Getting Beyond Labels

Ever since Peter and Paul had opposing views about ministry to the Gentiles, there have been divisions in the Christian church. But rarely in the course of church history have differences among Christians been so exploited and manipulated for political gain by those outside the church as is the case today.

It is true that many Christians have taken an ideological approach to religion. But the proper response to such people isn't to take an opposing ideological position. Rather, it is to

encounter them humbly, prayerfully, and firmly rooted in scripture-after all, they are our brothers and sisters in faith.

For while there are indeed consequential disagreements between segments of the church, the bonds that unite us as Christians are stronger than the differences that separate us. It's important to distinguish between Religious Right institutions-some of which are nothing more than right-wing political organizations-and the often well-meaning individuals under their influence.

How should we relate to other Christians associated with the Right? Here are 16 suggestions to get you started.

1. Get beyond the labels and seek to understand others' point of view. Shorthand phrases such as "conservative Christian" lump together people with a wide variety of beliefs, many of which likely resonate with our own. For instance, while "family values" has become an oft-abused right-wing catch phrase, many Christians are legitimately concerned about the evident decline in values in our culture, and seek ways to respond. While we may not always agree on the responses, it's important that we respect and understand the undergirding motivation if we are to have genuine communication.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1995
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