It is an old trick. When a label takes on a life of its own, threaten to attach the label to one not quite toeing the line to manipulate them to fall back in line. If they cross the line, destroy them with the label to instill fear in others. The unfortunate part of it is the utter dishonesty involved. It really isn’t about the rhetoric now attached to the label at all, but only an ugly control mechanism.
In the 1950s a version of this phenomenon went around that later was called McCarthyism. The label of that episode was “commie”. Were there communists working undercover in those days? Of course there were. Was what communists stood for a bad thing? Of course it was. The sad part was that many were found to be communists who were not at all. Maybe it was only that they had been kind to someone who was, or they held an opinion that some didn’t like, and the most formidable weapon around was that label. So it got thrown around.
All kinds of groups use these tactics. In our day, labels like “bigot”, “homophobe”, or “fundamentalist” can mean a lot of things to different people, and many are terrified of these labels.
Another such label, this time in Christian circles, is “liberal.” In the Independent Baptist world this label holds the most sway. In some unfortunate instances it has dramatically altered the ministry of those where the label stuck.
Are there situations where the designation “liberal” is both fair and accurate? Absolutely! For years it referred to a distinct theological position of denying the great, historic tenets of Christianity–things like the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Inspiration of the Bible, or the Blood Atonement.
But the word “liberal” became a cheap label when it was thrown out, not for a disbelieving theological position, but a disagreement over standards or worship styles. You know, something like having a screen in the church and, presto, you are a liberal.
It is time we see through this labeling. This is not about the glory of God, or about honoring Christ, or even about Scriptural accuracy; no, this is about control. This is about holding the party line or paying the price. It is the politics of a Union Shop!
We ought to be concerned with labeling. There is sin in the dishonesty of it, as well as the destruction done unjustly to brothers and sisters in Christ. We ought not originate it, nor propagate it if others do so. We ought to counteract it by repudiating it when others employ this slimy tactic. There is no place in God’s work for cheap, misleading labels!
Find all articles in the series here.