Yesterday, a friend & reader left this comment on one of my posts:
“I don’t know if anyone has addressed this before, but it scares the bloomin’ hell out of a lot of us who USED to claim to be of the Christian persuasion. We don’t want to see this happen at all either. There are millions of us who feel that way. But the right-wing conservatives yell louder than we do. The rest of us are out there trying to push others to recognize the dignity of all people. So how do WE get the presses’ attention. I, for one, and most of my friends, am tired of being lumped into that crazy arse group of fundamentalists. (rolls eyes…) They horrify me. Ooo! Let’s crucify anyone who is gay, but we just have to pray for the Strumpet because he’s misguided, so we can excuse his behavior. What a load of crap.”
I must admit that it made me stop and think. This is the problem with labels for people. Labels on cans at the supermarket are a wonderful thing, for we would not otherwise know if we were getting corn or green beans. Labels on clothing help us know the proper wash water temperature and how to care for a shirt or pair of pants. Labels on most ‘things’ tend to be helpful and serve a purpose. People, however, are not ‘things’. We label democrats and republicans, but what do those labels mean? I know the basic ideologies of each of those two parties, but does that mean that every single person who is registered as a republican is against Universal Health Care? Or that everyone who calls himself a ‘democrat’ supports a woman’s right to choose an abortion? Think about this one for a bit.
We label men and women, heterosexuals and gays. But why must the label define the person? I have been as guilty as any of referring to republicans as ‘idiots’ and ‘fools’, though I count among my friends a few republicans who are good people, neither idiots nor fools, else they wouldn’t be my friends. I remember one time in college, when I was venting to a male professor who happened to be a mentor and trusted friend, and I said that all men were assholes (don’t ask!). His reply was, “Well, since I am a man, and you believe that all men are assholes, then either you think I am an asshole, or you think I am not a man. Which is it?” I have never forgotten that conversation, because I learned something that day. I learned a lesson that I have since forgotten on more than one occasion: don’t label people.
For the past decade or so, the political climate in the U.S. has been becoming more and more divided, antagonistic. There is, no matter who you are or what ‘side’ you are on, “them” and “us”. I hear it often … “well, he’s on our side, right?” And I know that I cannot change that divisiveness with a simple post of about 1,000 words. But I hope that I can make those who read these words stop for just a minute and let’s do some thinking.
European immigrants first came to this nation seeking religious freedom, freedom from persecution. That means, at least in my mind, that you can be a Christian, go to the church of your choice, and follow the tenets of your chosen faith. It also, however, means that Sal Rosenstein down the street can follow his faith, go to Synagogue as he chooses, and light the Menorah at Chanukah. It means that Ali al-Dabbagh has the right to pray to Allah and attend the Mosque of his choice, without fear. And it further means that if I choose to observe no religion, I am free to do so without condemnation or persecution.
Recently, in this culture of divisiveness we are experiencing, some within the Christian religion have expressed some fairly radical views – views that the majority in this nation do not necessarily support, and that even many within the Christian faith do not support. Without delving into the specifics, those views are largely discriminatory against any who are different in any way. This group of people have been obnoxiously loud and vulgar in voicing their views and have drawn the attention of the press and the public alike. Remember that old saying, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil”? It’s true. It’s not right, but it’s true.
To judge all Christians by the actions of only the evangelicals who would ban the LGBT community, rob a woman of the right to control her own body & destiny, and insist that the United States is a ‘Christian nation’, is wrong. It is just as wrong as it would be to assume that all women with blonde hair are dumb, or that all tall people play basketball!
We will never stop using labels, for they serve a purpose. If you are robbed at gunpoint in your home and you call the police, they will ask you for a description of the robber. Male or female? Black or white? Young or old? Tall or short? These distinctions are necessary in this case, not to discriminate, not to judge, but to identify. When we are discussing a group of people who behave in a certain way, it is simplest to label them as republicans or democrats, Christians or Jews, males or females. So no, the practice of labeling human beings is not likely to see an end any time soon, but … let us stop and think when we are writing or speaking, before we apply a label, before we generalize about a group, let’s at least try to make sure that we are not using such a broad label that the net catches those who do not belong. It’s tough, especially in today’s culture of ‘us’ vs ‘them’, but it’s only fair.
The majority of people in the world, I like to believe, are peace-loving, kind, caring individuals. There are some who are otherwise. Let’s try not to confuse the two. If we must judge, let’s do so based on actions and behaviours rather than on labels. Let’s try not to judge the whole based on the actions of the few.
*** Note to readers …. I think some have perhaps taken offense to my words in this post, and I want to set the record straight. I was pointing no fingers at all, unless it was the fingers I had pointed at myself. The reader who left me the comment, C, made me stop and think and realize that it isn’t fair to lump all Christians in with the evangelicals who are gay-bashing, white supremacist bigots. I realized just how many times I had done this, and I was ashamed. That said, I also understand how hard it is not to label or categorize people these days. Please, take no offense from this post, as none was intended.