I’ve always thought it was interesting that, when someone commits a crime, suddenly that crime defines who they are. They are labeled and then imprisoned. They are put behind bars for the crime they committed, and justice is served.
What about the rest of that person? Is there no good part to that person? Have they done nothing noble? Is there nothing we can look at and recognize and say, “Gosh, that’s really an admirable quality or great thing they did”? I’ve always felt it’s kind of a shame that that part of the person has to go to prison as well.
I think this is a metaphor for what we do with individuals who share their opinions and beliefs. A “thought leader” could have many helpful and insightful things to say, but the moment they say one thing that goes against our beliefs, we put that person in Thought-leader Prison. We lock ’em up. We throw everything out. The baby goes out with the bath water.
I think what’s even worse is that, often times people will only hear of someone else through another person’s imposed prison. In other words, by the time you hear of someone, it’s too late. Someone has already put them in prison for you. Instead of going to the source, you trust someone else’s opinion about what the person is saying. You trust their judgement rather than your own. At that point, you’ve also put yourself in prison.
An example of this would be Rob Bell. Rob is a prolific writer, speaker and teacher. He has put to eloquent words some fascinating ideas. Now, I don’t necessarily agree with 100 percent of what Rob teaches, but I have benefitted tremendously from, and have been greatly inspired by, a lot of his work.
Some people would say that Rob is a heretic and that you can’t trust him. They attack everything he has to say. Or, they just throw it all out.
To take it a step further, I think another prison is the prison of classification. Rob is not only considered a heretic because of specific things he teaches, but he is considered one because he preaches Universalism. So, not only is he a prisoner, but he’s been put in solitary confinement, or put in a special prison for the criminally insane.
We have to have these labels for everything so we don’t have to investigate what someone has to say. I can see it now; two theologians are speaking and one introduces the other to Rob Bell. Not literally, just in conversation. He says that Rob is a universalist, and immediately the other theologian dismisses everything that Rob ever has or ever will teach. Sad, but true.
In my opinion, the truth is the truth, no matter what the source. I don’t want to miss out on some helpful perspective that someone might have to share because I disagree with them on their stance on some other topic. I’m looking for truth. Are you looking for truth? Let’s forget about labels and do our own investigation. You never know who or what might be set free. You remember Nelson Mandela, right? He was once…imprisoned.