Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Scot McKnight on Labelling

Scot McKnight at The Jesus Creed in "Name-Calling in the Church" talks about labelling

The Church has developed its own mechanisms of calling people "names," of "labelling" others. The most powerful "labels" in the Church are "fundamentalist" and "liberal." Calling someone one of those labels is rarely a simple description -- it is an act of repudiation and denunciation. Here are ten observations about labelling. But, first . . . [go read the rest]
His ten points about labelling:
  1. Each society, group, church has boundary lines of who is "in" and who is "out." Familes know, churches know, and friends know who does and who does not belong.

  2. This group-consciousness permits people to know where they are and if they belong or not. Labelling has to do with this fundamental way of viewing a society.

  3. The labels used to describe who is "in" vs. "out," because those labels use language, sometimes reflect reality -- some really are "in" and some really are "out" -- and sometimes they do not reflect reality. Some are called things that are inaccurate, even if they are effective (but wrong). So, the "label" itself may or may not tell the truth about someone.

  4. Labels are of two sorts. Some are given honorable "titles"; others are given dishonorable "deviants." An "entitled" person is approved; a "deviant" person is disapproved.

  5. The rhetorical labels we use are as much "weapons" as they are "descriptions." Labelling someone can both bring honor and destroy a person's status.

  6. A person who has the capacity to label deviants successfully is a "champion." Champions defend the sanctity of the group and define the borders and boundaries.

  7. Champions are supported by "enhancers" -- those who spread the label of the champion.

  8. To label a person a "deviant" creates collective avoidance and isolation.

  9. The major function of labelling is to create a "master status" for a person -- that is, it gives a number of people a way of interpreting and classifying another person.

  10. O be careful labeller what you say; o be careful labeller whom you assign to deviance. We will be judged for every word we utter. Check out James 3.
The question is: when you label people how do you use labels? Are you cognizant of Ephesians 4:
29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly