Self-imposed pigeonholes

Brandon at a badchristian blog has written an interesting post on identities. He writes about boxes and labels being used as a shortcut for thinking. It's a common enough thought, but he has what I found to be an intersesting twist on it. It's not so much the boxes and labels we put on others that concerns him, but the boxes and labels we put on ourselves.

You may say, “what’s the big deal? Who cares if you’re in a box as long as you know what you believe? What’s the harm of being in a box of your own placing?â€

I’ll tell you. The harm is that you begin to associate more with the box you’ve placed yourself into than you ought. You let your self attributed categories do your thinking for you. By labelling yourself, it’s quite simple to let those labels define you. If you’re not careful, you really cease to be yourself.

He goes on to criticize people who are both "left" (Jim Wallis, Barak Obama) and "right" (Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson).

I'm feeling a lot of resonance with what he writes. I've been reading Jim Wallis' God's Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. I want to like this book. I think Wallis has a lot of good things to say in it. But, inplications of the subtitle aside, it's really more about showing why the "right" is wrong, more than anything else. Those who know me will know that my theology and politics are about as far "left" as you're likely to see. But I'm tired of defining everything by what's bad about "the other guys." And I think that's at least partially what Brandon's post is about.

I do think he takes it a bit too far, though:

Sure, that leaves the blowhards on the religious right without an answer about their contention that there’s no such thing as a progressive Christian. But, let’s be honest, who cares? Who cares if no one’s there to respond to the Brannon Howses of the world? Frankly, our response of, “Yes, there is such a thing as the religious left!!! Look we’re supposed to love the poor!!!! Jesus was a liberal!!!†is a tad sophomoric. It launches us into a bitter rhetorical battle in which the only certainty is that the Kingdom of God loses.

"Who cares?" I do. I think that it is not only appropriate, but required, to respond when we see distortions of Jesus message. I just think we need to find a better way to respond. Even if I don't place myself in that "liberal" box, I still need to remain faithful to the things I believe are right. I just need to be careful that I don't take as a given that others who are in that same "box" must automatically be more right than those who aren't. By the same token, I don't think there's anything wrong with keepinng up with the thoughts of those who tend to have a similar worldview, provided you don't, as Brandon warns, allow those other to define you. (I personally find the folks at CrossLeft a good resource, though, of course, I don't agree with all that I find there.)



Perhaps, Dwayne, my response of "Who cares?" isn't the best language to apply. I think what I really mean isn't so much that our response is completely absent, but rather that our response *shouldn't* be a polemical sort of dialectic. Rather, our response should be a response of action, a response in which we seek to spring into action and love the oppressed, rather than engage in what I percieve to be a fruitless task of trying to convince the "other side" that your side has merit.