We are all fond of our labels aren’t we. I am very proud of the fact that I am Welsh, I joke about how Middle Class I am. I am a self confessed Geek. I’m a(n Evangelical) Christian. I am a Mac Fan.
You probably have a picture in your mind of who I am. That picture may or may not be accurate. I would consider it likely that you have an accurate picture of the me that is described by those labels, but an inaccurate understanding of who I really am.
Society says that this is not a problem. I can be who I want to be, how I want to be, to whom I wish to be it. However this means that I can never truly relate to anybody because they are not relating to me, they are relating to a false projection of me.
Religion (modern Christianity in particular) says that this is a problem, and that I should make it easier for people to know who I am by conforming better to the positive stereotypes (Christian of course being the only one) and less to the negative ones (Welsh is I am sure the best example to my largely English audience…). Religion, to its credit, also asks of me to be authentic – to genuinely adhere to its particular nuances and guidelines.
I don’t think either is good enough though. Labels are fundamentally damaging at worst and lazy at best. Choosing to label someone else is to attribute to them characteristics, a history, a future, and a whole raft of assumptions that somebody else will then proceed to take for granted.
To choose to take on a label (“I am a Christian”) is to be lazy. To fall back on the label. I don’t have to behave as Jesus says because my statement of identity provides you with an understanding of who I (want you to think I) am. Instead of having to be authentic, real, genuine, living in the way Jesus taught, I can simply say “I am a Christian” and you will make the appropriate cultural assumptions about me.
To abandon the comfort of the label, to choose to be neither Christian nor non-Christian is to subvert the human desire to divide and separate. Instead of being one or the other, “in” or “out” I can simply be. The loss of comfort of identity is a sacrifice necessary in the process of subversion in order to release the self to have a reputation gained not by association, but on merit of the image of the true self alone.