I answered four questions over the phone recently, for a political survey. Question 1: Do you support domestic drilling for oil? My answer: No. Question 2: Do you consider yourself pro-life or pro-choice? My answer: pro-life. Question 3: Do you believe the current economic crisis would be better handled by cutting spending or raising taxes? My answer: cutting spending. Question 4: Do you consider yourself more in alignment with Democrats or Republicans? My answer: Democrats.
But I don’t exactly sound like a Democrat. Better get my ducks in a row and toe the line. Except I don’t want to be a Democrat. Or a Republican.
Labels get us stuck. If I know that you are an “evangelical Christian,” whatever I have learned to attach to that label gets stuck to you too. Therefore in my unfiltered thoughts you probably are a political conservative and an anti-intellectual, have rather poor taste in music and books, and scoff at or at least feel suspicious of efforts towards care of the earth and social justice.
I know better, of course, but my familiarity with evangelicalism (having spent many years under that label) has bred contempt. It’s become all too easy for me to remember well my disagreements with the subculture of my youth and ignore the many digressions from these negative stereotypes.
Then, to escape the negative side of the “evangelical” label, I want to stick a new label on me. “Liberal” sounds good, or maybe “Democrat,” though I want to be more radical than that, so maybe “revolutionary,” but that can be a bit off-putting so maybe I’ll go for “postmodern” because that’s more open to interpretation, but I also hate sounding too uppity, want to have at least a touch of “down-to-earth”-ness, so . . .
Off I go searching for the perfect label, unthinkingly assuming that there is a platform or agenda out there that perfectly suits me, a pre-fab perspective on life where I will be right at home. Once I’ve chosen my new label, I will all-too-quickly stop thinking things through on my own terms and begin making intellectual excuses to accept everything that goes along with my new label. I’ll dive into the subculture under the label, suck up the energy and life, friendship and inspiration I need, but then after a while, familiarity will again begin to breed contempt, as I reach a threshold of living inconsistently with my soul, that deep inner self that Parker Palmer calls a shy, wild creature.
A friend recently told me she is finished with labels, and I’m beginning to feel I quite agree. Classify this – I homeschool my children; think evolution is the best explanation for the origin of the species; believe God is the beginning and the end of everything and love Jesus who is God with us and the rightful ruler of the universe; think it’s ludicrous that my nation’s constitution still does not contain an Equal Rights Amendment; oppose abortion; oppose the death penalty; oppose war for any reason; oppose killing or oppressing animals for food and will gratefully eat a burger if you are sharing it with me; dream of a world without gasoline-powered transportation and love motorcycle rides; find it shocking that our ‘superpower’ nation can build superhighways and start wars it hasn’t budgeted for but still hasn’t made health care a universal right for its citizens; think my nation’s government is bloated, corrupt and ineffective; denounce blind faith and am attempting to authentically live in the question.
In Labelese, I may be something like a Christian agnostic pro-life feminist environmentalist libertarian Democrat evolutionist conservative vegan freegan . . . and that’s a silly mouthful, so instead, call me human and let’s talk over coffee. My list above is a sampling of the opinions I currently hold, but they are like rocks in a riverbed, continually being reshaped by the flow of thoughts, conversations, information and experiences running over them. It’s my own riverbed, completely unique and just too sloppy with life to keep any label stuck to it.
You are amazing! Thanks for so poetically putting into words what so many of us are feeling! Well, at least me and my closeted free-thinking friends 🙂
and thank YOU for reading and responding, Karen!
As you are rolling around in the river of life, choose wisely the rocks around you.
I prefer beer myself for those chats, but otherwise I am similarly at odds. And Julia, it’s a pleasure to read of others at those crossroads.
Wasn’t the Protestant Reformation started over beer in German pubs? 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting, Drew!
thanks for posting “deep thoughts with Julia Bloom”. I truly love reading your fascinating, well thought out, humble,and REAL perspectives on issues I often am too impatient to analyze thoroughly myself. I love the metaphor of rocks in a riverbed, because we are all so ‘in process’, but also because it gives us room to feel and know- but also to grow. I really enjoy your stuff 🙂
The whole post is wonderful, Julia, and your closing paragraph is pitch perfect. Here’s to pursuing shyness and wildness.
SOOO . . . – Are you a Calvinist or an Arminian?
My house and yard are full of rocks FROM riverbeds, fields, streams, Kansas roadsides, Alaskan cliffs, etc. I, too, am continually being shaped like those rocks. The rough edges are being ground down and smoothed out. Thank you for your honesty and openness.
As I was reading your well-written post, I was thinking that there are a few labels I don’t mind owning for myself – one is “human,” another is “imperfect,” and another is “beloved” – and then I got your final paragraph and read your words, “call me human and let’s talk over coffee.” This is the invitation we would all do well to extend to one another. Thanks for sharing your perspective.
Thanks for reading, Mark. I love those three labels – “human,” “imperfect,” and “beloved.” Spot on. Maybe we could all get along better if we remembered that this always describes ourselves and each other!