The Irrelevancy of Theological Compartmentalizing
May 6, 2008, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I have been more and more convinced that theological compartments have become irrelevant to the current discussion. I believe we prefer compartmentalizing since it allows laziness and removes us from any accountability for our definitions. Part of the problem is the assumption made that we are all “talking about the same thing.” I have been recently been reminded about many individuals’ responses to the “emerging church.” Many have asked me, “Are you emerging?” Or, “Are you emergent?” My response has often been, “I would consider myself a part of that conversation, but what do you mean by those terms?”

We enjoy putting people in our “boxes” because, if you fit in a certain box, I can live more comfortably with who you are. For instance, if I am “emergent,” people place me inside the same box they put Brian McLaren, and, so, Evan is like Brian McLaren.

Compartments may have worked at one point, particularly during modernity. However, especially, terms like “conservative” and “liberal,” such terms have become irrelevant. I know people still believe that these compartments still work, but I ask, “Please, please, don’t put me in one of your boxes. I am me, not anyone else.”

We like our boxes. We hug them and hold them close. But really they are irrelevant when dealing with real life. It’s just that…people are messier than our compartments. For some, I am “conservative,” but, for others, I am “liberal.” So, which one am I then? Does it make you too uncomfortable to not place a term on me, or not put me inside of your box? Please, just let it be.


2 Comments so far
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This is true.
More and more I find myself “not fitting in”.
Part of me feels like a “conservative”. Part of me feels like a “liberal”. Part of me embraces my Baptist heritage. Part of me is embarrassed by it.
Part of me holds to the “Just War Theory”, yet part of me (more and more) is “Pacifist”.
Labels are helpful only inasmuch as they get the conversation started. I think we need to move past the label, and say what does that mean?
And, truthfully, God probably never intended human beings in all their complexity to fit in clean, neat compartments.
I know Jesus didn’t.

Comment by Mark Culton

When words are used to compartmentalize, or to trivialize, or to dismiss, they are like a Procrustean bed – anything that doesn’t fit the form is either cut off or stretched until it fits.
What a terrible thing to do to other people!
Yet, when words are denied limits, definitions or boundaries, they are like the White Knight, who mounted his horse and rode off in all directions at once…
When words are no longer permitted to have meaning, then we can’t use them to say how incredibly blue the sky is, or what we thought about the robin’s song, or how much we really love being with someone else.
What a terrible thing to do to words, and ultimately to people!

Comment by Dan Stewart

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