To answer the question in the title, I say both. Like anything real, that’s where paradox is going to exist. Does spirtuality call us to claim the “I Am” that is threaded throughout the Judeo-Christian tradition, or the “I am not” as seeded in Buddhism? Again, I think both. I gave a short sermon once to a bunch of teens, and afterwards one told me my talk was hot, and another said it was cool. They both are saying the same thing with opposite labels.
A song by Meredith Brooks says:
I’m a bitch, I’m a lover
I’m a child, I’m a mother
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I’m your hell, I’m your dream
I’m nothing in between
You know you wouldn’t want it any other way
These are questions we get a lot within Jesism too. Do we need another label? And I say yes -and no. We humans simply cannot and will not anytime soon live without labels. People may say they don’t like that politics are divided between Republicans or Democrats, but those labels are what attract people to put candidates forth. As other candidates come into the arena, they will inevitably have to choose a label if they want to survive; maybe one of those two, or maybe Green, Independent, or Libertarian, etc… Different religions around the world dedicate themselves to specific disciplines too in order to explore them very deeply and evangelize and experience their findings. And that can be very helpful to the aggregate. We don’t have to be all-in any one, and we can each choose a blend or mashup of whatever feels inspiring and beneficial. But the fact is that many times our labels and commitments help us to grow with self, community, and Ultimate Reality.
What I think is important is a non-exclusivity of labels. You and I simply “are,” and we don’t need a label for our being-ness to have value. But we are also in part Christians, Buddhists, Agnostics, Nones, Male, Female, Gay, Hetero, Trans, Married, Single, Poly, Black, White, Brown, American, Chinese, French, tennis players, figure skaters, Etc… Instead of trying to excommunicate our labels, perhaps the more effective path to grow is to pile them on deep and high, without too much attachment of them to our ultimate identity. The labels that feel most real to us are often the one’s that enable us to grow with our inner being. No label will be without it’s friction, because like anything that goes forward, it needs friction to provide thrust, that’s simple science.
We can allow our labels to act as signposts and symbols to connect with others of similar history and interests, but not necessarily to define the whole of who we are. We can cherish them in a way that helps us grow deeper within certain communities, but not become our only community.
So whatever labels we adopt or reject, I think the key is in the balance of the paradoxes, which will invariably exist. We will have our labels, but hopefully we won’t let them have us. We can celebrate our many unique differences and passions, but that doesn’t automatically exclude us from new experiences and novice attentions.
So yes I think labels are good -and bad 🙂 And as it relates to Jesism, my suggestion would be to claim it as a label if it feels like a tribe that will feel good to be around, but please don’t think you should commit to it as your only label. Be a Christian or an Agnostic as well if you want. Or mix ten or a hundred labels together and cherry pick the best from the buffet. The important thing is to go to the buffet. And maybe at times it will be best to stick to one thing, like a marriage, instead of piling twenty different selections on our plate. Other times a more diverse indulgence, or an alternative single selection may appeal.
Check out the 9 Guidelines of Jesism