…at least I don’t think so. My mother never spoke of any kind of label affixed to me when I was born. Yet, we all insist on and persist in putting labels on people. Christians, like everybody else, are also fond of this. We have our own set of them.
Some of the Labels
It could be the big three: Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. Maybe it’s a denominational label: Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Non-Denominational, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Methodist, Mainline, and so on. Or maybe it’s a doctrinal one: Orthodox, Liberal, Post-Liberal, Conservative, Post-Conservative, Fundamentalist, Heretic, etc. etc. Not to mention your theological labels: Calvinist, Armenian, Open Theist, etc. It could also be one of these words (whatever they might denote): Evangelical, Post-Evangelical, Missional, Emergent, Progressive, Biblical, Incarnational, Spiritual, Mystical, the list could go on.
But I didn’t come with a label. I came into this world with nothing and I leave with nothing.
Now it’s true, that labels of these sorts can be helpful, in a shorthand sort of way, in describing what one thinks or how one lives. Like saying, “I’m Lutheran.” That’s pretty simple.
The problem is that what one person thinks Lutheran means may be different than what another person thinks Lutheran means. Sure, we could have a debate and settle once and for all what Lutheran means. Maybe we could do that with each of the terms (and debates are out there). But even if we did decide, does the term ever describe a person? No.
More often, it seems, labels are used to make us feel better about ourselves. “Oh, he’s a liberal.” Now we know can put that person to one side, think we know them, and feel better that we’re not them. To know we’re on the “right” side and they are on the “wrong” side.
It’s a way for us to distance ourselves from the other and to exert a measure of control over them. It keeps us safe and comfortable.
This seems problematic to me. Does it to anyone else?
I didn’t come with a label and neither did you. Let’s keep that in mind.