The Ninth Commandment: Bearing False Labels

Morality and the Tenth Commandment Part Three

The Ninth Commandment: Bearing False Labels

This is a Last Crusade article. If you are not familiar with the Last Crusade, you can find the articles here and here. It is a new movement devoted to Christ, Constitution, Chivalry.

The Last Crusade portion are here:
Tenth Commandment, Part One
Tenth Commandment, Part Two

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)

This is the next instalment in my series of articles investigating how we might view morality differently than it was viewed 150 years ago. To this end, I am examining each of the Ten Commandments to see if our views about what they represent has changed—if we might be accidentally accepting as normal concepts that those who came before us knew to be wrong.

As with Commandment Ten, when I first sat down to consider the Ninth Commandment, I thought: well, that’s pretty obvious. We all know it’s not good to lie about each other, right? I don’t think anything has changed.

Fake news came to mind, as fake news is bearing false witness against our neighbor. But, while we might argue about which news is fake and which is real, I don’t think any of us believes fake news is a good thing.

As I prayed more, however, one thing did come to me—a way in which we regularly bear false witness against each other, and even ourselves, without perhaps realizing it.

A deliberate lie is false witness, but misrepresentation is also false witness. One way of misrepresenting people is to label them.

What is a label?

A label on a can tells us what it in it. A can of corn says: Corn. That is an accurate label, and nothing is missing.

But if labels help us identify things, why should we avoid them?

Well, if you had a can of corn, and you called it Starch, the label would express only part of what the can contained.

A great deal of the labels we put on people today are like Starch or far, far worse than Starch.

They bear false witness against the “Image and likeness of God.”

Currently, there are three such labels: Political, medical, and personality.

Political Lables

The first kind of label is when you cut off conversation with a person who does not agree with you by calling them a name. Common names for this include: racist, homophobe, cuck, islomophobic, Churcian, bigot, etc.

In reality, there may be people whose actual words and behaviors merit such objections. But that is seldom how these words are being used on social media. More often, these labels are used preemptively, not to correct a real error in thinking but to cut off conversation before it can begin.

“I believe X…”

“YOU ARE A [insert favorite derisive label here].”

This extremely common use of labels isn’t helpful. It does not produce less racists, cucks, or bigots. Instead, it is a power play. It is designed to make one’s opponent quail and go on the defensive. It results either in groveling or in rejection and anger.

Calling names in this manner bears false witness against one’s neighbor.

Medical Labels

Medical labels are very popular. All sorts of things that used to be merely a quirk or “well, that’s how he is” now have a name and a ism to go with them.

It used to be that when old Uncle Tad was a bit loony because he did X, he may have been odd, but he was an individual. But nowadays, Uncle Tad is an ism. Instead of looking at people and getting to know their personal quirks, we assign a label. He’s autistic. She’s OCD. He’s ADHD.

The problem with these kind of labels? Two things:

1) Labels of these sorts are meant to help identify problems for the sake of helping the person. But, in reality, often they become short cuts for not paying attention.

When we think we know, we stop noticing. We stop seeing. We assume.

So the label tends to have the result of making those who are suffering less visible.

2) In my church, we make a point of trying not to label people. I have read many testimonies in our periodicals that follow this pattern:

A teacher takes over a class. There is a student with label X. The teacher refuses to see the student as X but rather works to see the student as the “image and likeness of God” as defined in Genesis 1. By the end of the year, the student’s behavior had entirely changed. There was no vestiges left of behavior X.

A human being is not autistic or OCD or AHDH.

Those qualities are not what defines them. A human being is not an illness. A human being is the image and likeness of the One Altogether Lovely—who are merely currently suffering from the condition of…pick your label.

If we speak or think otherwise, we are bearing false witness against our neighbor.

Personality Labels

The third type of popular labeling is often self-inflicted. These are personality labels. She’s a Capricorn. He’s INTJ.

Grouping people into personality types in order to help produce more harmonious work groups may have legitimate value.

But when we go beyond that we venture into dangerous territory.

We begin to limit our expectations of what we can do and excuse our shortcomings by explaining that we are an X-type personality, so said shortcoming is part of our package, because X-type people do that.

At this point, we have become like the can of corn labeled Starch.

The many glorious aspects of our being, bestowed upon us by our Creator, are being reduced to a few limited ideas.

Buying into personality labels is bearing false witness against ourselves.


Next week: From the Christian Science Publishing Society periodicals–The Ninth Commandment – a spiritual perspective: How I Pray With The Ninth Commandment.