|Alex Baker cartoon. Rather brilliant.|
I suppose even if we refuse to label ourselves, others are doing so the moment they meet us, and we're probably doing the same mentally.
I recall going to an evening ecclesiastical/social event - you know, the ones where you don't know whether to wear clericals ('I am serious about my vocation') or a pretty dress ('I am a normal human being'). There were clerics there I didn't know so while I sipped my white wine and made polite vicar small talk I played 'Guess the Christian label' inside my head by assessing clothes, partners and general demeanour. Turns out I was 100% accurate. Isn't that dreadful?
So even if we don't like them, labels are currency of the Church of England, sadly. And occasionally we shoot ourselves in the foot by complaining about someone else's type of label and making out they're less Christian than we are:
This can take a number of forms, depending on the label of the person doing the complaining. If the person complaining wears the (broadly speaking) label 'Liberal', as in 'Liberal Catholic', they will take offence at those with the (broadly speaking) label of 'Evangelical' when they perceive that some of the churches with the 'E' label appear to have young people in them, of whom some have highly paid jobs and a tendency to clap along to songs in church, in the manner of joy and happiness and generally having a good time. They assume, wrongly, that nothing troubles these jolly people and that they are not really proper, GRITTY disciples.
Obtusely, they ignore the fact that the word 'Evangelical' is so broad that it's quite hard to define it any longer. Of course some will argue with this statement, saying that those who find it hard to define the label are no longer part of the label. Those ones must be given the 'L' label now. As in The Sojourners, the Red Letter Christians and anyone who questions the C of E's current position on human sexuality.
I admit that people with the 'E' label do bring it on themselves sometimes. They tend to patronise you when talking about the bible; they assume no one else is doing mission except themselves, which is irritating and also untrue. They think that nothing is happening if there's silence in church and engage in some terrible name dropping. Though I suppose that's a habit of most labels; it's just you name drop different people ('Rowan might have a job lined up for me') ('Nicky Gumbel gave me a lift home once').... (By the way, only one of these last sentences is true of me).
So I do love a bit of guess work, and it can be very funny: you know there's an Evangelical male hand shake and shirt/chino outfit, don't you? But when you get to know people, labels soon become inaccurate, unworkable, and at worst, unkind.