Identity: Who Am I?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, June 5, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

In continuing with this theme of Identity, we now need to look at the key question that the worldview aspect of identity asks: Who am I? Last week, I talked about some of the major issues our society faces in terms of identity, and now I want to dig deeper into the heart of the issue. Who am I? Who gets to determine who I am? With that in mind, who do I get to say who anyone else is? These are questions not many people really know how to answer explicitly, but subconsciously we have all allowed others to some extent tell us who we are and who others are.

First, let’s start simple. The aspect of origins deals with where we came from and some of that include where we were born and what society we grew up in. I grew up outside Denver, Colorado. That is part of my origins. Now I live in El Paso, Texas, and I have been here for the last 16 years. However, I still identify myself as a Coloradoan. I am 5th generation, Boulder County, Colorado. That’s part of my identity. But I also consider myself as from El Paso, because all of my adult life, I’ve lived in El Paso. Every city we come from has a reputation associated with it and when we say we are from a certain city, many people immediately get a picture of what you are like based on what they know of that city. When I tell people here in El Paso that I am from Colorado, they automatically think I am very tolerant of cold temperatures. Which is true to a degree, but 16 years in El Paso has acclimated me to warmer temps. All this is part of my identity.

Identity also deals with your family name and what you grew up doing. I grew up as a missionary kid. My parents served with International Family Missions for 22 years and most of my childhood, I was not only along for the ride but also involved in the activity. This is what brought me to El Paso. My origin is that I came from a Christian home, serving in missions. But that does not make me a Christian by identity. I came from a Christian background, but I still had to make the choice to make Christianity my identity.

Our primary philosophical position is also how we identify ourselves. I identify myself as a born again, Bible-believing Christian. There are others who identify themselves as Christians but you can tell rather quickly if that is true by if they show any evidence of being born-again of if they actually believe the Bible. There are some that call themselves ex-Christians, where they once thought they believed in Christianity but now they don’t. I’m always amazed at how I have yet to meet one of these people that actually knows even the basics of what they used to believe. Other people identify themselves as atheists, an affirmative belief that God does not exist. Many will claim they ‘lack belief’ but that is not atheism, by definition. That is actually more agnosticism. But agnosticism literally means ‘to be ignorant’ or ‘to not know.’ It sure is amazing how many will claim to be agnostic but are absolutely certain we are wrong. Others claim to be Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, New Age, Christian Scientists, Mormon, Catholics, etc., the list goes on and on. One of my favorites was when PZ Meyers said “We are still fish.” in “Evolution vs God”.

That is how many people identify themselves. Now I want to make very clear that just because our worldview determines how we identify ourselves, that does not make our position right, in itself. Many people wear a false label. We call such labels ‘masks.’ Very often someone will ask us how we are doing and we will say, “Fine!” or “Great!” Yet inside, we know we are feeling anything but that. Likewise, we like to identify ourselves as one thing in front of one group of people and then when we get in front of another group of people we become someone else. The psychiatrists have a word for such behavior: schizophrenia. A little while back, Nathan Buck wrote a series of posts about a lion wearing a duck suit. That whole series is about claiming one identity while living another.

The big problem with this mindset is we are too often dependent upon what people think about us and we let them define who we are. We have this tendency of conforming to those we hang around. We are too interested in what others want us to be instead of what God wants us to be. It should not take long for people to see that many of the groups and ‘cliques’ we want to hang around only want us around if you benefit the group. As soon as you start to not benefit the group, you tend to be cast out or shunned. Yet, so many of us still seek the approval of those people that we don’t even like. The root of this lies in identity. We want someone to tell us we are worthy of recognition.

And this leads to another problem. When we look at others, do we see individuals or do we see one of a number? Agent K in Men in Black says, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky and dangerous animals and you know it.” How often do we have that mindset? When we look at others, how often do we look and see the individuals? And when we do, do we see value in that individual? Ebenezer Scrooge had this problem in A Christmas Carol. He saw the poor and destitute as surplus population and taking up wasted space. Yet it was when visiting his loyal employee, Bob Cratchit, with the Ghost of Christmas Present that he saw the individual, Tiny Tim. That was the catalyst that started waking Scrooge up to what he had been doing. Do we see individuals? Do we see their problems? The storms in their lives? Or do we just see one of the masses?

There is still more to explore about identity. Next week, we will zoom in even further and see what our identity is like on the internal level. Romans emphasizes on the issue of identity. And next week, Worldview Warriors wraps up Romans 7 with the passage where Paul famously reveals the inner struggle between living for Christ and living for sin. And if we understand the identity issue, it will help us know how to engage in that struggle. Stay tuned.

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