What Labels Do


from "What is an Arminian"
John Wesley

2. The more unintelligible the word is, the better it answers the purpose. Those on whom it is fixed know not what to do: Not understanding what it means, they cannot tell what defence to make, or how to clear themselves from the charge. And it is not easy to remove the prejudice which others have imbibed, who know no more of it, than that it is "something very bad," if not "all that is bad!"

The effect of labeling is not to identify, but to categorize without benefit of appeal. In Wesley's time it was "Arminian" now it is "Democrat," "Republican," "Liberal," "progressive," "Conservative," "Ultramontane." These are useful, much as the word "weed" is useful in dealing with whatever plant, no matter how native and how beautiful that creeps into the monoculture of the American front yard. A label is a deadly device, serving not so much to identify as to categorize and dismiss. And a label admits of no reprieve, because you have to know what so-and-so means when he says "Liberal" to know whether or not the shoe fits, and if it doesn't how one might address the error.

There are very good reasons for disliking labels even for those of us who are at heart essentialists.

(A distant thanks to Sirius who promoted the trip whereby the quotation was found.) Even more interesting in regard to the thrust of this post is point twelve on the document linked to.

Bookmark and Share



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on April 24, 2006 5:11 PM.

Love at the Heart of the Church--the Central Focus of Carmel was the previous entry in this blog.

More on the Our Father is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll