Referential prominence

The sign outside the healthcare facility used to read “Brandywine Convalescent Home.” When the fancy new conglomerate bought the place, the sign was revamped to advertise something different:

Accord Health Services

at Brandywine Rehabilitation Center

Today I saw another sign:

America’s Best Value

by Vantage

The second one seems a more apt signifier, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it advertise more clearly the thing that’s significant to those who see the sign?  If I’m looking for my motel and I know it’s “America’s Best Value,” I could find it when I see the sign.  Conversely, when one is looking for the Brandywine Nursing Home to visit great aunt Millie, she could easily pass over “Accord Health Services.” Who really cares that it’s Accord Health that runs the nursing home?  That’s not what I need to see on the sign.

What needs to be “signed” is the thing that people who see the sign need to know. The attention should be placed on the right thing, or entity, or person.

In my way of thinking, it is highly inappropriate to name a church or church building after a human. “Johnson Memorial Baptist Church” and “Thomas E. and Margaret Weatherford Chapel” are spiritually bothersome, if not irreverent. (I don’t even like the naming rights guaranteed to large-scale donors at institutions of higher learning, but at least there’s no deity to upstage there.) “Methodist” or “Baptist” by themselves may be shades more apt than “Lutheran” or “Wesleyan,” but the hue is the same.

It should be recalled that neither Luther nor Wesley wanted a denomination named after him.  And, in my time, I haven’t known of Lutherans or Wesleyans bent on using those names with the purposes of  dividing, but the effect of erecting walls still warrants mention.  Denominating itself can be neutral, harmless … but it also can result in insidious divisiveness.

Rubel Shelly, in I Just Want To Be a Christian, begins a fair-sized shoring-up of restorative nondenominational Christianity:

The first reason I favor the attempt to practice undenominational Christianity is that it is Christ-honoring. Sectarian versions of Christianity are hardly in position to give the glory to Christ which He alone should have. Instead they tend to give honor to human leaders, human opinions, and even human creedal formulations of beliefs rather than simply centering their faith on Christ and the cross. (p. 35)

Agreed — anything in the church universal, including naming rights, that takes honor from Jesus is to be avoided.

It’s even possible to use His name divisively, as Paul mentioned in a letter to the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 1:12). In this context, Paul’s, Apollos’s, Cephas’s, and Jesus’ names were being used divisively. (And I got spirito-emotionally smacked around by my own church about 15 years ago for suggesting we were doing just that.) May we never be guilty of sectarian exclusiveness, and, on a more positive note, may we advertise to the world — in our signage and by our lives — precisely what Jesus would want broadcast.

For comment:

Words can make a lot of difference. Please share how you define, use, or differentiate among …

  • denominational
  • cultish
  • exclusive
  • sectarian
  • narrow-minded

Please share your thoughts. I read every comment.

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