Labels

Over the past couple of years, I’ve become increasingly weary of labels.

A few of the most wearisome: progressive, conservative, liberal, evangelical…even Christian.

I’m weary of the way they’re used both by the camps claiming them and by the camps using them to label the “other.”

Frankly, I hear a lot of self-described progressives talking about “those evangelicals” or “those Christians” or “those conservatives” with a not-so-subtle leer.

And, to be fair, I hear proudly-evangelical affiliated folks trash-talking those progressives and those liberals. You know what I’m referring to, it’s bumper sticker hate speech. Last night, I was following this on the highway: Conservatives give birth. Liberals abort their babies. Conservatives can’t lose.

I’m pretty sick of the hate mongering…from both sides. I couldn’t be less interested in drawing distinctions between Republican and Democratic Christians – conservatives and liberals – evangelicals and mainline folks. In fact, I think the stereotyping and language focusing on difference has to stop if Christianity is to have any relevance in our historic moment.

***

A friend of mine recently wrote an article for an online magazine about the church needing to learn to speak the language of liberals. This friend used the Pentecost event to remind us that the church was born in a flurry of diversity. When the Spirit descended on Jerusalem in Acts 2 – she descended on a great diversity of people, culture, tribes, and language groups. The church was given the gift of speaking in each others languages for the express purpose of creating unity. It’s a beautiful, mesmerizing, thought-provoking piece of the biblical witness.

The point of the article: the church is a polygot organism. It is not for one kind of person or group of people – the gospel is only active if it is radically embracing the whole world.

Interwoven in the piece was a How-To list. I read through “how to talk to liberals” sighing. It was kindof a caricature of who liberals are and what they care about. And it (albeit subtly) seems to suggest that liberals might not be Christians.

Blergh.

And on the other side … I recently walked into a conversation between some of my “liberal” friends discussing step-by-step strategies for (1) engaging “conservative Christians” and (2) explaining to them how wrong they are about everything from theology to politics.

Again … blergh.

The thing about the Pentecost event is no one was learning a language for the express purpose of trying to convert another Christ-follower to his or her understanding of the Way. It just happened. People were genuinely overcome by the Spirit with the ability to hear and understand and accept each other.

I could care less about learning how to engage the NPR-listening, fair-trade coffee-drinking liberal OR the pro-life, WWJD bracelet-bearing conservative and manipulating them into listening to my personal take on the Gospel.

I’m interested in knowing people beyond ill-fitting stereotypes designed to keep humanity at odds, in listening to what we hold in common, in practicing civility in conversation, and in praying that the Spirit will transform us – beyond political affiliation and beyond culture wars – into the people of God. The commonwealth of heaven on earth.

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