Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What's In a Name?

I have been thinking lately about labels and the associations they afford. Do labels mean anything? What happens when they get so polluted that they are virtually meaningless? What happens when two dissimilar groups or people use the same label to describe themselves? Does a label get defined by the extreme that uses it, causing all who use it to be guilty by association?

All of the links below lead to groups or individuals who would use labels like Baptist, independent, and fundamental. Should they all be lumped together? Help me decide.

John R. Rice's Sword of the Lord

Dial-the-Truth Ministries

Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church

The General Association of Regular Baptist Churches


Andrew said...

I'm really not sure where you are going with this, Robb.

Every group/association/movement has fringe members. While those members may pollute the name I don't know that they define the identity or invalidate the rest.

So, my answer is no. Lumping them all together would be ignoring distinctions and making assumptions about each of them.

Sandy Mc said...

The first three sites made me go "ugh"...I personally don't have that feeling with the 4th (GARBC) site.

I believe that the first three are blatantly saying THEY are the speakers of truth...and very black and white...that seems to be their MAIN focus/purpose. The *fringe* of any of the first three groups would theoretically be those with a bit of liberal in their hearts.

I know the GARBC strive toward that end too, but IMHO at least in the church I was at there is still hope at the congregent level. I felt urged to seek truth (with the *understanding* it was ultimate and could be found). I think that the *fringe* in the GARBC may be pretty thick but that their general focus is for doing good. Did I agree with everything? Did I fit in with their direction, not really long term...but I am thankful for the learning I experienced there...perhaps that experience actually helped prepare me to be where I am now? Yep, I can see that!

jdub said...

Never heard of dial the truth ministries. I read an article...I ussually get mad at christians who are so disconnected from society, but I just had to laugh because its kind of like the "Weekly World News" for christians...

funny stuff

kingsjoy said...

Speaking of labels that "get so polluted that they are virtually meaningless" how about "Christian"? I'm not always happy* to be associated with that label because of others' connotations of the word.

*before anyone gets the wrong idea, I'm very happy to be associated with Christ Himself---know what I mean?

rocket said...

I didn't check out your links because I'm tired of getting frustrated by guys like that. But I did stumble across the guy who started the complaining about the gay actor in the "End of the Spear". He has a blog,, that has a link to an article,, attacking the GARBC and David Warren, a guy I have a lot of respect for, for not being separate enough! Actually it was good to hear what the Ohio Association was doing.

A said...

It has been interesting since moving to Arkansas to come to grasp what the term "Baptist" means here. Hardly anyone here has ever heard of the GARBC. Some people think of snake handlers when they hear the term. Others, associate it with the southern baptists with all of the baggage that comes with that.

I have found that labels typically do more to poorly communicate and create misunderstandings than they are worth.

Almost every title/label/group/movement that someone might associate themselves with has people who claim the same title that you would not want to be associated with or be assumed to think and act the same way they do. Not every Baptist handles snakes, not every follower of Islam hijacks planes, not every postmodern minded emerging thinker believes the same thing about God.

I think it is wise to be gracious and not pigeon hole people based on a title they might use, or be labeled with.

On a personal level, I learned this in a very hard way after going through a divorce. Now, evidently, I have the "DIVORCED" title attached to me. Many people make assumptions and even character judgments about what that means. They really don't know the specifics of what happened and why it happened, but they rush to judgment and put me in a box based on their assumptions.

I realized through that how often I labeled people and assumed I knew what their life was like and what they thought or believed based on titles/labels/categories I had placed upon them. Ultimately, this is unfair and wrong.

I think the same thing can be said for different "Christianese" kinds of titles, whether it be denominational or otherwise.

The bottom line is we're talking about people, not things, and we need to take people as individuals and know their thoughts, hearts and beliefs instead of categorizing people based on a label that has been attached to them.

Sandy Mc said...


Like I said over on Robb's blog...people matter to God and they matter to ME! "...Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight..."

We got into labels a bit on Vanessa's blog related to teens. My older kids are VERY unique and I am glad (just drop by Arsaga's on Gregg most evenings and you will see one of them for yourself, lol!) This whole label thing on people is why I self pronounce myself a "wierdo!" cause I feel it lets people know they will have trouble "outdoing" my personal assessment of myself *IF* they want to label me!

Sandy Mc said...

Like I said over on Robb's blog...people matter to God and they matter to ME! "...

Should have read: "like I said in an earlier post on Robb's blog..."

ness said...

Labels...hmmm...we used to collect Campbells labels to help our school get gym equipment and stuff. We would go out in groups, door to door, and ask people if they had any they could give us. One enthusiastic lady took all the labels off her cans and gave them to us, but forgot to mark what was in the cans.

We need labels. There are too many things out there, too much to choose from, too much to categorize, to NOT have labels.

The problem is when people see "Minestrone" and think they know what is in it...and even worse, think they don't like it (or don't believe in it). Or they try Progressive Minestrone and hate it, so they don't know that they would love Campbell's minestrone. The worst of all is when they eat chicken noodle exclusively and don't ever even think about the deficiencies of chicken noodle or the benefits of minestrone.

I don't know if I'm annoyed or hungry.

ness said...

Oh yeah, other thing....just a heads up. We've been married for 9 years going on 10.

no biggy.

I just like the 9 year label better.

courtney said...

Ness, get some lunch. But your point is well taken. A, I agree wholeheartedly with you (again!?!?) I think the differences on this really come down to whether or not you've ever been on the ugly end of the labeling process. For people who haven't experienced much discomfort from being lumped in with a certain group or have been in popular groups, it's not a big deal. If you've ever been in a group that took on a negative connotation, you know how difficult it can be. I've stopped associating myself as a Baptist of any sort since moving down here. Southern Baptists have left a truely ugly taste in the mouth of ordinary people here and I can literally see people shut down when it is mentioned in discussion. Our church is inter-denominational and Pastor Allen refuses to call us Christians. He referrs to us as "Christ followers." Within the group, we know that it's a matter of semantics but it has actually helped when trying to reach out to the community.
I've been labeled everything from a geek to a lesbian. It hurt. I'm sure the geeks and lesbians of this world didn't like having me get lumped in with them either :) but labeling is really a necessity in many ways. There's a really pretty building here that I have always been curious about going into...then, one day, I happened to see the label by the door of the building. It was a Scientology group. Glad I read the label.

A said...

The think I like most about V's point is this:

Often the overarching title of something is too broad or does not accurately depict what is truly inside.

With food, you have to read the ingredients and nutritional information in order to really assess what Minestrone meant to the manufacturer of the soup.

With churches, for some time now, you have not been able to tell what the church is really like by the name on the sign out front. You have to read their statement of faith and go to a few services and talk to the people and the leaders to know what it is really all about. There are some great Baptist pastors and churches out there. There are also some really scary ones.

In today's milieu, you have to dig a little deeper and look at the nutritional information.

Sandy Mc said...

When you move beyond the "sign out front stage" and through the "go to a few services" it's still not always clear if you really have the kind of "soup" you thought you did.
Sometimes it is such a *better* soup than what you were eating that it takes awhile to really taste it.
Sometimes, at least for me, I have been so *hungry* for a chance to "eat good soup" and rest in that nourishment that I have ignored the ingredients that were not palatable. I have found that at some point when my heart is truly open to God, he WILL show me those ingredients and over time what I should do about them.

klasieprof said...

HOLY CRAP!! Scared the Bejesus out of me seeing RICE on your blog...that was scarier than seeing St Joeseph....YES...Brought back all kinds of scary stuff seeing his mug again...all the Oklahoma Baptist College crap with "DR> JIM VINEYARD" and the preacher boys pounding the pulpit with the sunday papers as pulpit excercise...the Labels" "INdependent Fundamental "Premillinial" make me swqirm...then throw in ""KJV ONLY"..and I want to find the nearest barf bucket.
YES labels matter.
Why doesn't a church have a slogan of "A Place of peace and Grace"????

"OR Enter YE In here..leave your srife Ridden religous background at the door."

UGH..I feel like I gotta take a shower!!

Robb said...


Good to hear from you, my friend. I am not "lumping." I am just observing that all these groups use the same labels to describe themselves. Does that mean they should be lumped? And if your answer is no, doesn't that also mean we shouldn't lump all who use a term like "emerging"? I know you wouldn't lump this way - I am only trying to illsutrate a point.