When the labelmakers malfunction

Labels are funny things.

They carry a lot of information, but rarely anything we really need or want to know.

I am the son of a man who spent nearly every waking moment of his life assigning labels. A good portion of that was for his work as a mechanical engineer for the United States Navy as he worked on the creation of the Sidewinder Missile. Every drawing had to meticulously described so that they guys on the other end building the thing knew exactly what his intentions were.

graph_equation_lg_whtAt home, those same skills made digging up a simple flower bed for my mother a college-level class in drafting and geometric design. My mom would say, “Can you guys dig up that square in the backyard so I can plant some stuff?” That request hit my dad’s ears and translated into some set of postulates and theorems that even Pythagoras would cringe at.

Never did a woman have such an exactly measured place to go daisies.

But he also dealt in some other labels, ones that I’m fairly sure were left over from his life growing up during the depression and without a father after the age of eight. One that tended to pigeon hole people into little boxes that made him feel better, but that were grossly unfair.

I picked up the habit, but shied away form it later as I became victim of some of those same misplaced labels.

Yeah, I was a bigger kid than most, but I wasn’t as fat as they all made me feel. The litany of names I endured was lengthy and hurtful until one friend, Greg Markarian, hit on one my freshman year. Mixing my size with my affinity for the play of one Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson he tagged me as Magic Gut. It stung at first, but became something of a badge of pride later.

But that’s for another day…

But I’m addressing labels as I am coming to believe they may be the lynch pin in our problems today. Maybe not all of them, but a darn good many of them.

See, when we place a label on someone, that tends to become our reality. We look at people in that light almost completely irrespective of anything else they might do.

political-partiesPut the issue of people being equally and fairly on the table for discussion, and everyone agrees its a good thing.

But assign parties at the table with religious monikers and its starts to get ugly. Toss in sexual preference and skin color and people start whipping out weapons- verbal and otherwise.

The topic didn’t change, but the perception of the people in the discussion did.

I witnessed this most recently when watching a television show. Being the end of the year the parties on screen were going over some of the various happenings from the year and in this one segment focused on people who got in trouble. They dinged Paula Deen and Phil Robertson to name a few, and cracked wise with one liners on each. At one point someone asked if the room would like to watch another channel, to which one person replied, “Yeah, I’ve had about enough these damned liberal yuppies!”

Now, the first bad assumption here is that the people on the screen were liberals. Yeah, it does seem like Hollywood tips that way on the political scales. But tossing that assumption on the table just muddy the waters. For as soon as that statement was made, Jane Lynch – an outspoken lesbian actress – immediately voiced her support for Duck Dynasty’s elder statesman saying something to the effect of “What did A&E think they were getting? He’s down-home, self-proclaimed redneck who prays at the end of every show. What did they think he was going to say?” (my paraphrase)

JaneLynchWhen I heard that it became apparent that Ms. Lynch and held the exact same viewpoint. And I, in fact, had said almost the exact same thing not a few weeks earlier.

And I’m just guessing here, but I can’t imagine that Lynch is one of Robertson’s biggest fans.

And of course we are all aware of the labels that hinder our political process. Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, North, South, East and West and whatever tags you want to toss in there make getting anything done a virtual nightmare.

But it seems that, at least politically, people may be willing to start stripping off those titles.

In a January 2012 article, Gallup reported that a record high 40% of voters identified themselves as independents. That means at best that 60% of the remaining voters side with one of the two traditional parties, and we know they don’t all belong to one of them alone.

So during the presidential campaign from that same year when Mitt Romney made his now infamous statement about the 47%, that he ticked off a substantial portion of the voting public. He pigeon-holed a huge voting block with one statement – A statement that likely showed how he viewed what he perceived to be Democrats and that put the people who feel they are part of that crowd on edge against him.

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it — that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. … These are people who pay no income tax. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” ~ Mitt Romney

Right, wrong or indifferent, that’s how it played out.

Oh, but don’t think I’m not gonna kick around in my own backyard a bit.

Christians, we’re way guiltier than the politicians. They do it for money, one of the oldest hooks in the book.

Christians? We do it for something far less laudable and far more sinful.

We do it for pride.

Christians place labels on folks all the time, forgetting that Christ told us not to judge each other. We always seem to forget that.

We keep forgetting that when Christ boiled down all of the law and commandments that they could all be summed up in just two. And that if we’d focus on just those two, we’d be in good shape and doing the Father’s will.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matt 22:36-40

We label they as gay, lesbian, drug addicts, alcoholics, pornographers and the like. Yep, that may be what they do. But they are still God’s children and only as lost as any of us were before we came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

By labeling people we put them beneath us, because sure we wouldn’t have any such issues. And if they have issues and we are so superior, we really shouldn’t sully ourselves by talking, eating or (Heaven forbid) actually touching these folks. Its so much easier to legislate our morality and require them to act like us. Just like Jesus did with us, right?

What? He let us make a choice? Well I’m sure we can improve the system and make it easier and more efficient for them to ‘believe’ (aka conform). We’re Christ won’t mind.

We never say that, but that is exactly how we act. And as it dumb as it looks in print, its is a thousand times more offensive to those who have yet to truly consider Christ and make Him their Lord and Savior.

Labels work great on missile drawings, file cabinets and food stuffs.

But apply them to people and they never come out right.


About Tim Allen

I am a former newspaper writer/editor/page designer that still loves to write and share my experience and views. I presently own a digital marketing firm and live in a small town in Big Sky country.

Posted on January 2, 2014, in Faith, News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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