Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Labels

"Once you label me, you negate me" ~ Soren Kierkegaard

The truth of that quote has become very real to me of late. I was listening to a talk show host who was telling a story of his mother. While driving with her, they were listening to talk radio. The mother heartily agreed with the radio announcer until she learned who it was. Once she learned it was a person she disliked, she no longer considered what the host had to say insightful or witty.

I have seen that happen so often. Rarely can an idea stand on its' own merit. We almost need to know the political or theological stance of the person advancing the idea before we will commit to an opinion.

I was talking with a gentleman I know in class recently. Our conversations have sometimes turned to the theological and I was tempted last week to ask him what he was. As the words were about to escape, I caught myself. What advantage would that knowledge bring? Would it not be more misleading than helpful? If he were to tell me that he was Baptist, or LDS, or atheist, would that not cause me to consciously and unconsciously assign to him a lot of baggage and history that may or may not be true? Would it not take me longer to then unlearn all of my incorrect assumptions than to simply learn by conversation what he believes?

I probably fall under the category of Christian Evangelical, but there are numerous points of my beliefs that would fall out of line with that general definition. I sometimes hesitate to define myself as Christian, because then I feel a need to clarify all the points that one would associate with me based on that definition, and yet are not true of me.

In Silence of the Lambs, Clarice wants Hannibal Lector to fill out a personality profile. He laughs, "Do you believe you can dissect me with this blunt little tool?"

I think we do a great disservice to our development with relationships when we label. We do it for ease, but are short cuts beneficial when they lead you where you do not want to be?

1 comment:

Kifer said...

I really agree with you about telling people I'm a Christian. I usually spend at least a half-hour explaining what that means to me, accompanied by a lot of hmmms, ummms, and buts. I've learned to just ask people, "So what's your story." I want to know about them instead of assuming, because good and bad people come in all types of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic, and religious types. The only people who are truely evil are those damn Canadians!

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