On the 20th April my Facebook friend, and journeying companion wrote these words on his Back to Eden blog; “Some of the most thought provoking folks I have encountered recently are suggesting that we are already transitioning out of the Inclusion Movement into something else…Before someone brighter than I develops a label for this new movement, I suggest it can be summarized as the Cost of Inclusion.” Those words got me thinking about labels, and how we are so quick at trying to name something or categorising it. They did it with the early Christians, and they continue to do it today. This labelling is not a concept just held onto by worshippers though. When I was a teenager I spent my one pound pocket money on sweets until I discovered music. I blame my father, he loved music and he introduced me to Top of the Pops and his own record collection. He loved music, from E.L.O. to Kenny Rogers, from Mike Oldfield to The Nolan Sisters. My introduction to Top of the Pops was the same eclectic mix. I fell in love with music. My pound pocket started going on a 7″ single, the first being Ian Dury and the Blockheads ‘Hit Me with your Rhythm Stick.’ The rest is history. Before long I had a collection that included Squeeze, Boney M, the Sex Pistols, Kelly Marie, amongst others. If I liked it, I liked it. This then led me to read the music magazines/papers. Record Mirror, Sounds, N.M.E., Smash Hits. It was during this time I discovered something. Music had labels, categories, compartments; disco, punk, rock, A.O.R., country. Each label was a tribe of belonging. I slowly discovered my tribe was punk. Punk had a certain sound, a certain attitude, if you like this, you’ll love these. If you like punk you can’t like prog or country or dull hair rock, you just like punk, a bit of new wave and then move on to post-punk. This was the day music died for this teenager and punk lived. Boney M got trashed, the Grease soundtrack got sold, other categories of music were never investigated. I belonged, I knew what I was. I knew what I should and should not listen to. But punk was dead!!!! Punk died the day it got the label from the music press. Like every music revolution before it, and every music revolution since, it died a very slow and painful and almost unnoticed death. Before the label a ‘punk’ listened to Can and Kraftwerk and the Stooges and Television and Velvet Underground and the Who. It was about attitude not sound. It was about a collective of creative people, rebelling against what was, and finding each other. Creating something new. The someone labelled it ‘punk’. It got a look, a sound, a definition. What was a punk, what was not a punk was easily identified. The Clash, punk, Elvis Costello was new wave. But that was until the Clash played rockabilly and became more punk than punk. Since then we have had rap, rave, madchester, britpop, the list goes on and on and on. New movements, new rebellions, new labels, new categories. New death.
Are You High Sparrow?
In a recent episode of Game of Thrones a new religious leader arises who is known as High Sparrow. When the Queen Mother finds him she asks him ‘are you the High Sparrow?’ The religious leader laughs and replies “We are often stuck with the names our enemies give us.” This was true with the term ‘Christian’. It was true of the Quakers, the Methodists, the Pentecostals, and the list goes on and on. Every time someone steps outside the remit, often deemed a heretic or a rebel, it is not long a name is given to them from outside; the Grace Movement, the Inclusion movement etc. It is like everyone has to be part of a tribe and if they are not we will make one for them. To belong to a church tribe is deemed as being safe, accountable, a true Christian. To be outside the tribes is exposed, uncovered, at risk from falling away. We always need to be part of something. What people fail to see is that every movement as out there as it was, once labelled gains definition,centrality certain qualities, the knowledge whether you are inside or outside the new group. The day it got labelled it died as a movement away. That is what people hate about the walk without walls and boundaries, how can they label it? They would love for me to be labelled a non-Christian, a backslider, but I hold my faith stronger than ever before. I walk outside the walls but will still share and speak in the walls. I have never been part of the grace movement or the inclusion movement, but believe in grace and inclusion. In reality I see no walls. Only the walls others would try and put behind or in front of me. I have no use for labels. There is no inclusiveness or exclusion without labels. No one can be a part of it, no one can be outside of it. You want to label it that is up to you, but when you think you have this nailed down and defined the shifting goes on. Am I a mystic? Maybe. Am I a liberal? Could be. Am I a believer? Some days. But no label will stick. I remember when some recognised a prophetic gifting in my life into the Nation, there was one guy who said I could not be given that title because I did not do certain things. At the time pride was a bit miffed with his attitude, but now I am glad I did not fit the box. I never fit the box of a pastor or prophet. The label always fell off somewhere. Maybe that is why my journey has not quite died yet.
Brotherhood without banners.
Maybe a time will come where labels will not be needed. Where definition will not define us but journey will. Where the only name proclaimed will be our own. Where we can belong without a code of belonging. Misfits fitting together perfectly. Alive because we are allowed to be free in who we are. Unique in reality not just word. I am learning to live outside of others labels. I am also learning to enjoy music again. Whatever I like, I like. Johnny Cash next to The Clash, Sigur Ros next to Joy Division. The Sex Pistols next to Genesis. Defying the categories to enjoy the journey of sound. Now surely that is truly the spirit of punk…..