Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Inadvertently Insulting Group Names

Has anyone ever run across a title for an organization or periodical that makes them slightly uncomfortable, or puts them off a little bit?

I've run across not a few groups or periodicals of this kind in the last lifetime, all of which fall under the general heading of the small-c church, and their names all bug me. I can easily see interpretations of them that aren't actually insulting, but I get the feeling that in striving to emphasize what they believe to be their missions, I think that these entities might be more polarizing of their theological not-totally-in-agreement comrades than they want to be.

The List

1. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, which is a more liberal Catholic organization that focuses on justice and sometimes comes under fire for not talking enough about abortion. But are non-member Catholics not seeking the common good, or have they just not taken that crucial extra step of putting themselves in alliance with CACG.

2. Priests for Life, an organization of Catholic priests dedicated to a pro-life ethos. But are non-member priests, then, the 'Priests for Choice,' or 'Priests Indifferent to Life'?

3. Relevant magazine, which is some mixture of hip non-denominational Christianity and the emerging church, with some good pop culture satire. But are those people irrelevant who don't buy into the seeker-sensitive movement to a substantial degree?

4. The Remnant magazine, which is an orthodox Traditionalist-movement paper in Catholicism. The big question here is "the remnant of what?"

5. Focus on the Family. Is my vision of the family blurred if I disagree with, say, Dr. Dobson's views on corporal punishment?

Please feel free to chime in if you can think of other organizations that have interesting names like this. Also, if you have a decent way of interpreting the group's name charitably, please tell me.

Also, as I said, I am simply raising questions about how we name our groups. I realize that in varying degree each of these has a fairly obvious solution to how its name is to be interpreted, that doesn't do violence to charity by assuming ill-will or a grudge towards those who choose not to join the group or adhere to the ideals of the publication. But in trying to express what we do emphasize do we wind up denigrating people who aren't particularly wrong, but just don't emphasize the same thing as us. All of that said, if you have some further insight on what an organization might've been thinking in giving its name, or another organization's name that you don't see on the list, please do share! I realize I'm poking some fun at these names in even including them on such a list, and there's a point to that, which is to say that maybe we should be more careful in the implications of how we label ourselves. But please avoid needless degradation of the missions of these organizations: Every one of them has meaningful truths to emphasize to the church and the Church, and to simply shut them down is to ignore problems their emphases might point to in our own theological constructs, spiritual practices and personal lives.


Kev Johnston said...

I thought Focus on the Family was some evangelical movement. In fact, I am somewhat certain they are anti-Catholic. You know, the old "Whore of Bablyon" bit...

Kev Johnston said...

Oops. By Evangelical I meant Protestant Evangelicalism....

Dan Lower / KKairos said...

Oh, yeah, they are. But if they were virulently anti-Catholicism I doubt that St. Blogs would be praising the Superbowl Tebow ad. I'm also not intending to claim that all these groups are Catholic; Relevant magazine (if I'm extrapolating properly from my two-issue sample-reading) advocates and advertises lots of very un-Catholic things vis-a-vis the issue of religious authority. If FotF really does the whore of Babylon bit, I'm severely disappointed.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Dobson is similar to most Baptists, I would guess. He thinks the Roman Catholic Church teaches some false things about salvation but that there are some within the Roman Catholic Church who are genuinely saved and some who are not (as there are in the Southern Baptist Convention). He doesn't accept the office of the pope or of priests as legitimate, because the Bible teaches that all believers are priests. But he's happy to work with Catholics on social issues he agrees with them on, and he's had them as guests on the show lots of times, and any disagreement he expresses would be friendly disagreement and not his main emphasis.

Steven Demmler said...

I'm not sure that all titles like this should be taken in the pejorative sense. I think maybe it can raise an eyebrow, but ought not be a major point of conversation.

For example, consider the Orthodox churches (Eastern, Russian, et al).
Do I see their name and think that it in any way implies that I am unorthodox? Certainly not.

Although, I have to readily concede that there may be no universal rule here. In my old town in New York City there was a group called "The Right Way To Heaven"... no joke.

Dan Lower / KKairos said...

@Jeremy: Good to hear about Dobson; he definitely never struck me as being particularly "anti-Catholic."

@Steven: Heh, that's just awesome. And I'm mostly having fun with it; to be honest only Relevant and The Remnant really bug me at all, which is kind of funny since one struck as quasi emergent/Protestant and the other is Traditionalist Catholic. That said with respect to the Orthodox my understanding has been that they do consider you heterodox if you're not one of them, perhaps in a matter of degree. Sort of like how the RCC teaches it is the only church that is truly one, holy, catholic and apostolic. So there's definitely something to the titles in those cases, but I don't think the Orthodox churches necessarily mean to imply that non-Orthodox are straight-up heretical. Whether the Catholics do so...I could sort through the Vatican documents for years and probably not get a good answer.

Jeremy Pierce said...

I've certainly encountered Orthodox people who think everyone else is heretical. The way they were talking, you deny everything essential to the Trinity, and ultimately to the gospel, if you accept the filioque clause, an issue that I find completely irrelevant (a) to anything of any practical significance, (b) to any other doctrine that has gospel significance, and (c) to the other aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity. According to Wikipedia, it was anathematized and is considered a heresy.

Tim said...

Then there's the name "Catholic" which, meaning "universal", is quite exclusive.

Dan Lower / KKairos said...

Absolutely. Well in terms of seeing Truth in other places the Catholic Church is actually rather charitable (so much so that its more Traditional factions and some conservative Protestants often argue it is too charitable), but it is generally taught by the RCC that you must belong to the Roman communion to be fully, truly Catholic.

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