark side of the force and bring him and them back to the good side of the force. We do still have the right of freedom of speech in this country don’t we? I will defend your right to say whatever you want too, even though, I think almost everything you say is wrong.

Ye Olde Believer

February 22nd, 2012
9:51 pm

On the 8th day God had a hangover.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

February 22nd, 2012
9:54 pm

I won’t do anything to get women to vote for the candidate of my choice. Therefore, I’m free to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

Women in general are more stupid than men. That’s what I said, damn it… Women don’t appear to understand that when men come to their defense e.g. a woman’s right to choose to murder an innocent baby via abortion, it is primarily to negatively exploit them through their ignorance.

There is a tremendous spiritual price that an offender must pay in this life and the next for sin i.e. murder. No court of law can authorize women to kill innocent babies. They must repent or continue to suffer the wrath of God Almighty.

Amen?

td

February 22nd, 2012
10:00 pm

To Centrist:

Newt was very strong tonight and Mitt did a very solid debate. Rick and Ron were OK. I will have to say that they all have improved a great deal since the first few debates and can stand toe to toe at the least with Obama. Mitt would kill Obama on economics and Rick would kill him on social issues. Obama could not even stand on the stage with Newt.

hiram b. granbury

February 22nd, 2012
10:17 pm

td

February 22nd, 2012
10:00 pm

“Mitt would kill Obama on economics and Rick would kill him on social issues. Obama could not even stand on the stage with Newt.”

Your observations are so inaccurate, it is difficult to tell whether or not you are serious, or just attempting to be facetious. If you are serious, you might want to consider some sort of remedial course in critical thinking.

td

February 22nd, 2012
10:30 pm

hiram b. granbury

February 22nd, 2012
10:17 pm

Do you actually remember Obama in the debates 4 years ago. Even in the “lame stream” media the consensus was that McCain won at least two out of three and some said he won all three. Mitt and Rick are better debaters than McCain and McCain is not even in the room as Newt with debating skills.

nomaj

February 22nd, 2012
10:31 pm

Q: How do you keep a Baptist friend from drinking up all your beer when he visits?
A: Invite another Baptist friend over, too.

Ol' Timer

February 22nd, 2012
10:31 pm

The branding dilemma of the Southern Baptists — and the Republicans. Southern Baptists? Republicans? Aren’t they one and the same?

vuduchld

February 22nd, 2012
10:41 pm

You can try to change the name of the “brand” all you want, but at the end of the day, me and others will you upon you worthless creatures for what you truly are. You made yourselves into this shill so why try and sucker people by trying to change your tune. You bottom feeders have and always will be inbred, racist Confederate Taliban, and yes, I’m a Southerner!