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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

If we just call it a “sect” or a “faction” or even a “cult,” we can marginalize everyone within that group. These labels already carry negative connotations without anyone needing to know any actual beliefs or doctrines. It’s a technique for categorizing the world and justifying our actions.

Acts 24:5-6
We [Sanhedrin] have found this man [Paul] to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him.
[Tertullus, the lawyer, speaking against Paul to Felix, the Governor, in Caesarea]

I have always been intrigued by labels. It’s something that humans do automatically. It’s how we “understand” what we are seeing or hearing. We look at an object and our brain identifies it as a chair or an animal or a tree. And then there are the sub-categories like particular designs of chairs or specific animals or breeds or types of trees. We do this with people too. They are categorized by how they look by skin color, body part shapes, hair color or texture, size, etc. People are also sorted by their sex, clothing, their neighborhood, their country, their language, and their incomes. And of course, they are classified by their associations, whether religious or secular.

But how do we understand or embrace something or someone new? How do we recognize it? If that thing or person does not fit into any of the normal designations, then what is it? Who is it?

I always thought the ancient prophets, whose writings and prophecies are peppered throughout the scriptures, were beleaguered with this categorization problem. They were seeing visions of a future they could not know. How would a primitive person describe an airplane, a rocket, or a space ship? How would they describe an atomic explosion? Are we any better at explaining or understanding miracles?

We use our limited understanding, our own frames of reference. We shove the unfamiliar into the closest or most familiar box. If there is no shape we recognize, we give it shape. We name it.

Jesus was outside the box. He was doing and saying things that made no sense to most of the people he encountered. Paul wasn’t much better.

Christianity of today evolved its own norms. It has taken the recorded words of Jesus and scrutinized, categorized, dissected and analyzed them to the extreme. And yet, when folks start pulling at the edges of Christianity, there is no less resistance than there was in Jesus’s day. We are still afraid of being deluded, of believing a lie, of breaking the law.

But God does not need us to “protect” the truth. God knows the heart.

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