Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Label, By Any Other Name

What does it mean to be a Roman Catholic? Or a Democrat? Or a Left-Libertarian Market Anarchist? And if You're Doing It Wrong, what does THAT make you?

I've recently been caught up in a couple of discussions, online and off, of what it means to be a "true" Christian or a "true" Conservative (among others). Leaving aside for a moment the inevitable charges of falling prey to the "No True Scotsman" fallacy, we have a larger question in front of us - what determines someone's ability to take on a certain label? Who is the gatekeeper? And what responsibility do the rest of us have in that regard?

We often have difficulty understanding the importance of labels that we don't aspire to, and this often leads to a high level of inconsistency with the way they they're applied. On the other hand, for many people who do aspire to them, the labels are important parts of their identity and self image. Put these two things together, and you may be able to see why there are so often fireworks around them.

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