No more distracting labels [Sunday, Jan. 28, 2007, 6:58 pm]
Continuing just a little longer with my theme of introspection here. I think I should probably mention that I decided a little while ago that I am no longer a Republican or a Baptist. It's not that I've really changed any of my beliefs. I'm sure if anyone felt the need to label me, I would still fall into those same two categories. What I mean is that I have become more averse to actually referring to myself by either of those titles anymore.
First off, in terms of politics. I heard a very good quote spoken in church not long after I moved to USM. I don't remember who it was attributed to, but it went something like this: "When Christians become political, unbelievers become the enemy instead of the mission field." That really got me. Because I know I've certainly been guilty of having a wrong attitude towards other people simply because of their political views. I've also said things I shouldn't have said, and I wonder how much I may have alienated people by being too zealous of the wrong things.
Now that I've thought about it, I see it's often true that no matter how "right" your political views may be, it can become so easy to get caught up in childish things such as taking sides, name-calling, mud-slinging, and other nonsense. It's not that I believe anything differently. I'm still extremely against abortion and other forms of permissible murder, and there are a lot of things that I either support or don't support due to my Christian beliefs. But if I were once again to label myself "Republican," I would be placing myself in a category that still represents all kinds of things I disagree with. I know there is variation within all political parties, but my views do not need to be labeled that way.
That's not to say there's anything wrong with Christians having political views, or voting - we should. Heck, I will probably still vote "Republican" more often than not. But I'm no longer going to wave the title around like a banner as if it could somehow define my position on important issues. Nor do I want anyone thinking that I am "anti" anyone else because they are not in the same party as me. I don't want to make enemies that way anymore. I think that fighting for truth is exactly what I should do, but that truth has very little to do with politics anymore.
So in other words, no more political name-calling, or anything that might make me seem an enemy of any other people. I really hope I haven't been doing any of that lately anyway, but just in case. There are still issues, actions, and lifestyles that I am strongly against, but I should not express anything that could be taken as hatred toward people in my need to express my opinion on such things.
Next would be my denominational stance. I'll just put it this way: I've been in Baptist churches pretty much all my life. That's not to say I haven't visited churches of other denominations, but my family has always been members of a Baptist church, wherever we have lived. As much as I love and agree with most of the teachings at the churches I've been in, I realize that "Baptist" often conjures up all kinds of erroneous stereotypes in the minds of people who either have nothing to do with church, or who have not had the pleasantest of experiences in Baptist churches. Which is unfortunate, because every single church is different, regardless of its title.
It's not so much the label that I'm concerned about, as it is the idea of using the term "Baptist" as part of my spiritual identity. I didn't realize that there were people out there who will refer to their denominational title as if it was the name of their religion. That's why I have a problem with saying something like, "I'm a Baptist," unless it's being said simply to differentiate from one Christian to another. I just don't feel right implying that a Baptist is what I am. As a Christian, the most important thing is that I follow Christ. Either I do, or I don't. Denominations are things that came into being long after Christ went back to heaven.
That's certainly not to say I'm going to consider myself "Independent" now. I'm still part of a church, which is vital to being a Christian, and if anyone were to try to "categorize" my Christian beliefs, they would probably concur that I fit under the Baptist label. But once again, I think having a label like that can distract from my true identity. I am a Christian. That's the only real identity that I need. I follow Christ, not John the Baptist. So I really don't see the need for calling myself a Baptist anymore. Yes, I go to a church that has "Baptist" in the title, and I'll tell people that, but that does not make me any particular "kind" of Christian.
And again with politics: any political beliefs that I have should be scripturally based - and so I don't need any kind of party titles to categorize myself by. I just think that a lot of Christians start basing their beliefs more around denominational and party ideas, and forget that no matter what they hold positions on, any position should be based firmly on their belief in Christ. I've just seen myself do that too many times - follow the crowd instead of God. And I'm sure I'll do it again. I just think these labels have become an unnecessary distraction from my true label, which is why I'm trying to get away from that, personally.
I certainly don't want to alienate anyone by this particular stance either. If anyone has good reasons for why I should continue to use certain labels then I'd be interested to hear them...
Vitality - Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009