what’s in a name?

Campus Crusade for Christ is changing their name, and the blogosphere is alive with criticism of their dropping “Christ” from their name. Even the media is taking this tack, since it provides the most and easiest controversy.

It doesn’t bother me that much. Lots of effective ministries don’t have “Christ” in their name, like Navigators. Or even most churches, like the one I go to. Countryside Bible Church doesn’t say we are about the Gospel of Christ, although we are.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of churches changing their names to soft, spongy, trendy names. I think if you are a church you ought to say so.

But I’m willing to take Campus Crusade at their word when they say their mission has not changed.

Their website says that cru, as they are now known, is “unswervingly committed to proclaiming the name of Jesus Christ. We are committed to the centrality of the cross, the truth of the Word, the power of the Holy Spirit and the global scope of the Great Commission.”

I believe them.

But I’m less likely to believe them when they say there is no effort here to be politically correct. Of course there is. The word they are dumping is “crusade” and it seems a little disingenuous that they ended up with cru, which has been shorthand for Crusade for almost twenty years.

“See you at cru,” staff would say.

However their Vice President, Steve Sellers, says “It [the name change] has nothing to do with political correctness; It has everything to do with how we can be effective at what God has called us to do.”

Right. And yet he says in the same interview with Fox News: “Our name was becoming more and more of a hindrance. [The word “crusade”] reverted back to some of its meaning related to the Middle Ages – forcing Christianity on different parts of the world.”

This reflects some misunderstanding of the Crusades, but it is a widespread cultural misconception, or at least an over-simplification, and I’m not insensitive to their dilemma. But to say it has “nothing to do with political correctness” is nonsense. And somewhat perplexing, given that the new name is taken from what they claim is the most offensive part of the old one.

“See you at cru.”
“What’s that?”
“That’s where we learn about Jesus.”
“What does the name mean?”
“Oh, nothing.”

Now the staff member is lying. Even if market surveys show no one finds cru offensive, it still stands for Crusade. And has for a very long time. It is not, as their FAQ claims, an abstract name like Google or Starbucks. It was and is an abbreviation. What some ministries won’t say (or not say) in the name of donor relations.

And seriously, who needs a name that means nothing?

Kinda makes you want to find a church. At least you know what you are getting into.

3 thoughts on “what’s in a name?”

  1. I don’t know that Cru is being disingenuous with their name change in and of itself. Various explanations of that change may or may not be — but I wouldn’t want to attribute any negative or wishy-washy motives even for those.

    I think they’re actually very upfront about their reasoning on the website and in their various releases on the subject. While there may be disagreements on the meaning of “political correctness” in this case, I don’t think you can really draw negative inferences from the change, or even from the way they describe it.

    1. Randy,

      I thought their press release was pretty straight forward, although I think the FAQ of their website reads like some PR consultants trying too hard.

      But politically correctness “denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense (Wikipedia).” It’s hard to understand how Sellers would pretend this is not a primary reason for the change.

      I guess in some sense as a writer I grief the loss of perfectly good words—in this case a word that existed before the crusades and has dozens of perfectly good uses in other contexts including social justice and journalism.

      In this sense the world would be a better place if we all had a well- chosen crusade of our own.

      In fact, “politically correct” has a reputable history of its own, although now it has a negative connotation which they are trying (too hard) avoid.

      I was OK with their explanation that the name hindered their effectiveness. But that is because it was viewed as politically incorrect. Why not just admit it and say the word crusade has become politically incorrect and we wouldn’t want it to distract us from our mission?

      You can’t really have it both ways. You can’t say “we aren’t bowing to cultural pressure about language but we are.” That starts to sound like we have to be more politically correct but we don’t want to offend our generous, conservative donors who resent it.

      Katie and I support missionaries with Crusade and will continue to do so. We will pray for them and wish them well.

      But the tag line of this blog is that motives matter. Clarity about our motives does too.

  2. What stands out in stark contrast to me is how the early Christians used The Way to denote their beliefs and was ambiguous to anyone who did not know Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Yet, when a derogatory term “Christians” surfaces, they embraced it with gusto. In a time when political correctness meant you kept your head and missed the games in the Colosseum, the early believers defied society with little thought to their own lives. And God blessed them abundantly with converts amassing in the thousands.

    I wonder if God is laughing or crying when He looks at their new name. What matters is what God thinks, not man.

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