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I appreciate labels.  Since being diagnosed with celiac, I’m a label freak.  I carefully examine labels on everything from food to face soap. My health depends on it.

So, I should clarify.  I appreciate the proper place of labels.

Labels belong on products. Not people.  On products, labels are helpful.  On people, labels are hurtful.  On which side of “label slapping” have you been? I’ve been on both – giving and receiving.

On the receiving side, the label of choice was “liberal.”  “Phillip is just a liberal,” so it was said.

I don’t like people labels. Here are a few reasons why:

* Labels don’t do much to enhance the conversation.  Fact is, labeling seems to stop any conversation. Someone has said (experts are still looking for the source), “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Ouch.

* Once we label someone, we start to see only the label.  We look for information that confirms the label that we have placed on a person.

Want a “for instance”?  President Ford was a great athlete, playing for two championship football teams at the University of Michigan, and being selected an All-American.   Yet, after he took a tumble or two on the ski slopes and then slipped one rainy day coming down the stairs of Air Force One, he developed the reputation of being a klutz.  Then when Chevy Chase impersonated Ford as a klutz on SNL, the label stuck.  The joke was that VP Rockefeller was just a banana peel away from the Presidency.

Or this example:
Stephen Colbert interviewed Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer:
Stephen Colbert: “Would it be safe to say you’re a liberal?”

Con. Blumenauer: “It depends on the issue.  Because I’m also working with some of my more conservative friends to try to eliminate sugar subsidies.  Is that liberal or conservative?”

Stephen Colbert: “It’s liberal.”

Con. Blumenauer: “You think?”

Stephen Colbert: “I do.”

Con. Blumenauer: “Why?”

Stephen Colbert: Cause you support it.”

People will literally ignore anything that isn’t in line with the label they have given to a person.

It’s tough to live outside of the label.

Maybe living with a liberal label isn’t so bad.  Some of the evangelical world’s most respected and quoted leaders hold views that would, by some people, earn them the same label.

Tim Keller, “I think Genesis 1 has the earmarks of poetry and is therefore a song about the wonder and meaning of God’s creation…There will always be debates about how to interpret some passages – including Genesis 1.  But it is false logic to argue that if one part of Scripture can’t be taken literally then  none of it can be.” Tim Keller

C.S. Lewis, “There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it.  For example a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain points.  Many of the good Pagans long before Christ’s birth may been in this position.”  Mere Christianity

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The Bible remains a book like other books.  One must be ready to accept the concealment within history and therefore let historical criticism run its course.  But it is through the Bible, with all its flaws, that the risen one encounters us.” Christ the Center  

Wow.  These guys have made some statements that certainly lie outside the boundaries of some theological systems. In some circles they’d be labeled liberals. Yet, we give their books to people sruggling with their faith. We quote them extensively. We hold them up as examples of Christian maturity and devotion.  I’m all for it. I’m glad we do.  But it begs the question: Why do these guys get a pass and others don’t?

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3 thoughts on “

  1. Labeling is without a question what divides us the most. It is certainly what has caused the splts among nations and churches. I am all for Bonhoeffer, and Lewis, being quoted as well. But, if I may take a stab at the answer to your question, I feel they get a pass because of how old their teachings are. Time seems to remove labels on people. C.S. Lewis is more popular now than ever. Film and media have helped that, and it seems as though it is stylish to like or quote them. In the Book of Eli when Gary Oldman is asked by a member of his gang why is this one book, being the Bible, is so important he replies, “Because it has the power to control people, and they flock to it.” The Bible does have that ability, and is used in that capacity by a lot of Christian people in my view. I believe it is they who throw the labels on Christians being Liberal if they view it as 100% flawless, and view us almost as the Pharisees viewed Christ for blasphemy. Ok, Maybe a little extreme with that analogy, but what happened to those days of Christ when you didn’t need a book to prove your faith in Christianity? I suppose there are Christians who would label me a “blasphemer” for my belief that The Bible is great inspiration and a way for me to feel close to Our Savior, but I do not believe that a book put together by Protestant Men is the absolute word of God. If it was put together by flawed men then wouldn’t the book have some flaws as well?

    • OK. I can agree that the Bible my be flawed as it was written by flawed men but how do we choose what is correct or incorrect? Do we choose the interpretation that best suits our lifestyle or do we make it up as we go? How do we know what sin is if we don’t find it in scripture and believe what we find? How can Christ save us if we don’t think we are sinners?

      These are questions that puzzle me and also scare me. We must admit we are sinners and accept Christ in order to be saved. Right?

      I ask these questions out of love and concern not in order to prove a point or pick
      a fight.

  2. I’m sure the source of the un”labeled” quote was just a small minded person discussing great minded people. 🙂
    I love Colbert when he just does his schtick to be funny…then I can laugh instead of suppressing the desire to label him an annoying activist instead of a genius comedian.

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