Type casting. Actors avoid it like the plague. They will tell you it can spell doom for their career–or at least narrow and caricature it so that the full range of their talent is unseen. In that moment, actors cease to be people and become roles.
The same thing happens in society and church. When partisanship goes on unchecked it inevitably leads to type casting. People become labels: Fundamentalist, Conservative, Evangelical, Traditionalist, Reconciler, Pietist, Progressive, Liberal—and that’s just the first layer! Within each basic label there are additional layers and subtle nuances.
Type casting is our attempt to say, “I know who you are” when the fact is, we don’t. And the reason we don’t is simple: everyone is a keyboard not a key. Every person is a guitar not a string. Ever person is a divine mix of attributes, affirmations, aspirations, and abilities. Every person is fearfully and wonderfully made–just a little lower than the angels.
The only way to know this is to know them, and that means being close to them, not far away–talking with them, not just about them. Conversing in each others’ presence does an amazing thing: it transforms a label into a human being. And when a relationship becomes person-to-person, rather than label-to-label, it moves from assumptions to actualities.
A label with a face is threatening to egotism and partisanship, because once a position is a person, he/she could become a friend. Whoa! If that happens, who knows what God might do next.