Exclusionary labels

I have recently become aware of how incurably divisive it is to talk about any developed tradition, whether religious, political, economic, or otherwise. Every tradition seems to define itself by setting boundaries. You are one of us if you are/say/do/wear/believe this or that particularity.

The problem with “Christian” as a label meant to exclude what is not “Christian” is that it betrays the logic of its own story. Christian is used to label all those things somehow related to a particular individual this tradition remembers as Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God — hugely loaded words, and not ones on whose meaning we all always agree. Yet the story of this person and what we say became of his life beyond death — in short, what is called the gospel — implies the constant undoing of every boundary or division that sets a definitive us against them, that allows determination ahead of time of who is in and who is out, of who deserves to be here in the place of acceptance, love, care, life, over against those who do not deserve these things.

The story about this particular person contradicts our negative use of labels and other exclusionary rhetoric. The story implies that what this particular individual was about — generosity, acceptance, rhythm, love — extends as wide as the universe itself, to ‘all things’ in heaven and on earth. As long we fail to recognize that calling oneself the church of the gospel and assuming that means there is anyone that finally falls outside of that transformative reality embodied within her, we will continue to walk in blindness, always stumbling over the wall-breaking logic of the generous, welcoming God of the gospel.