Our Facebook Identity verses Our Identity In Christ
I log on to Facebook. Something I thought would only be for my son and daughter. But I find friends there from grade school, high school, and college. We reconnect electronically. As we “friend” each other, we scroll through photos, posts, and the info page—education and work, philosophy (religious and political views), arts and entertainment, activities and interests, and so on. We look to see who we might connect with, and we find those things that make up our friends’ identities—or at least that part of their identity that Facebook has space to include.
Christian, without any qualifiers is missing from all but a few. Some Christian friends—and I—leave off our religious views entirely.
I wonder what it is about our identity in Christ that makes us choose how we express that identity in this particular electronic media, but I also think about how we respond to others who ask us about our religion. How do we express our religious viewpoint–our faith–to those who only see our “online” presence? Or, for that matter, to those who we first meet?
Kathleen Norris, in her book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith touches on our identity as Christians. She notes that she is reluctant to speak of herself as a “Christian” because she knows how deficient she is in practice. But, she is reluctant also because “so many of the people who make the most of their ‘Christianity’ in public represent a distorted version of the faith.” She adds that so many in America regard “Christian” as synonymous with “fundamentalist,” and that the media seems “bent on perpetuating” that error.
I agree with her and grapple with this issue. It is not that I don’t find my identity in Christ. I do. But, the negative views of “Christianity” that ooze from history, and through the media and some “Christian” public figures—well, let’s face it, the negative views are, sadly, well deserved. They even stir up anger and heartache in me—like the burning of the Koran recently that resulted in violence and death in the Middle East.
And so, when I first meet someone or publicize on a medium where people might “meet” me only electronically and not ever get to know me, I want to distance myself from the public view of “Christianity.” Rather than “Christianity” allowing me to connect with others, I fear it will create an unwarranted divide.
It isn’t just the media image of Christianity either. As Norris states, “I know how deficient I am in practice.” I, too, am a blemished and broken human. I am deficient without God’s grace and mercy. I am deficient without the loving God who sent his son to the cross to bear my sins.
So, in the context of twenty-first century America, and knowing that I am broken and blemished, publicizing—headlining—that I am a Christian—seems counter-productive. It is a roadblock for the unbeliever—or people of other faiths—to relationship with Christ-followers.
I don’t know how to redeem “Christianity” for Christ except through relationship with others. If “Christianity” is suspect and associated by some with hate, divisiveness, violence, or arrogance, I can’t redeem Christianity if using that word to identify who I am creates a barrier before I even have the chance to establish rapport.
And so, as I walk through holy week—knowing that God loved the world so much that he gave his only son to die on the cross—I look to the cross for answers. The only answer that seems clear is finding my identity in Christ and inviting Christ to transform me so that I may love others fully. I know that love is the heart of Christian faith. And, that Christ suffered the cross because of God’s love for all of humanity.
In twenty-first century America, keeping a distance from the “C” word seems almost necessary. Instead of posting my identity on Facebook, I need to turn toward Christ and pursue my relationship with Him so that I may meet others with His love, as an image-bearer of God. To let God transform me so that He might use me to transform the hearts of others.
“Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” 1 John 3:18.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 12:5-8