27 October 2016

All in the name: Truth in advertising


I don't know when the change happened. But it's everywhere now. When I was young, and our family went out to eat, we would order from the menu, and the items would have names like 'meatloaf' or 'veal parmigiana' or 'spaghetti and meatballs.' Mind you, in those days, ethnic foods were not that available in restaurants, at least not the ones we would visit in our infrequent outings. Main ethnic foods were prepared at home, by my mother or our grandmothers, and whatever was served, that was our dinner. And that was it.

Sometime in the last few decades, and perhaps because of allergies or the desire among many to eat healthier, the tendency has been to name just about every ingredient in each individual item on a menu. Now if you order a simple you will read, "Surf N Turf (350 GM Aged Sirloin) Finished with sauteed prawns and squid in a garlic sauce(Cooked medium)" or if you want Chicken Tikka masala, which is a fairly simple Indian dish, you might read, "Tandoori Chicken Tikka Boneless Chicken thigh fillet marinated in yogurt and spices, cooked in clay Oven, Served with Mint chutney" And those are the shortest of the listings on the menus in North Sydney which I just grabbed.

Sunday we bought some food at the Farmer's Market in Temascal in Oakland. Abundant food was available and most were organic and local and had practiced 'integrity' (meaning it was without 'sweat shop' type employees). But this stall caught my eye. The title of the venture was almost longer than what was in it. If you had any question about its origin or health factors, well, that was dispelled by the reading of the title. Or so they hoped.

Back in the 1970s I first noticed some funny names of buildings. The buildings were churches, and although most had recognizable names like All Saints Episcopal Church, or First Presbyterian or Tenth Street Baptist Church, still others had outlandish names. Like The Exciting Singing Hills Baptist Church outside Dallas, Texas. I remember driving near Cove City, North Carolina and finding the Undenominational Holiness Church photo here

But more outlandish is "Hephzibah Fire Baptized Holiness Pentecostal Church of the First Born" in Columbia, South Carolina. You get the idea. The longer the name, the more information you know about the character or in some cases, the doctrines of the congregants. I used to attend the Full Faith Church of Love, in a suburb of Kansas City. (They changed their name to adjust from the 1960s to the 2010s, which was and is sensible).

All that to say this: The days of the meatloaf are gone-- certainly as far as food goes. In food salesmanship, we have to know the caloric and the saturated fat content. Is it organic or not? Where was this fruit harvested? Did they use chemicals or were international labourers involved? Does this apply to everything then?

You don't find many churches anymore with those detailed names. There is a trend lately to rename and to rebrand, though. Nowadays the unusual terminology for churches is to hide its churchy sound. For instance Restoration, Elevation, and The Grainery come right to mind. How about Epiphany Station, Radiance, The Flood, and The Rock. You get it. We now want to be relevant and relational and thus hide the word 'church' from the people. Get them in first, then explain what we are about.

Over the years I've had people tell me that we ought to change the name of our organization from "Jews for Jesus" to something less 'in your face.' Something that tells what, rather than who, we are. They say we would get more Jewish people to hear from us if we change our name. I'm glad for their care, but I am not convinced. I like truth in advertising. I like the sensible listing of our ingredients. I like that we don't put everything about us (like "Hephzibah Fire Baptized Holiness Pentecostal Church of the First Born"), but enough that the reader or hearer knows enough to invite further discussion or to walk away.

We readily admit who we are. We readily admit whose we are. Does that make sense to you? Whose are you?

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