Thursday, March 24, 2011

Label Busting

Labelling others is so convenient and tidy. You don't have to mess with truth, facts, or interacting - you just label. It's generic judging. You can lump all liberals, can all conservatives, and profile all progressives. It's easy, non-threatening, and universally accepted. Unfortunately, it's disrespectful, prejudicial, and un-Christ-like. If that doesn't give us pause, what about the fact that labeling is illogical, relative, and absurd. Since labeling is judging, the judging is nearly totally dependent on who is making the judgement rather than some absolute basis from which to compare. "I am right - normal - in the middle, where all right people should be," our unspoken brains declare, "and everyone to the left of me is a liberal, to the right are the conservatives, and anyone who thinks they're ahead of me is a progressive." So the labels change, depending on where the one who is doing the labelling stands - at that point in their life.
A liberal is no longer someone who questions the authority of the Bible or the reality of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us -it's the folks who do new things in their assembly. The conservatives aren't those loyal to God's Word, but those who refuse to change anything they did in the 50's. The progressives are just the folks going faster than us. They would all be better if they were "just like me."
I've been labelled all three at different times by different people and for different reasons. I think I am all three, at different times and for different reasons. If I had to pick one, it would be the one I've almost never been called. Spiritually, theologically, and as far as church stuff goes, I'm a "dyed in wool conservative." Why? I'm am only driven by one thing, and that is loyalty to God's message. That loyalty has caused me to throw out some things I have been taught in the past, and it has caused me to rethink everything I've ever learned through the years. Some of those things were reinforced, while others where adjusted to fit my understanding of God's will. If the Bible says it, I believe it, but I may not believe your interpretation of it, just like I don't believe some of the conclusions I held twenty years ago. Still, I can't tell you how long it's been since I had a REAL discussion about scripture with someone who disagreed with me or was upset about something I taught. We don't argue scripture anymore, we argue preferences.
Where God allows liberty, I'm all for being liberal. Where God wants growth, movement, and a "living and active" church to match His "living and active" Word, I'm all about being progressive. Ask me to ignore His Word, replace His truth with our traditions, or promote law when He calls for Spirit - and - like I said, I'm a conservative.
Have you ever thought about how much Jesus was a "label buster"? His people were saying, "Those Samaritans are worthless," and He told a story about one who has become an icon of neighborliness and compassion. His people were saying, "Women are not very important - they're just property," and yet He offered "living water" to a women that his disciples were surprised he even talked to. The world labelled Tax Collectors, the blind, the sick, the adulterous, and the thieves, and He said, "Don't keep them from coming to me."
Yes, I still catch myself occasionally using labels to define groups, churches, and others who don't stand exactly where I do. I'm working on never doing that, but old habits and old sins die hard. If I'm going to use labels, I need to use the labels that God uses, like "saved," "Kingdom," and "names written in the Lambs Book of Life." Now that's a label to long for.

1 comment:

Deborah said...

Wow, that was great! Have you ever thought about writing a book?

hee hee