The Uselessness of Labels

Christian Right. Conservative. Liberal. Closed Minded. Open Minded. All are terms used in newspaper articles referenced in a few of the posts below. We all get upset at the labels, either because they are unfair or most commonly because they are a sign of intellectual laziness.

Labels are used from professors to common folk to sterotype a group of people. Often they are used pejoratively. “That lousy liberal neighbor of mine!” or “She is soooooooo closed minded.”

Labels are used in order to easily and simply describe whatever group of people one decides to label. Using a single word is of course the easiet way to place a label. However, it often misses the mark.

Most people would say I am a conservative. I am a Christian, I tend to vote Republican, I am pro life, etc. Oh wait, those three add up to being…part of the Christian Right! Which I suppose is a subset of the conservative label. But what about the following: Except on the essentials of the Christian Faith, I do not associate myself with either Robertson or Falwell and actually cringe when I hear them speak; I can be constructively critical of President Bush; I listen to The Clash and some of that other very very bad anti-establishment music; I believe its ok to dance though I myself should not actually enter the dance floor; I believe it is ok to drink alcohol, though I myself have never had the penchant for it cept for the occasional glass of wine.

So. What am I?

No labels gets my dander up like Closed Minded/Open Minded though. A close examination reveals that really what is being labled is not how people use their minds but labeling a certain set of convictions. If you smoke pot, your open minded. If you dont, your closed minded. Correct me if I am wrong, but what if I decided to seriously look at the issue of pot smoking. I went to the library and checked out several books. I even looked at the last few months of Pot Smokers Weekly. In my intellectual pursuit and sound use of my mind, I concluded that pot smoking was wrong. Not just wrong for me (gag at the relativism), but wrong period. So does my conclusion mean I am Closed Minded simply because I came to a different conviction then pot smoking people? I believe my intellectual exercise shows that I used my mind openly.

What gets me is that “Open Minded” people criticize “Closed Minded” people for being superior, etc. But are they not saying that “Open Mindedness” (remember, its real the convictions being the label here) is far better than “Closed Mindedness”? Who has the superiority complex here?

People who are “Open Minded” have just as strong CONVICTIONS as people who are supposedly “Closed Minded”. Why arent they open minded enough to consider changing their convictions?

I can say more, but I need to rest my “closed minded” mind from engaging in the open minded task of loving God with all my intellect (i.e. mind).


  1. Ron said,

    March 28, 2005 @ 11:30 am

    This actually resonates with me pretty strongly. I’m with you Paul, I’m not too sure how useful labels really are and I can’t stand the “closed-minded/open-minded” stuff. At work I have somehow become known as the right-wing wacko fundamentalist even though I, like you, often cringe at the so-called representatives of the religious right like Falwell and Robertson.

    Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Pip said,

    March 28, 2005 @ 3:01 pm

    On the loathesome “closed-minded” appellation: I wonder if it’s principal users are guilty of the secret sin theory of politics: “that people form their political views on the basis of a generalization of their own deepest darkests.”

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