Note: I’m going to do my best to avoid naming names in this post. Not because I’m so wonderful, but because it’s not really relevant. Both the issues I’m going to cite were noted on this blog — in a broader sense — in the last few months. So if you’re really curious and have too much time on your hands, feel free to dig.
A few months ago, a certain blogger slammed an author. The blogger started his drive-by by saying “My only prayer for [the author] is that …” and then proceeded to make several highly critical, but spiritual-sounding, remarks about the author. My initial reaction was anger, as I consider the author to be a friend. My second reaction was “Dude, if this is your idea of prayer, please don’t EVER pray for me!” The Pharisee’s prayer (Luke 18:11-12) in Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector was much more gracious.
The blogger later repented of his comments, but (1) you can’t really take words back, and (2) I wonder if he understands that what he said was not only ungracious and inaccurate, but also absolutely illogical.
At about the same time, someone posted a video on YouTube of several teenage girls at his church dancing to a Mariah Carey Christmas song. The video was labeled as “body worship” (maybe there’s someone out there that can worship to Ms Carey, but it’s somewhat improbable). One or more ODMs went off about the video, not merely decrying what was a probable mis-labeling, but then descending into predictable divination of motivations, over-generalizations, and mis-characterizations.
The video poster changed the labeling of the video, but (1) you can’t really take words back, and (2) I wonder if he did so because he realized that it was wrong, or just to quell the firestorm.
Both the blogger and the video poster fell victim to the same thing — do something, slap a Christian label on it, and the action becomes spiritual, regardless of what the “something” was. I would call this eisegesis, but most eisegesis at least has some (mis-applied) Scripture behind it, whereas Christian labels tend to have human tradition as their only backing. Depending on the label that gets slapped on the action, this can be anywhere from “Christianese” to downright blasphemy. Last I checked, the latter was definitely a Bad Thing (TM), and most folks would probably agree that the former isn’t too keen either.
Yes, sometimes Christian labels are a convenient short-hand (e.g. Christian music, Christian bookstore). But I think that sometimes we get carried away with them. When the label is applied after the fact, as some sort of justification (whether conscious or not), then we’ve lost the plot.