A Christian View of Human Identity

A Christian View of Human Identity

Found this very nice op on Identity.

My question as always is what are you?

I know what I am but you all seem like simply little squiggles on my screen are you even real?

Are we sure we even exist?

The quest for human identity is a quest to know one’s self and to be known by others. Our personal identity exists in a social matrix. We perceive ourselves and we perceives others perceiving ourselves. Our sense of identity is a mixture of who we think we are and who others tell us we are. We experience ourselves, then, as both subject and object.[1] All the “isms” and “ities” of the past two hundred years attest to a de-centered and disjointed pursuit to attain a theory of human existence, a taxonomy of identities one can belong to, and a set of human practices of which the aim is to explain human origins, human value, and human purpose.[2]

What is a Christian to say about the modern quest for identity, the proliferation of identities, and is there a Christian identity?

First, identity has become unmoored from its historic harbours. Consider this, once upon a time, who you were was defined almost exclusively by your parents, their vocation, their religion, their ethnicity, their nationality, and their village or suburb. Your identity was mostly inherited, geographically bound, stable, and fixed. There were certain add-ons, like marriage, children, or changes in social status, but usually these were just variations on a theme, with little prospect of massive changes in your identity. Not anymore. Thanks to the increasing ease of physical travel (cars and air travel), the varied nature of cyber spaces (with virtual communities), cultural diversification (exposure to and interaction with various cultural sub-groups), radical individuation rather than group cohesion (stronger value on autonomy than collective belonging), our society has become fluid and fragmented and, as a result, so have our identities. People in the twenty-first century have become cultural hybrids and eclectic egos, our identities are plastic and malleable, capable of being moulded into any number of forms and taken in any number of directions.[3] You can be whatever identity you wish to be. We are like blank slates upon which anything can be written or like Rorschach drawings to be interpreted in any way we wish. Meeting a Catholic Goth vegan libertarian is not as odd as it might once have sounded. Thus, identity then comes down to the right to declare (let the musical theatre aficionado understand!): I am what I am, totally inimitable and utterly original, my own special creation!

Second, this ability to be anyone creates existential crises, causes social conflict, and leads to contradiction. To begin with, we are confronted with the problem of what identity we should adopt. Do we define ourselves by our sex, sexual desire, religion, vocation, marriage relationship, hobby, ethnicity, or a particular set of experiences? There is angst as to who we can be, should be, or might miss out on being. The problem is the resulting anguish that is created by the freedom of the self to be any one of a number of possible identities with endless hybridities. We are no longer told who we are, so we are identitarian orphans, yearning to know ourselves and to be known, but as who?

Article URL : https://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2018/10/a-christian-view-of-human-identity/

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