August 21, 2006, 6:16 am
Filed under: uncategorized

O.k., so in a post last week, I mentioned that it might be helpful for Emergent, or the emerging church to have more of the “conservative” voices out, front and center in this conversation in order to demonstrate that it’s not just a new version of “liberal theology.”  I said that I find those categories unhelpful and troubling.

I believe that categories are suspicious for a few reasons.  First, especially these days, they’re very often terribly inaccurate.  There are a good lot of people that would look back over the past few years of this blog and slap a “liberal” label on me, and probably the same number of people that would slap a “conservative” label on me.  Who gets to decide who’s right?  Add to this the complicating factor that much of what looks to some like “liberal” is actually extreme conservatism.  Example?  How ’bout ecclesiology.  Many in the emerging church scene (another category that I admit to overusing, which is also unhelpful and trobling) are accused of hating the church.  All the critiques, all the cage rattling.  Well, what if all the critiques were not in fact demonstrating a hatred of the church, but a deep deep love for the church?  A strong, prophetic love often comes out sounding critical . . . and yes, at times, tinged with some anger.  Read your Old Testament prophetic books if you’re looking for some biblical references here.  Sometimes what looks like a liberal view of the church just means that the person holding that view has a deeper conviction of what the church was meant to be, and isn’t afraid to call it out.

Another reason categories are suspicious is that they’re too often used to marginalize.  If we disagree with someone, we can push them off into that mental frame of “those people.”  We can broadbrush them and quit listening to them if we can label them.  It’s lazy and unloving.

Categorizing and marginalizing people is far too often about control.  If I can name you and put you into my own little mental box, I gain power over you.  I’m the one who decides whether your words and deeds are important.  I’m the one who decides whether you’re worth paying attention to.

With all that said, I’m obligated to admit that I am a categorizer.  I have as many labels for people as most.  I’ve tried at times to work on this, starting first with just recognizing it.  The process of “working on this” isn’t some elaborate deconstruction of my thinking, though.  That would be too easy – too intellectual.  Instead, I need to operate from a center of love.  Just love people.  If my thoughts are consumed with selflessly wanting their best, I’ll not be so concerned with controlling them or tattooing some label on their forehead.

I heard a statement a while back that resonates here: “There are only two kinds of people in the world.  Those who categorize others, and those who don’t.”  The latter group is small indeed.


1 Comment so far
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Steve, some really great thoughts to wrestle with and chew on. Thanks! Adele

Comment by Existential Punk

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