I had an intriguing conversation with Amy and Nathan about labeling. It was at a neighborhood mixer. They were talking specifically about the labels we place on everyday items and how those labels can actually effect our perceptions of products, our choices of consumption, and so, whole economic patterns...
For example, what do you read on the labels of your foodstuffs? Probably just the price per quantity, right, maybe some of the health information. How does that effect what you choose to purchase? How much you are willing to pay? Etc.? What if there was no health information on any of our food labels, how would that effect purchasing decisions?
My new friends were talking specifically about environmental impact statements on everyday item labels, and how that might effect our purchasing habits. For example, if the carbon footprint of that item was placed on that label, (let's say in units of trees) how would that effect your purchase decisions? This gallon of milk costs $2.50 and .75 trees, that one costs $3.00 and .07 trees; which one would you choose to buy?
Or how about the percentage of the purchase price that would be recycled into the local economy?
...or the average wage of the person(s) who produced that item?
The basic idea is, that what we choose to put on the label effects how we see the product, and in turn effects our choices with respect to that product. In one sense, nothing has changed about the product itself by changing the label (those things were always true about the product, even though we may have been largely unaware of them), however, by making that reality public, by labeling it, we are potentially effecting change on a large scale.
My mind immediately went to how we label in the world of Church and religion.
What goes on the label for most spiritual communities?
The number of rear-ends in chairs
The size of the facility
The technological 'wow' factor
How would changing the 'label' effect how we thought about church? What if we found a way to get justice issues, or personal holiness, or cultural diversity, on the label? What if we found a way to get equipping lay-leaders into ministry, or planting new churches, or helping people discover calling, on the label? Not only would that effect the 'purchase' decisions people make (how do I decide which church to commit to), but it would probably begin to have serious effects on a system-wide level. Changing the way churches define themselves, and changing the whole system we have built that equips churches to increase attendance, buildings, and budget, as a sign of 'success.'
May it happen soon, Lord!