The popular 90s song of the same title by the band R.E.M. was apparently not about anything religious but thinking about it always evokes for me the idea of giving up things that have defined me for most of my life.
Not so much an active throwing away of labels like Republican or evangelical Christian or other similar terms but a slow release. A letting go as forces and changes and realizations finally take one to the point of loosening his grip and finally saying “goodbye, Label.”
Because the labels no longer fit. Not when I can’t reconcile the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity with the political parties, religious groups, and others warring against and amongst each other.
I’m sure it’s my fault, having back slid into unbelief in the political and religious realms. My fault or no, I don’t have the stomach to align myself with groups claiming piety on one hand and adamantly supporting political leaders who demonstrate no moral standing on the other (yes, I understand it’s subjective).
I’ve looked for other labels to adopt but nothing fits these days. Life’s too busy to fight all the time. Align oneself with a party or movement or religion and it immediately pits one against those who align differently. The art of civil dialogue and compassion and compromise appears broken and I can’t and don’t know how to fix it.
I understand that letting go of labels sets one adrift into a sea of uncertainty and (some would say) being blown about by the winds of this thing or that thing. I’ll take my chances because I don’t want to be associated with certain groups, parties, or belief systems.
Will I become a Democrat? A Buddhist? An atheist? A Green Partier? Nah, I’ll just wear the label “human being” and attempt to navigate life with a smile for strangers and a kind word for neighbors no matter their color, religion, politics, gender, sexual orientation, etc., etc., etc. The approach may land me in heaven, purgatory, or hell (if they even exist) but I’m okay with that prospect.
And I’m thinking I just might find a growing crowd of human beings in that mix who’ve walked away from their labels in search of something different too. And maybe that’s where the conversation will really begin…