Some Thoughts on Philip Yancey's


Some Thoughts on Philip Yancey's Soul Survivor

The book is a series of essays about "heroes" who helped restore Yancey's faith when it was sorely challenged. It's a mixed bag of people, all interesting. But more interesting yet are some of the issues Yancey brings up.

from Soul Survivor--"Dr. Robert Coles" Philip Yancey

I belong, with Robert Coles, to a privileged minority. Everyone reading this sentence belongs, in fact, for only a small percentage of the world's people has the ability and leisure to read and the resources to buy a book. How do we, the "privileged ones," act as stewards of the grace we have received? We can begin, Coles tells us, by ripping off the labels we so thoughtlessly slap on others unlike ourselves. We can begin by finding a community that nourishes compassion for the weak, an instinct that privilege tends to suppress. We can begin with humility and gratitude and reverence, and then move on to pray without ceasing for the great gift of love.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. told Coles in the course of a personal interview:

I have begun to realize how hard it is for a lot of people to think of living without someone to look down upon, really look down upon. It is not just that they will feel cheated out of someone to hate; it is that they will be compelled to look more closely at themselves, at what they don't like in themselves. My heart goes out to people I hear called rednecks; they have little, if anything, and hate is a possession they can still call upon reliably, and it works for them. I have less charity in my heart for well-to-do and well-educated people--for their snide comments, cleverly rationalized ones, for the way they mobilize their politcial and even moral justifications to suit their own purposes. No one calls them into account. The Klan is their whipping boy. Someday all of us will see that when we start going after a race or a religion, a type, a region, a section of the Lord's humanity--then we're cutting into His heart, and we're bleeding badly ourselves.
(From Cole's Simone Weil: A Modern Pilgrimage)

This struck me rather hard. It is always easier to pigeonhole than to treat a person as a person. Even here at St. Blogs we've had a long debate on the efficacy of "modifier"-Catholics--whether we self-identify (and hence tend to identify others as "Orthodox," "Radical Traditionalist," "Liberal," etc.) I have questioned the wisdom of such division, and have eschewed any such labels for myself in hopes that it would prevent me from seeing others through the filters established by such a world view. It has not entirely, which I regret deeply. To forestall further inroads, I have decided to note this and state general opposition to labels for people. The views that are held may, perhaps, be categorized, but a person should never be stigmatized with anything other than God's own loving label--"child of God." We are all God's children, and brothers and sisters in the larger family by adoption. Thus we are prone to the rivalries of all children, and have the need to prove ourselves in views, opinions, and sometimes even by labelling a view we do not favor in such a way that it brings us the favorable comment of those whose favor we wish to curry.

The truth cannot be found in labelling. The truth cannot be found by identifying "us and them." And the truth is the only thing worth finding. The truth is found in a direct and continuous encounter with Jesus Christ. When we label a person, we have effectively found a way to remove that individual from Christ-likeness and put them in a place where we do not have to deal with them.

Throughout I have said we, because I know the phenomenon is widespread, even if mostly involuntary. But I say specifically, that I have failed here as often as (or more often than) anyone else, and for those failures I apologize to all. With the grace of God and the love of Christ, I move forward with the fervent prayer that this habit of being will gradually diminish to be replaced with the ability to look at each person for the image of God that he or she is. It is also my prayer for all of you. Hopefully, enough of us can infect the entire world with a view of the person as ultimately worthy of our respect and love by virtue of Him whose image each one is.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 12, 2003 7:46 AM.

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