I have been taken to task in the past for my tendency to label people, particularly when I label people with whom I disagree as “liberals”. This same problem cropped up a couple days ago in the comments of a post I wrote called “Has God given up on the UMC?”. A reader pointed out that:
“Linguistically you really seem to make the assertion that “liberal” would define a group of people that don’t take the Bible seriously, question supernatural realities, and for all intents and purposes are almost non-Biblical.”
The guy hit the nail on the head. That’s exactly what I tend to do. My own brother once told me it seemed to him that I use “liberal” as an epithet.
Well, I do use the word that way. The problem is, it just isn’t accurate, at least in one sense. Liberal can mean openhanded, generous, or bountiful. But it can also mean: ” not literal or strict : loose”, or “broad-minded; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms” (definitions from Merriam-Webster Online) They like that “broadminded” or “open-minded” idea; or “progressive”. They like that one. They’ve co-opted “progressive” just like the homosexuals have co-opted “gay”.
The thing is, unless I’m talking about politics (and usually liberal politics goes hand-in-hand with liberal theology) the people I’m labeling are religious liberals. So maybe if I want to label them, I should use a label from the Bible. “Pharisees” comes to mind. Remember Jesus in Matthew 23 saying “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!”
The problem is, I see too much of the Pharisees in myself.
And actually these people are theologically closer to the Sadducees. But the Pharisees were along the same vein. While they disagreed vehemently with the Sadducees on some things, they were still of the same mind underneath, and they teamed up to put an end to their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. They would claim to agree with him on some things, they would even honor him with their mouthes, but in the end they murdered him. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ fights with these guys.
Maybe I’ll start referring to the religious liberals as the Pharisees and Sadducees. How about P&S for short? If you’ve read this, then you will know who I am referring to. And I may need to explain it now and then as well.
(Even so, examine yourself, and see if you don’t see some of that phariseeism in yourself. It can be quite humbling.)