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Monday, May 21, 2012

Today in Sunday School

A foul mood is spreading across our society and the world these days. Dialogue seems to have been replaced by name-calling that is little related to truth. Broadcasters fill the air with divisive labels designed to wound. Sometimes we see the same malice in the arena of faith and religion. This kind of talk reduces difficult issues to slogans and stops us from seeing others as worthwhile individuals. However, each of us has the choice and ability to move beyond labels and categories. (F. Richard Garland, “Labels and Categories” The Upper Room May 16, 2012).

Taxonomy: The science of finding, describing, classifying and naming organisms (Wiktionary).

We are faced with a dilemma – the powerful tool of categorization can greatly assist in promoting understanding; however, it can also function to close off thought. It can be based on careful, painstaking objectivity; or it can be based on fast and loose subjective prejudices. It can arise from knowledge, or it can arise from ignorance. Today's Sunday school lesson focused on the fast and loose variety of labeling and categorization. This variety 1) brings a cheap and unearned sense of closure, 2) functions to allay deep-seated anxieties with a Band-Aid (leaving one prone to defensiveness), 3) places one in a family of like-minded true believers, 4) sets up a factotum authority custom-designed to reinforce prejudices based often on ill-will and arrogance, 5) and offers perverse and evil grace. Unlike classification buttressed by objective evidence established through a careful process that can be replicated, we are here asked to kowtow to self-appointed, volatile and infallible authority. The obvious question is: how can we extract ourselves from this vicious process? The answer lies in Scripture: (Deuteronomy 30:19 -NIV) This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. However tempted to take the broad and easy path – essentially based on selfishness and sloth; we must remember at base vigilante, rogue characterization embodies death itself.

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