Okay that is IT. I hate labels. I’ve always hated labels. Labels are those words that supposedly speak so you don’t have to. Why is that kid like that? Oh he’s a “goth”–why is she so smart? She’s Asian. We use these labels as answers for “why,” when all they really say is the “what.” And even that they don’t do well.
Sometimes they are useful. We can’t always take time to explore every aspect of every person, but if we fall to constant labeling, then unconsciously, we don’t take the time to understand them for not just what, but why they are. These labels are gross oversimplifications of reality, things just aren’t as clear cut as they make them seem.
Today, chaos ensued at our first Religious Roundtable Seminar because of a label I used for myself. I declared myself as a “progressive Christian” early on, mainly because I needed substance to back my beliefs (as I had very little biblical material in front of me) and in fact the term (loosely used) progressive Christianity includes many denominations, and many MILLIONS of people. But a lot of people, especially the more conservative Christians (i.e. Talia) either didn’t seem to understand where I was coming from, but I think that ironically my labeling of my own self as “liberal” brought in some unintended connotations. Connotations like, deviant, false, not true to the text–things like that simply don’t do justice to the complexity of my beliefs.
The fact that I interpreted the Bible rather than taking it in directly seemed to offend and confuse some of the conservative Christians. But there are obvious reasons for this. It is said that the Bible is timeless, to which I agree, but the meaning behind that assertion should be that the message of the Bible is timeless. If you can’t agree with that much, then consider how many translations the Bible has undergone to reach the current King James, or NIV editions. The translators must have done their best to translate the original texts, but it is simply impossible to make a direct, meaning to meaning translation. In that sense, the Bible is much like poetry: make a literal translation and so much is lost in the words, but make a more denotative translation and at least some of the original message is translated. Think of the purpose of writing itself–why do we write? As my “Writing with a Purpose” book suggests, the purpose of writing is the transmission of ideas, and the ideas in the Bible are far deeper than the words and stories. I don’t need Bible quotes to substantiate my claims here, logic is enough.
In that regard, I’d like to say that I in fact have not deviated from the original spirit of the texts–the message behind the words (which clearly have to be interpreted) is obviously more important than the words, stories, and parables used to deliver the message. Now granted that, and given the changes to our society, and even our definitions of certain seemingly absolutes at the time of the Bible’s writing, must we not change our interpretations on how the biblical messages apply to our lives today? It’s important to clarify here that changing our “interpretation” is not changing the message, but rather changing how we apply the texts so that the message remains the same. The Framers of the Constitution clearly wrote it to be flexible and to be able to support an evolving society. In the same way, the Bible’s message, if truly meant to be timeless, must be adapted accordingly.
I hate myself for not being able to speak coherently today at RR. In my mind, I came up with an awesome string of ideas, clear in delivery, clear in logic, and just the right thing to say. But as I ran through the bullets in my head over and over, I kept getting lost in the order (going back and forth on my points), screwed up on extemporaneous delivery (I couldn’t speak coherently for more than ten words at a time), and ultimately, failed to convince those conservatives, as well as falling in my own standards. Worst of all though, I think I undermined my own position. Talia is very smart, and very firm on her personal beliefs (something I respect greatly )–she knows what is believing, but as she said in her example (about accepting Truth over self-centered pride) she clearly showed her willingness to change if presented a solid enough case. And it is here that I have fallen on many fronts. By having such a weak showing the entire cause of “Progressive Christianity” was shamed, and for that reason, and more so, to avoid (unintentional) prejudice, I am renouncing the label “progressive/liberal Christian”. No longer will I call myself by that label, no longer will that label be used to substantiate my views. I am a Christian, under God, following every precept dictated by the message of the Book, follower of the Son, and the Living God that is the Holy Spirit. In the end, that is what matters most about being a Christian. Religious fundamentalism is not just a anachronistic path, it goes against the message of the Bible. I see that, and (if I can present it right) I’m sure that other people will see that as well. But no more labels! I will continue to support the cause, but as of this moment, I renounce the label.