Labels are great for canned goods, but horrible when applied to people. Human beings are too complex to label, plus it is judgmental to try pigeon hole them.

While it is helpful to have opinions and to assess situations, it is unfair to broadly assign traits to entire groups of people. While it is foolish to ignore ethnic and cultural tendencies, it is equally foolish to try to apply those traits to everyone in the group.

The sin of labeling goes way beyond ethnic slander. It is just as pronounced in the highly charged arena of contemporary politics.

Sadly, it also is glaringly present in the world of spirituality and religion, including the Christian faith.

Let’s play the labeling word association game.

  • Pakistanis = dirty
  • Muslims = terrorists
  • Mexicans = illegals
  • Blacks = gangbangers
  • Whites = bigots
  • Liberals = tax and spend
  • Conservatives = heartless
  • Independent minded people of faith = heretics
  • Church goers = simpletons

Pretty disgusting!

Even if there is some truth to the characterizations, it is totally unfair to use such a broad (and hateful brush) to describe millions of people.

We even use our labels to distinguish ourselves from others who are essentially on the same team.

So we have terms like…

  • Calvinist and Arminian
  • Dispensational and Covenant Theology
  • Pre-tribulationist and Post-tribulationist
  • Literalist and Mystic
  • Liberal and Fundamentalist

The church has embraced these types of “distinctives” as it has cannibalized itself for two millennia. Each group assumes they understand God correctly, and the vastness of humanity are poor, mistaken, and perhaps, hell bound souls.

These ideas are built on the presupposition of a comprehensible God, who is as we describe him.

There is no one so foolish as he who thinks he understands the incomprehensible, and looks down on others who disagree with his presuppositions.

When we label (and we all do it to some degree) it simplifies things. There are the people who, like us, are correct. They are our tribe. Then, there is everyone else who gets it wrong. Us and them. Simple, but completely flawed.

When we label, we reveal who are tribe is. Tribalism results in killing off, or attempting to discredit the other tribes. So, why join a tribe? Why not be yourself, and embrace or reject whatever you want and be true to your own personal values?

When we label, we conveniently form an “us” and a “them.” What if we got to know more “thems?” Well, they wouldn’t be “them” anymore. Everyone would be part of “us.”

About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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