December 19, 2005

The Value of Labels

This will be the second time I've posted regarding a quote from my General Psychology textbook. Regardless of your thoughts on psychology, these quotes are quality. In discussion about mental handicaps and disorders, the author of the book said, "Labels are debilitating at best." He is referring to the assigning of labels to kids or adults with seeming handicaps. He is not speaking of people who actually are mentally disabled, but rather of people who receive a label and consequently act a certain way because that is "who they are" now.

The more I talk with Christians, the more this truth is apparent in Christian circles. It almost becomes a game of "Which came first: the chicken or the egg?" with their beliefs. Corresponding Question: Does our being a _____ make us believe a certain way, or does the fact that we believe a certain way (based on Scripture, I hope) make us have a certain label in others' eyes. For the sake of many things, I hope the latter is true. Labels can be debilitating in Christianity. If a fundamentalist calls me a "new evangelical," is that what I am? If a conservative calls me a liberal, does that make me a liberal? You see, not only are labels debilitating, they are also highly subjective.

Case Study:
John and Gary (general names) pastor churches in the same city. Because of a certain, controversial topic, John calls Gary a "new evangelical." Steve, a friend of the two, hearing from John that Gary is a new evangelical, must now separate from Gary since the Bible 'clearly teaches' separation from 'disobedient' brethren. Unfortunately, situations like this do exist.

I often say, "I don't care what you call me. Your label changes nothing about what I believe." If someone says, "You're a Calvinist, because you believe in this," then maybe I am Calvinist. However, my point is that that won't change my beliefs. We can't be menpleasers, seeking to placate people who "are in our circle." Realizing that we are "Christians,"We must live according to principles of Scripture that have been personally studied out and applied.