Between Two Worlds Day 20
“If I have to have a label…”
Evonne’s response to my post from yesterday about the expanding and changing labels that we use to describe our religious identity forced me to write the second half of my post.
Over two years ago I wrote a letter to the editor in the Eugene Register about the religious labels we use to define ourselves. The impetus for the letter actually originated six years prior when I was first signing up for a Facebook account. The profile page asked for my religious identity and I immediately recoiled. I realized that the most obvious choice would be to simply write in Christian. I am a Presbyterian pastor. I was baptized. I regularly participate in the Lord’s Supper and I do have a thing for this Jesus character. Christian made the most sense.
But I wasn’t able to simply write in Christian. I knew what I meant by the term, but I had no idea if others would put me in the Jerry Falwell camp or the “I can’t wait to save you” crowd. I spent a full six months working out a label that would more accurately pinpoint my actual Christian faith. I came up with the agnostic Christian mystic.
But Evonne’s comment reminded me that my letter to the editor actually began with the values that I identity with. It only ended with my own little identifier after I said, “But we live in a world that needs labels and if Facebook says that I have to have a label THEN I would be comfortable saying that I am an agnostic Christian mystic.”
The truth is I too am uncomfortable with having a label at all. For those who need and want a label I have found a way to fill in the short blank that calls for something slick and clean. But the truth is I am identifying myself more by the values that have emerged from my Christian faith than by the pithy label that I have worked out for myself.
If the world needs a label I would be willing to tell you that I am an agnostic Christian mystic. But at my funeral what I really want to hear is that Brian was a man of compassion, honesty, truth, abiding presence, wit, grace, strength, perseverance, faith, and curiosity. Don’t say that I was a Christian. Say that I tried to live like Christ.
Thanks Evonne for the reminder!