I hadn’t thought about it before the question was asked ‘Which Charlie Brown character are you?’. At the moment there is interest in Charles M Schulz and ‘Peanuts’ with a new film and book to mark 65 years since ‘Peanuts’ began. But I hadn’t thought about the question of which character I might be. Haven’t got a clue. That is, of course, until I went to the internet and found many ‘oracles’ ready to tell me!
Apparently, I’m Snoopy. But then I was curious – there were other links to see. So I checked out my percentage chance of getting to heaven. (100% with lots of ‘deposits in the karma bank’.) Of the James Bonds around, I’m Daniel Craig. Of the giant movie monsters, I’m the … Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I ‘failed’ a test – which evil movie character am I – well, apparently I’m not evil enough to qualify! (I felt cheated!) And lastly I ventured into the Star Wars Universe … apparently, I’m R2D2!
Who tells you who you are? On what basis do they say what they say?
I think we can all sense a critical moment is happening if someone’s identity is challenged. I re-cently heard of a person brought up by an abusive father who was told just before the father died that in fact he wasn’t the man’s son after all! Conversely we’re familiar with accounts of people who have grown up in loving and stable families with adopted parents – no secrets – but who still at some point want to find out about their birth parents. People change their names. How is that a change of identity? Or perhaps I should ask ‘For whom is it a change of identity?’. It gets even more complicated if our identities are tied to what we do whether that be our work, our play, or our behaviour in our relationships. So the abusive surgeon or the truthful thief challenge us in describ-ing them but does it affect their identity? My quiz identities were based on my ‘performance’ – ac-cording to me – it might be interesting to see what other people said about me – would my identity change? Possibly. But is that who I am?
I regard identity as a gift over which, I, initially had no control. I didn’t choose my parents! Similarly my identity as a husband came about because someone else said ‘you are my husband’ and I believed her. I became a father through the gift of children. My behaviour may affect how I live my identity and in this finite world my identity will end – and be consigned to history or forgotten. I am my name – more or less – though the name of the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland is Jerzy Samiec! Death can attack my identity in a very deep way and so we have words such as widow, widower, and orphan.
Christianity claims that the followers of Jesus have a new identity given to them by God. Drawing on such verses as Isaiah 43:1 ‘But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine”.’ which has the emphasis in the Hebrew of saying ‘I have called you by your name’ and fo-cusing on baptism people are given the gift of life with God through the person who has defeated death. Mission and ministry is either leading people to baptism or returning people to baptism for that is the link, the intersection, the critical time when God steps into our lives and says ‘you are mine’. He tells us who we are. That’s one new identity! The rest of life is about living this new iden-tity – and not as a secret identity – but as the people we are, where we are. — GS