The fragmentation of identity is the unstable foundation of our culture, but identity made whole is only found through Christ.
This can be depicted in the kintsugi art above, such that the gold holding us together is our identity in Christ. So, take a second to answer these questions. Who are you? What is your identity? Principally, I have noticed that the “you” that manifests should be consistent with who you are and your beliefs.
For example, we hear about the scandals taking place with many church leaders, and people reasonably object saying, “Really? You say you are a Christian, yet you act like that? I don’t believe that you’re a Christian.” It is not enough to say we believe in God, but we should act as if He exists.
With that in mind, I intend to emphasize the importance of consistent identity with consistent actions and beliefs. Today, someone will identify with a name or sometimes a title followed by a name to establish an achieved accomplishment (which is an understandable response, of course.) However, this doesn’t appear to be consistent with how people display themselves.
Suppose I receive an honest answer based on a person’s sum actions of the past year or two. Unfortunately, the answer would look like a hierarchical list. For anyone who has dabbled in the political realm, the list reflecting their actions would likely have the following at the top: sex, race, ethnicity, gender identification, political propensity and seemingly any group identity that is the most victim type group possible or a group that isn't expressed as an oppressor group. Thus, we may reasonably conclude that people manifest as ideologues before identifying as individuals and children of God.
The previously mentioned identification causes us to view most things that do not fall in the set of our ideologies, and especially the ones that oppose it, to be the enemy and evil of the world with no gray areas. For instance, it is not enough to be against racism, you must be actively opposing it, marching against it and/or funding Black Lives Matter (BLM) to be anti-racism. However, what if you are against racism, but maybe are a full-time student with a job, hindering the time for marches, or have too little money to be funding BLM? Then you are not anti-racist, in my experience, you are still considered racist.
I understand this isn’t a significant problem in our small borders of Taylor, but it is occurring much of the time outside of Taylor. The foregoing mentality forces people to become extended arms of specific beliefs with no place for inactivity on political issues. Essentially, morality is being rewritten by ideological, societal and political lenses, and further coated under the guise of compassion. If our morality is being rewritten, then surely we have reconstructed the god that gives us our morality so that our god may conform to our liking.
Let’s talk about hate, but before I do this, allow me to be clear on something: feeling offended by somebody or something does not equal hate. Axiomatically, life is that of suffering; we will not always be comfortable. We have no right to not be offended, but we do have the responsibility to deal with it maturely and productively. Resentment, envy and bitterness are consistent results with disagreements in our current culture, but we are too prideful to do anything productive about it, leading to the complexity of anger.
Suppose there is a violation of an expectation. It produces anxiety, increasing your heart rate and cortisol, and, therefore, therefore, devolving into anger, which unconsciously rewards us with comfort and consolation because we feel like the victim in the morally right place as the innocent person. On the other hand, the person we may be angry with will likely unconsciously be described by us as the perpetrator and the Being in the morally wrong. This instinct can be perverse such that we like to be angry since it relieves us of potential guilt or responsibility for our actions.
We shouldn’t neglect the elegance of personal responsibility for our lives. Our culture has the proclivity to blame any mistakes as troubles from a group instead of themselves. To form an analogy, I may say I am poor because some group doesn’t want me to get rich due to some attribute about me. However, it is more likely because I have not been responsible with money. The same goes for life. We need to acknowledge our mistakes and grow from them instead of blaming them on something else.
Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, spoke on finding meaning in responsibility and treating yourself as someone for which you are responsible. He adds the importance of treating yourself as a spark of God’s divinity such that you’re responsible for yourself as a child of God. You are further responsible to treat others as if they are a spark of God’s divinity.
Retrospectively, we have seen the dangers of taking group identity as paramount to our individual identity in Christ. Often in history, this inclination has led to death. Approximately 6 million Jews under the right authoritarianism of Adolf Hitler were killed. On the other hand, left-wing authoritarianism caused the death of at least 45 million in the Great Leap Forward under Mao Zedong and the death of 600,000 kulaks, which caused the death of 14 million in Russia and Ukraine. Something consistent between these diametric ends of the political spectrum is predominant group identity. Right-wing was the group identity of the straight, white Germans over all others. Left-wing was the group identity of the oppressed victim or poor. Both found resentment, bitterness or envy turned into hate for those who did not fall under their group identity.
We are here at a university to be immersed in a representation of real-world society which is filled with different groups. We should learn to navigate this landscape such that we do not succumb to the same failures in history. Continuously, I see people take disagreement on group issues as personal attacks on their Being, and this is a significant proponent of our polarization. My hope is to bring healthy conversation where we may disagree on many things, yet remain mutually respectful to each other, and more importantly, love each other as children of God.
When discussing the issue of identity with Elyse Culver, mathematics professor here at Taylor University, she expressed her concern that we are not striving to love other people around us in the same way that God loves us. What then differentiates us as “Christ followers'' from the people of the world if we don’t love each other as children of Christ regardless of the group that they identify with. Furthermore, in a conversation with Jeff Groeling, Professor of Communication & the Dean of Online Learning, I brought up the dangers of comparing oneself to someone else, and that we should compare ourselves to who we were yesterday. Jeff Groeling brought in a more important question to ask oneself, and that question is as follows: How will we be more like Christ tomorrow than we were today? Thus I ask, what is your identity? What do you want your identity to be? How will you be more like Christ tomorrow than today?