Labels

I have always hated moving, and one of
the things that I hate most is having to
put my hundreds of loosely piled books
into boxes and putting labels on them,
knowing the books will weigh 50 pounds
or more and then will be deposited
somewhere else and likely never opened
again because there is so much else to read
that will have to be boxed and moved later
on.  I tend to feel that labels are like that, a
way for people to put someone or a group
of people into a box, put some sort of name
on them, and never have to worry about
thinking of them or interacting with them
ever again.  And that is something I have an
issue with.  All of us as people are more
complicated than a simple label will account
for, and in our hurry to put someone out
of our lives and out of our thoughts, we are
often missing interactions that would tell
us something interesting about ourselves.

***

Earlier today I was reading an internet group on social media where someone made the mistake of labeling all members of the Church of God as being mini-Worldwides.  While some people would be happy to be labeled in such a fashion, so long as one meant the right era of that late and lamented religious organization, for some of us, myself included, the label is something that we would resent.  As I have noted previously in poems [1], I have a somewhat ambivalent relationship with the past of the Church of God, and the question of authority and government has often been something that has led me to ponder and reflect rather deeply.  It is easy to see why people who are cocksure and think themselves to be divinely appointed rulers over other people would enjoy such a system where they were in charge and everyone else had to kowtow to them, but there are far more people who have a deep desire to take the Bible seriously and obey it as best as they are able but who are either ambivalent or very hostile to such claims of authority.  To label the full spectrum and variety of views that people have of the history of the larger Church of God culture as a whole in a single box and putting that box away, never to look at again in greater detail, is a dishonest sort of procedure.

Unfortunately, this level of dishonesty is pretty common.  For example, one regularly sees that on Wikipedia, for example, dishonest claims about the Church of God are regularly considered to be gospel truth and correcting those errors is a futile task since the errors will be re-introduced as soon as they can be corrected.  Likewise, when one reads encyclopedias about religion in the United States, one sees the same level of error and the same unwillingness on the part of those who put such errors into print to correct the errors when their mistakes have been brought to their attention by those who are in the know.  Having seen, therefore, that such inaccurate labeling with the intent of putting something out of sight and therefore out of mind is a lamentably common experience, and one that greatly hinders our ability to treat others justly because of our unexamined prejudices, it behooves us to wonder how we may do the same for ourselves.  Whenever we have been affected by the faulty thinking processes of other people, especially those who fancy themselves to be authorities in some fashion, like the writers of encyclopedias [2], it is beneficial for us to use this as an opportunity to examine ourselves to see if we do likewise with regards to others.

I happen to know in my own life that there is at least one area where I regularly put labels on boxes and put them away for long periods of time, and that is with regards to my ever-growing library.  To some extent, I imagine this is true with many people who bravely struggle against the clutter in their lives.  We live in worlds full of clutter and one of the ways that we deal with this is to put the clutter in boxes, in case we might need it again.  And given that we live in a world full of clutter and are continually buying or being given new stuff, this is a sensible response when it comes to things.  Unfortunately, it is less sensible when it comes to dealing with people.  People are much more complicated than things are, and while it may make sense to put a box of books with a label of the publisher that they came from, it does not make sense to put people in a box with a label to never think about or never view with any more nuance.  Besides being unjust on its own, it encourages other people to respond in kind, to put us in boxes and to label us without any concern for its justice and accuracy.  To behave unjustly is to set an example of being unjust that can easily be turned against us, and that is something we should all be very careful about.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/04/13/understatement/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/04/18/two-conversations-concerning-the-relationship-between-obedience-and-divine-favor/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/01/27/a-walking-encyclopedia/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/06/26/book-review-the-know-it-all/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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