Too many labels; too little time

th-8Pete Seeger was a Communist.

Here is a true statement. If you stand for something, someone will stick a label on you. It will probably not have anything to do with what you really stand for, but you’ll get the label anyway. If you stand anywhere long enough to make a point, that was also long enough to earn a label. But the problem isn’t with you or what you stand for, the problem is with the label.

We are a slap-happy, label-happy group. We have to have a category to put everybody in. And most likely, whatever label we affix to a person will be inevitably wrong, mostly because no one fits a label completely. They got the label because their personhood or their ideas protruded out beyond everyone else’s, as in, “There’s a guy making such-and-such point over there he must be a ___________.”

Jesus could have been a communist. He never owned anything. He roamed from town to town lifting up the fallen and bringing down the proud. That’s actually what God does; it’s in the Old Testament. He lifts up the humble and brings down the proud. So that probably makes God a communist. And what about the early church that held everything in common? Sounds pretty suspicious to me.

If you want to follow Jesus and walk in the truth, shun all “-isms” or “-ists.” That’s because the truth cuts a wide swath. The way is narrow but not the mind that follows it. In any ism, there is some truth. So if you stand for the whole truth you will have a lot of isms that could be attached to you, but they would all be wrong because each one of them also excludes other aspects of the truth that you stand for.

Stand long enough in one place, someone will stick a label to you. Maybe that’s why Dylan was a rolling stone. If someone attaches a label to a follower of Christ it’s more than likely wrong. So don’t get all riled up about it, just keep on rolling.

Bottom line, don’t label anyone and don’t believe any label someone wants to put on you. The truth you stand for is much bigger than that. There’s just too many labels, and too little time to pick one.

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42 Responses to Too many labels; too little time

  1. David says:

    Excellent take on labels. One of the biggest problems I have with our day (including a great many of my fellow Christians, and too often myself when I’m not careful) is that tendency to label and categorize people. There are some people I know who when I describe someone to them, I can see it in their eyes; they are trying to affix a label to the person I’m describing. We learn this from too many sources: books, commentators, talk-radio hosts, etc. You are correct: people are routinely more complicated than that. I have found if I can label or categorize a person, it’s only because I haven’t taken the time to get to know them as a person, and in many cases I don’t want to get to know them. It’s just easier that way. Thanks, John. A fresh insight again.

  2. Tom Christian says:

    I love this post. “The way is narrow…” – for most of my life, I took this to mean that if you didn’t agree with my tribe, you were going to hell. I know think of how difficult it is to keep my eyes open to see how God is saving all kinds of people in all kinds of ways. Warning – He’s out there and He is doing His work with or without me. Praise Him that all I have to do is accept His invitation to be a part of what He’s doing in the people around me – every damn day 🙂

    • Tom Christian says:

      …I now think of…

      • Mark Seguin says:

        Tim: let me please suggest to you to consider thinking of my last post: “Also I’ll take full responsibility of my very poor use of Dale Carnegie advice sooo easily found in his great book and offer I’m sorry and plz find it in your hearts to forgive me anyone I may have offended here.”

  3. Ralph Gaily says:

    So John, don’t make us guess what your underlying message is here. What are your honest, transparent views on Communism, Communists, and their adherents to this world view? Please be clear…. no hyperbole please. This post today is quite disturbing to me. I’m reminded of the now famous outburst of Mr.Jerimiah Wright, who was the friend and pastor of the President for decades. Perhaps if more of us would have exercised a bit more discernment regarding the background, influences, and beliefs of then Senator Obama, we might not be in the downward spiral we are now experiencing as a Country…. but then it would have meant putting a label on the man, which would have been mean. Some world views are loaded with “good deeds” and even good intentions… but are evil at their core. One of the most sobering words of Jesus when confronted by those who spent their lives doing “good deeds”…. even religious “good deeds”, was, “I never knew you”. What are your honest ideas on Communism?

  4. Mark Seguin says:

    Many thx for the great big chuckles I received from today’s Catch – 4 I do agree w/ most of it and got some of my biggest chuckles over this: “Jesus could have been a communist. He never owned anything. He roamed from town to town lifting up the fallen and bringing down the proud. That’s actually what God does; it’s in the Old Testament. He lifts up the humble and brings down the proud. So that probably makes God a communist. And what about the early church that held everything in common? Sounds pretty suspicious to me.”

    What is in my opinion is a bunch of BOLONGA! First point it ALSO say’s in the O.T. it is I (the Lord and this verse which I am thinking about is somewhere in Deuteronomy, which also relates to a N.T verse in Galatians) that give “WEALTH” as I swore as a convent to our father Abraham, to which is the same to this day – to all of his heirs and most easily understand ‘we’ Christians or followers of His Son are theose heirs to God’s convent.

    May I please suggest to do some research on the idea of where Jesus received the money from to travel from town to town? Before this claim that he was or could have been a communist. For that was not done for free. I’ve been lead to believe it was by a few certain Jewish women – either if that’s true of not SURELY it’s common sense to think/believe our God and Lord full believes in the rights to own private property, which a Communistic society doe not adhere to that basic simple God given right!
    Pastor I’ll heavily suggest you could have and should have STOPPED right here after this as you said true statement: “Pete Seeger was a Communist.
    Surely sometimes label do help, even though I don’t agree to adhere to a lot of them, yet sometimes they simply help to know how to speak or not speak, or have a discussion with another person – For example for me it’s good, sometimes to know where a peculiar people is coming from.
    I NEED to say good-bye to this group! And plz pretty plz no Catch member email me anymore, OK – I’m greatly piss-off right now about anyone given support to anyone that thinks/believes the Government should be the holder of personal private property and is in my opinion a bit too much of a “jackass to debate that topic – yet claim instead and hind behind the claim doing so is it’s labeling…

  5. Mark S says:

    Let me please also try to add to this discussion this: “…what about the early church that held everything in common? Sounds pretty suspicious to me.” OMG that is very simply understood becauz it was the ‘early Church!” God allowed 4 certain things, as in the Holy Spirit doesn’t appear on the shoulders of folks, or make a world-wind noise when He makes an appear – As in the book of Acts…

  6. Andrew P. says:

    John, please practice what you’re preaching. Don’t say in one breath, “Jesus could have been a communist,” and then in the next to “shun all ‘-isms’ or ‘-ists.’” If you wanted to say, “Jesus actually shares some of the goals of the communists,” that MIGHT be a fair statement. (Setting aside idealistic intentions, it ought to be abundantly obvious that in practice, every time “communism” has been tried, it has not lived up to its alleged goals. Not in the least. And why? Probably due to the sinful nature of the flesh we find ourselves in – and Jesus would certainly not have been ignorant of what THAT would do to people who want to “share everything” but without the power of the Spirit.)

    And NO labels at all? How about “behold the Lamb of God”? How about “sinner”? How about “blood-bought”? How about “believer”? How about “priest of the Most High God”? How about “King”? I could go on, but you get the idea. John, I think your point was well-intentioned, and we would do well to slow down on the labeling, but not to the extent that we edit our Bibles to get rid of them!

  7. Mark S. says:

    Looked up the verses my above post referenced: 1) Deut. 8:18 New King James Version (NKJV) 18 “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

    And 2) found in Galatians 3:15: “Now ye therefore that they which are of faith , the same are the children of Abraham.”
    PS very good post Andrew P. realy like the thought it’s alright 4 John to use labels yet “shun all ‘-isms’ or ‘-ists.’” yet I cannot – 4 it was me that posted yesterday: “Pete Seeger was a Communist.” and YES I do find it to be funny how my post there yesterday we not addressed by John…. 🙂 and i believe /think i’m done here, yet will be willing to read any and all post here and ONLY here on this topic…

  8. xman50 says:

    I will never understand people insisting on mixing their christianity with their politics. It never works. Never.

  9. xman50 says:

    hmm… Is mcarthyism really rearing its ugly head again?

  10. Mark Seguin says:

    xmann: Please oh please come on: “Is mcarthyism really rearing its ugly head again?” If that’s correct – where oh where are people loosing their right to work, being black-balled, being called in front of the US Senate.. ECT… ?
    PS and I thought I might be “over-re-acting” by stating I’m leaving here – wonder why..? I cannot believe more aren’t offended by the statement: ““Jesus could have been a communist,” and only a few people here want to discuss that very sad statement that is soooo full of complete BOLONGA – that is what I find dumbfounding!!!

  11. Mark Seguin says:

    And this: “I will never understand people insisting on mixing their christianity with their politics. It never works. Never.” Now if it’s true for you xmann, please ohhhh plz tell me where in the Word of God it ‘say’s’ to leave my beliefs out of the voting booth? I’ll agree it’s right 4 you – yet I know better, or try hard not to tell others what works for me MUST also be the truth for them! 🙂

  12. xman50 says:

    My point is that many people seem to think that God is an american and a republican. I’m sure you understood what I meant.

  13. Mark Seguin says:

    xmann50: “I’m sure you understood what I meant.” And NO sir I did not know what u meant!!! Very simply becauz i try hard not to ASS-U-ME becauz when i do, i tend to make an ass out of u and me… 🙂
    PS and now i’m wondering WHY is wrong for someone here namely Ralph Gaily wrong, or i guess to ask Pastor John to answer some, or a question this VERY Catch brought up? Yet asking questions is now having a “mccarthyist mindset” – well excuseeeeeeeeeeee me, i thought or was led to believe a “mccarthyist mindset” meant to intimadate (sp) black-ball and get people fired or not to be able to make an honset living… but i guess i can be wrong… 🙂
    PSS beside i do think Pastor John is a big boy and can answer 4 himself…

  14. xman50 says:

    That you can twist today’s Catch and turn it into a pro communist message only proves my point.

  15. Mark Seguin says:

    What point are you trying to makes now xmann50: that “My point is that many people seem to think that God is an american and a republican. I’m sure you understood what I meant.” Please excuse me sir,i don’t know you, nor you me – therefore how could i have known what you meant? Without asking you? Now i cud be wrong i can easily admit i’ve been in the past and sure i’ll be againin the future… yet plz correct me if i’m wrong it was Pastor John that first wrote: “Pete Seeger was a Communist. Here is a true statement. If you stand for something, someone will stick a label on you. It will probably not have anything to do with what you really stand for, but…” yet to try and tell us to be “shun all ‘-isms’ or ‘-ists.’”

    So who first brought this topic up? Second WHY is it OK as Andrew P. so well ponted for John to write: “If you want to follow Jesus and walk in the truth, shun all “-isms” or “-ists” Yet it did that VERY thing in writing: “Jesus could have been a communist.” The goes on to try and prove this goofy-ball statement: “He never owned anything. He roamed..”

    Boy i am sooo glad i decide to leave here when the author of it tries to tell me my Lord and Savoir could have been – I think yet again Andrew P summed it up much better then i am able to right now – yet Good-bye!
    PS cud it be saying Jesus cud have been a communist is simular to what xmann50: stated that no wrote, yet he says: “…many people seem to think that God is an american and a republican” and is, or i find equally has offensive as John’s statement…

  16. Ahhhh, Christianity at it best, people misunderstanding each other and getting all pissy about it. I had almost forgotten what church was like.

    The correct label for Jesus is, egalitarian. …of, relating to, or believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.

    xman50 understands John’s point today.

    John said,
    “We are a slap-happy, label-happy group. We have to have a category to put everybody in. And most likely, whatever label we affix to a person will be inevitably wrong, mostly because no one fits a label completely. They got the label because their personhood or their ideas protruded out beyond everyone else’s, as in, “There’s a guy making such-and-such point over there he must be a ___________.””

    Everything I hate about Christianity is well represented in the message boards today and why I rarely refer to myself as Christian. You see, that label is not one that represents Jesus.

  17. Mark Seguin says:

    I really enjoyed reading Phil’s post on a related topic from the other day talking & praising Pete Seeger and it does describe why I’m letting this ‘get my feathers up’ very simply ’cause: “..if I am to sacrifice for you, (which I’ve done many times in the past, yet no-longer will in supporting the Catch) simply because has Phil wrote: “…I look for the simplicity of the gospel and for the message not to be blurred.”
    PS it’s only here @ the Catch do I a bit too often read some thing which should be left alone and out of a Christian devotion, because it politics!

  18. Kevin says:

    For what it’s worth…probably not a lot…I thought John was saying the Jesus clearly was NOT a communist, but because of some of the things he did, he’d probably get that label in our label happy society today. I thought John was saying be careful what you claim about people, because you could very well be wrong. The gospels are full of the Pharisees and others labeling Jesus any number of things, none of which were true. I believe that was the point of the message.

    • Mark Seguin says:

      Kevin: I sincerely would like to agree w/ what you wrote, yet I think/believe I would then maybe have to stop believing in some sort of sense of common sense, which I’ve learned isn’t very common at all…
      Plz feel free to correct me where I maybe wrong, for has I stated here before, I can easily admit I’ve been wrong in the past and quite sure I’ll be again in the future. Yet may I suggest to plz consider to maybe re-read Pastor John’s paragraph maybe a bit more then once, becauz to quote it: “Jesus could have been a communist. He never owned anything. He roamed from town to town lifting up the fallen and bringing down the proud. That’s actually what God does; it’s in the Old Testament. He lifts up the humble and brings down the proud. So that probably makes God a communist. And what about the early church that held everything in common? Sounds pretty suspicious to me.

      For in the above paragraph not only does he state it, yet then tries to prove it. And in another sentence he makes the claim: “So that probably makes God a communist.“
      PS and Tim I’m so sorry if you think/believe and feel this discussion makes all Christians look bad, for i truely do not – i see nothing wrong in confrontation, asking questions and trying to clearfiy things… Just my two cents, for what it’s worth… which may not be much here @ the good ol’ Catch.. 🙂

      • Accusations and completely missing the point and the inability to understand each other is completely Christian.
        The quote you mentioned for example, is obviously making the point that even Christ could be mislabeled. It was tongue in cheek and somewhat rhetorical.
        He wasn’t saying God is a communist, He was saying even God could be mislabeled.
        Same as if you called God a capitalist.

      • jwfisch says:

        Yes, Tim. I’ve read and re-read that Catch and there is nothing I would change. It’s clear what I’m saying. What happened is I stepped in a minefield, and once one of those emotional bombs goes off in someone’s mind, that’s all they hear. We need to be more careful readers. “What is John really saying here?” If you find yourself reacting, step back and look at it from the whole. Usually a second look helps. For some people, it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what you give them an opportunity to say.

  19. Bill R says:

    Me too.

  20. Mark Seguin says:

    Pastor John: i’ll agree to disagree with this: “We need to be more careful readers. “What is John really saying here?””

    No it’s you sir that might need to re-think and be a bit more careful about what you write in a Christian devote… OK… Plz why is it mostly, or only here @ the Catch you seem to like trying to “expand” my politic beliefs – I’m confortable w/ them and if and when, which I like to think/believe I often do care to get them challenged – I’ll do so @ my own free time & will and not by someone (you) that seemly refuse to answer a few very simple question(s)

    Pastor John hopefully you do know and understand I love you, Marti and your family, plus everyone here @ the Catch, yet I’m getting feed-up w/ theses politic statements you seem to throughly enjoy making, yet refuse to back them up w/ answers.. I for one find that to be very fustrating..! Therefore, its better for me, to bow-out and leave this group – As i stated here before i’m willing to read any ones post… 🙂
    PS has i stated i think / believe above is someone was to “say” or write Jesus / God was a capitalist – that too wud i find very offensive and ask questions regarding it and hopefully the said person wudn’t try to hind behind this ‘labeling’ BOLONGA 🙂

  21. Mark S. says:

    This sums it up well: in that was written by John: “I’ve read and re-read that Catch and there is nothing I would change.”
    Pastor John plz correct me here if am wrong: Did you, or did you not once recommend to us Catch readers to use to read, in-stead of reading the Bible or going to a Bible study to consider reading: “How To Win Friends & Influence People” which I too thought was some pretty good advice – Then plz, John as Andrew P/ wrote: “John, please practice what you’re preaching.”

    OMG do I need to suggest to you the page and paragraph the very good advice in the above book it might be found in? That to not be so darn pig-headed (my added paraphrasing) when someone or anyone is and says their offended by your comments, quickly and very empathically offer an apology – Not this jackass and goofball state: ““I’ve read and re-read that Catch and there is nothing I would change.”’ Which is to some, mainly me a great example of piss poor leadership and people skills.

    Also I’ll take full responsibility of my very poor use of Dale Carnegie advice sooo easily found in his great book and offer I’m sorry and plz find it in your hearts to forgive me anyone I may have offended here.
    PS plz no comments on using the word: jackass, it’s found in the Bible. 🙂

  22. How is that apology supposed to sound? “I’m sorry that in your hurry to skim through the catch you misread and misunderstood everything I had to say.”

    • Mark S. says:

      Tim: That’s a good question: How one may ‘sound?’ Where to start looking for that answer: Maybe w/ a short discussion of the contents of the above mentioned book to see as suggested in part one: “Fundamental Techniques in Handling People” No maybe part two is better to use: “Six Ways to Make People Like You” or might be part three would work better: “How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking” No the suggestions in part four should surely work better: Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment” Or we could use your uneducated and informed way, which was hilaruios by the way… LOL 🙂

      Or how about using a bit of plain ol’ common sense after seeing one post by Ralph G. about it not being understood – No wait in comes another post of not of see it, mine. No wait in-coming is yet another post by Andrew P – all in spanning over 3 hours, yet still no reply or answer for the author, Pastor John.

      When it could have been handled with a brief, may I plz suggest: “sorry in regards to the confusion – I meant this, not that what you’re thinking…” – Now, that took me less then one minute, but Pastor John with his type of personality shuns or seems to hind under a rock & doesn’t like confrontation – I feel kind of a bit sad for Marti, when he gets like that @ times – Because it’s plan to see here – I too find it to be soooo darn frustrating! For sometimes in this life, confrontation NEEDS to jus happen and so does clarifying when there is sooooooo darn easily see misunderstanding are taking place! Not by one, not by two, yet by three people!
      PS a book I have tried to suggest here a few times to help people get over things, or to get a better understanding of their Main Personality Type. Is any book by Dr. Robert A. Rohm and his DISC Method.

  23. bobbobs60 says:

    Geez, Louise, people!!!
    There is only one “label” that applies to EVERY one of us and that can be found in Luke 18:13.
    None of us knows the inner workings of anyone else’s hearts and minds so I would warn everyone to read, re-read, study, and absorb the words of Jesus Himself in John 8 – particularly the part about “those without sin casting the first stones…”

    • bobbobs60 says:

      One other thought…
      Many of us – if not all (myself included) – need to seriously consider Paul’s wisdom in
      1 Corinthians 11:26-29 the next time we participate in Communion, which is only two letters separated from the word “communist”…

  24. Mark S. says:

    Thx bobbobs60: great verses and very good and kind advice, appreciate it and you.

  25. William douglas says:

    This is silly. Though labels might be abused they are necessary shorthand for communication. Communist is a useful word that keeps us from having to write a paragraph or two about governmental and economic views. But commending the good someone has done even where we have major points of difference is an honor to our Savior. Much good can be said of the life of Pete Seeger. There are issues bigger than politics and allowing the gospel to be our center, the allegiance out of which we speak is the calling we are given. Just because communists brush their teeth does not mean we have to knock ours out

    • Mark Seguin says:

      Thx William douglas 4 the good point(s) found in your post: “Though labels might be abused they are necessary shorthand for communication. Communist is a useful word that..”

    • Mark S. says:

      Also William d: Just to let u know, yet plz don’t feel alone because you, me and two others here have made the same mistake regarding thinking this Catch was about the terribleness and offenses of labeling and not anything to do w/ communism, so I am told we have completely missed the point… So also OMG plz don’t ask any question(s) regarding labeling or communism…

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