Sunday, May 24, 2015

Labels: Conveniences or Clubs?

Labels are important. My wife Joyce, like many other people, is a serious celiac victim, which means she is allergic to gluten in whatever shape or form it comes. So she has to read labels very carefully when purchasing food items to make sure they don't have the slightest modicum of gluten. If they do and she eats thereof, she can react with a day or two of miserable intestinal pain, with accompanying other inconvenient intestinal disorders plus joint pain wherever she has a joint in her body. Of course many people carefully study food labels for other information as well, to check on amounts of trans fats, calories, sodium, etc.

Labels are also important on file folders. At our house, like many people, we have file folders to include important papers for just about everything. They are supposed to be in general categories---taxes, insurance, mortgage, and other similar documents in one drawer, and personal kinds of documents in another drawer. I try to label each folder and place them in more or less alphabetical order. However, that hasn't seemed to facilitate finding the one I want when I need it. I think one of the problems is there are so many. They seem to be multiplying overnight. I think they are breeding, the nasty things. I'll need a huge file labeled miscellaneous.

However, for all of their convenience and wholesome importance, labels have also come to serve as clubs. And as such they have become the tools for intolerance and partisanship, often due to lazy thinking. Obviously these thoughts are heading out into the territories of religion and politics.

Passions run deep in both realms, and it happens that the same labels are thrown back and forth in both realms. They are familiar: liberals, conservatives, leftists, rightists, centrists, and everything else everywhere else on this spectrum in between.

Let us be fair. There are persons who are authentic, consistent, and beloved members of these categories, who are highly respected for their beliefs, mainly because they highly respect persons of the opposite points of view. They are passionate in their points of view, but also civil in their debates and discussions with those who differ. They are good advocates and good listeners.

But for many, whether in political parties or religious organizations, there are those who throw these terms back and forth with sneers, as if the mere words left bitter tastes in their mouths. Apparently there can be no good thing among those who are so defined.

This is sloppy, lazy thinking, and can be very wrong. Why? Because there are many well meaning people who refuse to be so neatly categorized. This is not because they are wishy-washy, or don't know what to believe. It's because they don't always see everything in categories of just purely right or wrong, black or white, conservative or liberal answers.. Things are sometimes more complex than that. 

Of course there must be political affiliations of diverse and like minds, and similarly with Christian denominations. But do we need to use simple descriptive words as epithets of evil?

"...speak evil of no one...avoid perfect courtesy toward all people..." Titus 3:2