Just a Miscellaneous Person

October 24, 2011

It seems like everyone wants to put labels on everyone.  You know, put everyone in a box.

When I tell a new acquaintance that I’m a pastor, I instantly see a thousand calculations pass through their minds about the kind of person I must be, the things I must like to do, the politics I must have, the thoughts I must think.  Almost inevitably, the very first question out of their mouths is what kind of church do I pastor?  By that, they mean to ask if I’m Presbyterian or Baptist or something like that.  Another box with another label.  Even calling myself “non-denominational” puts me in a box, a box marked “miscellaneous.”

Maybe that’s a good label for me: miscellaneous.  Maybe I am just a miscellaneous person.

Let’s check all the other boxes and see if I fit in with them…

I’m Not a Feminist…

…But I believe that women are created by God, differently but equal to men.

I’m Not a Racist…

…But I don’t support many of President Obama’s policies, and I resent the idea that not supporting the President in all things makes me a racist.

I’m Not a Bleeding Heart Liberal…

…But I believe in working toward justice for the oppressed.

I’m Not a Tea Partier…

…But I believe the government can’t be relied on alone to bring justice to the oppressed.

I’m Not a War Hawk…

…But I think the principle of taking down totalitarian dictators is a humanitarian cause worth fighting for.

I’m Not a Pacifist…

…But I’m glad that American troops are coming home for Christmas.

I’m Not a Libertarian…

…But I believe in allowing people to live the lifestyle they choose.

I’m Not Unaccepting…

…But I think that when people come to church, they should be convicted that their lifestyle is sinful.

I’m Not a Secular Humanist…

…But I lament the fact that no one, humanists or Christians, will ever put the “free thinker” and “Christian” label on the same box…I happen to think I’m both…

I’m Not an Evangelical…

…But I believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and if a church isn’t willing to be proud of that belief, it’s not really worth anything.

I’m Not a Universalist…

…But I think Jesus’ grace probably extends further than we can imagine, and that’s good news for a guy like me.

Yep, it looks like the label “miscellaneous” fits pretty well.  Maybe that’s what I’ll start telling people.  I’m part of the 99% of us that are miscellaneous.

What about you?  Are you a miscellaneous person?  Did you ever look at all the boxes and realize you don’t really fit into any of them?  Okay, you’re turn!  Give me one box people try to put you into where you don’t quite fit.

27 responses to Just a Miscellaneous Person

  1. Hi Matt,

    The editors at one place I worked noticed my lifestyle and teased me about being a Rabid Fundamentalist. So, I began signing my copy, Rabid Fundamentalist.

    But that ancient computer system only allowed a three letter extension, so my sign-in name became Rabid Fun… Eventually, that segued into my writing a religious humor column for a time.

    Had the hecklers not labeled me for that Rabid Fundamentalist box, I might not ever had that outlet to express my faith.

    The two boxes I think I fit in best are labeled
    1. Plain ‘ol Christian.
    2. Christian Realist.

    John Cowart

  2. I think we all like being able to categorize things and make sense of our world. Sometimes it backfires on us though, doesn’t it? :)

  3. There are so many boxes that I don’t fit into that I’m pretty sure my identity is on back-order.

  4. Nice list, Matt. I think we agree on a lot of things.

    It’s tough world to be a Christian in. Especially one that:
    – Cares for the environment.
    – Supports meaningful military actions in which we are supposed to have a victory.
    – Supports the death penalty because I believe God does.
    – Cares for the poor.
    – Is sick of political correctness.
    – Has been to a Benny Hinn crusade.
    – Owns handguns.
    – Can’t stand John MacArthur.
    – Love his wife.
    – Speaks in tongues and hates religion.
    – Is buying an all electric car.
    – Owns stock in Wall Street.
    – Paid for my own college with no help from anyone.
    – Was a bad soldier.
    – Thinks that Rob Bell is cool except for the Universalism.
    – Thinks legal immingraton is aweseome.

    Yes sir, it’s tough to be labeled.

  5. Yeah, what you said. We were at a football game the other day, and one of the people from our church was mocking something on the board that said “We’re all winners.” I later realized what bothered me wasn’t mocking that statement, which is indeed silly, but the larger context of the sentence, which was about sportsmanship. This made the insult seem loaded, like he was mocking good sportsmanship and calling respect for others “liberal.” However, defending that would mean defending “we’re all winners,” and I don’t have the heart for that. So in the end I just kept my mouth shut and got over it.

    That’s just one example of conversational landmines I find too often. I also learned that being reasonable will get you labelled by both extremes. But on the flipside, listening provides opportunities to find out others aren’t as simple and “in the box” as they like us to believe either.

    • That’s a great analysis of a truly stupid phrase. Rather than learning sportsmanship in the face of defeat, it just teaches people to live in denial, as if real life never has winners and losers. Learning to lose well is one of life’s greatest skills you can learn.

      • Great point Matt & Matt! Imagine if we extended the “We’re all winners” message to inspiring venues such as the Olympics or Nobel Prize winners – there would be no excellence in the world.

  6. All generalizations are false, including this one.

    Labels are so much fun! They must be because nobody is an American anymore. The hyphen is the new status symbol.

    “Hi, although I was born here, as were my parents and maybe even my parents’ parents, I’m a -American.” I have even noticed people are trying to “spin” their self-description to prevent being mislabeled. i.e. “Compassionate Conservative”, “Conservative Democrat”, etc.

    But I agree with you, I don’t really fit in anywhere in the “Christian” community. When somebody asks me where I go to church and I tell them that we are trying to start a house church network….after they take a step back (love the nonverbal there) you can see the labels form:
    – Anti-church
    – Hates normal “church” for some reason
    – Probably got kicked out of churches for some really bad reason.
    – Must have some weird form of personal theology
    – Handle snakes and drink poison
    – Cult
    – Self-centered

    Why can’t people remember that the name tag simply says: “Hi my name is”? It doesn’t say, “Hi, my name is ________ and I’m .”

  7. Missionary- True enough I live in South America as a missionary. You can see my avatar and know something is awry just by my appearance. I don’t look like a missionary. I don’t belong to a mission organization. I sold my own junk to move here. I am totally supported by donations from friends, family and people who believe in our method. I don’t plant churches. I don’t pass out tracts. I do have a club open to the public on Friday nights. We do have a regular crowd of drunks stagger in every week. We do earn the right to speak to the lives of these people. We do have a communal style of living. We do have people in the house 7 days a week and sometimes eat 3 meals together with them.

    The box is getting a little confining for me. It’s not my size.

  8. So, you’re a Miscellaneousist?

    That’s got a ring to it…

  9. Well said Matt. Perhaps the greater challenge I face is not accepting my own miscellany, but rather to love those who love their “boxes” and who want to shove me in one or the other.

  10. I prefer to say we’re “Thank For Ourselvers”.

  11. I am a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. Mostly…

    I like to think I don’t have all the answers because if I did, we would all be screwed.

    Common in the fact I am not creative as you! Be blessed!

  12. Why don’t you consider yourself a feminist? I know a number of people who refuse to identify with the feminist movement for various political reasons (feminist leaders have a habit of being cissexist and marginializing trans people, for example) but I understand “feminism” to essentially mean “belief that women should have equal rights to those of men.” Are you against that? If not, what is your understanding of feminism that causes you to reject it?

  13. Funny you should write about this. Last week I posted my take on the same subject: http://blogs.icta.net/mom/2011/10/jesus-and/.

    Our ministry doesn’t fit expectations either. We actually had a foundation manager tell us, “You make all our boxes possible, but you don’t fit into any of them. So sorry, we can’t support you.”

    Thankfully, God isn’t limited by people’s boxes.

  14. This was an exceptional post. I especially like your last point about Jesus’ grace extending further than we think.

  15. I like you better every day. :)

  16. For sure. I personally don’t even feel like I belong in a box. Most people try to label me as a nerd (I won’t deny that I mostly am), just because I know all this stuff and appreciate good spelling and grammar. And went to a nerdy high school. And did some college. And like video games. Maybe I am more of one than I think.
    But anyway, I often resent the labels and boxes. Is it wrong that I don’t mind talking to people others find repulsive, just because they’ve made wrong decisions? Everyone needs love, especially the unconditional variety. And hey, I’m just as messed up as that person, just not in the same ways.
    Blessings to you. I really enjoy your writing!

  17. I like the concept of a miscellaneous person. I’ve been trying to figure out a better answer than “I’m a pastor.” for those people that I meet on a daily basis because you’re right. I get thrown in a box with all of the West-boroughs of the world and I become a pro-choice, anti-homosexual, he man woman hater without ever getting past the word pastor. As a youth pastor I have the out of saying that I work with High School kids but the conversation eventually comes around to my almost humiliated admission that I am in fact employed by a church. Great post. I’ve been reading for a while and love what you’re doing. Check out my blog if you get a chance. I write with several friends that like you, are often frustrated pastors trying to make a difference. http://www.goddamblog.com I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  18. I am a nerd who scored high on the english portion of the ACT and SAT. I still like both science and literature and have started to really like history.

    The thing about labels is that it allows you to hold someone at a distance and make judgements based on your perception rather than fact.

    I love your closing statement.

  19. I am pretty much like you it seems. I can relate to things in every group that people try to put people in, and I do not relate at the same time.

  20. Sometimes I don’t think people realize that no matter what the actual title in their mind says, often people know what they mean.
    For instance:
    Homeschooled = probably always wears jean jumpers and hates any music with drums
    Skipped a grade = probably a geek with no social life
    Experienced in martial arts = probably beats people up for fun
    Singer = spends all day inside breaking out in random show tunes

    And those are just ones people have admitted to assigning me! It’s amazing how quickly people try to box others up when they know almost nothing about them.