Over at the Coffeeroom, someone began a discussion about the practice of labeling that goes on in the Orthodox Jewish community. The OP began with a very reasonable question:
I was always wondering... if we are supposed to have ahavas chinam, why do people constantly label different people? Labels mean different things to different people, so there really is no point, is there?
The majority opinion seems to be that labels are a bad thing. I, on the other hand, seem to be not so convinced.
I agree with the idea that labeling is bad when people use it to form rejectionist attitudes. And perhaps, in practice, it's bad because those attitudes inevitably form as a result of the labels. But what if we could somehow eliminate that? Are labels, in and of themselves, a bad thing?
I don't think so. Labels do serve for identification purposes. Since our nation's founding, people have used labels for identification -- this one's from Yehudah, this one's from Z'vulun, etc - and there is no inherent disadvantage to being from one shevet or another. Likewise, there should be no inherent disadvantage to being MO, Chabad, Chareidi, Breslov or whatever. As long as you are Shomer Torah U'Mitzvos, it shouldn't make a difference. The label simply shows that you identify with one particular hashkafah. But as long as no one is putting you down because of it, why is it bad?
Who knows? Maybe I'm totally off the mark on this. But I'd like to hear what you have to say.