Just say the magic words …

I’ve been trying to catch up. I’ve been looking into definitions – primarily at Wikipedia – for items like “emerging church” and “postmodernity” and “evangelical” and “fundamentalist Christian” so I’ll know better what people are talking about when they bandy about those terms and others.

(And, by the way, all of the cross-reference links and talk links and dispute notations in Wikipedia are very helpful, even though they can draw you into a whirlpool that only the strongest of the curious can resist.)

I have resisted doing my homework for this long, not because of any fondness for ignorance, but because I hate it when definitions become labels. We need definitions. We don’t need labels.

We certainly don’t need to view those labels as magic words that make something what we label it; or that make others agree with us; or that make them do what we want them to do.

Labels can be very effective; I don’t argue that. They can also be very destructive and divisive.

You can call someone a label and get elected. You can call someone a label and get him or her excluded, banished, excommunicated – or worse. You don’t have to prove it. All you have to do is allege it.

All that matters is the sound byte. And it has always been that way.

When the fellowship of believers began, the discriminating label was “Christian.” You could be tortured and executed for owning it. But as the majority began to wear that as an “in” label, the “out” labels proliferated and changed: “Hussites.” “Anabaptists.” “Protestants.” “Separatists.” “Reformers.”

You know the more recent ones.

Do we really need to add more?

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3 thoughts on “Just say the magic words …

  1. Keith,
    Label-smabels . . . even one of the gurus of emergent movement, Brian McLaren, confides that he is tired of using the word, “postmodern.” Many have replaced postmodern with emergent culture/church. Perhaps this is because postmodern only says what it’s not: not modern or after modern age. I wrote what emergent means to me in a Wineskins piece: < HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wineskins.org%2Fcontent.asp%3FCID%3D48414">Emergent means nothing if not life in Christ<>But I don’t much like labels either. Guess that’s why I was even reluctant to put a sign or sticker on my car for election or tell anyone how I elected . . . I don’t like to be pigeon holed, and I suppose many of those who are seeking truth out there in non-traditional ways don’t like all labeled as “lost” or “seekers” or “postmoderns” or “living the gay lifestyle” . . . people want to be known and appreciated for who they are, and what we can bring is the whole grand idea of the image of God in them. When we get a vision for the image of God in us . . . then we think, labels-smabels.

  2. Keith,
    You mentioned that not many are talking about election results . . . I couldn’t stand it any longer. Today’s post is about the “mandate.” Already some comments in support of Bush are inflammatory and don’t make good sense or good use of statistics.
    Greg Taylor

  3. I guess what I’m really hoping for is the outlook that taunts me from a listing for a lost blog at < HREF="http://www.blogger.com/r?http%3A%2F%2Fwww.emergingchurch.info%2Fblogs%2F">http://www.emergingchurch.info/blogs/<> for doofing.blogspot.com. The phrase describing the defunct site is ‘trying to focus on emerging church but inevitibly I come back to God’.

    And I wish I had pointed out that definitions don’t become labels unless they are used against some by others: dismissively, disrespectfully, pejoratively, accusingly.

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