Identity Theft? How About Identity Loss

Identity theft is real and causes a tom of damage to people's lives that can take years to straighten out. As such, and rightly so, identity theft gets a lot of press coverage. And as common as identity theft may be identity loss may be just as common. 

Identity loss is that thing that happens when we identify as someone but then, due to many and varied reasons, we no longer do/can. This happens to us throughout our lives, like when we move from one job to another and you now identify as "the boss". It also happens at all ages, like when a child moves through grade school and no longer identifies as the "big kids". It can happen very suddenly, like when a child is born and you no longer identify as single. It can also happen gradually, like when you realize that you no longer are the one everyone seeks advise from.

When one is a victim of identity theft, there are a number of people who can help you recover lost money or property. A credit card company can cancel the transaction, the bank can track the check, the website will issue new passwords, government can track down thieves, insurance can cover the loss, etc. 

When we experience identity loss, often times we are on our own. We just have to feel our way into a new identity, like when a child dies and we no longer identify as the "parent of ...". We have to just "suck it up" that things are different now when we are fired and we are not "employee". We have to quickly "get over it" when our team moves and we no longer identify as a "Brooklyn Dodger fan". There can be social stigma around the middle aged man who dates younger women or the middle aged woman who dresses like a twenty year old might neither who are able to let go of an identity. We do not know what to do when we are no longer identified as a "leader". We do not know what to do when after an accident and we are no longer able to identify as a "soccer player".  

I believe this is in part why the Church is needed in the world. Church has rituals that help when we suffer from some forms of identity loss. This is why weddings, funerals, baptisms, singing, corporate worship and other rituals and practices of the Church matter. We use ritual to grieve the identity loss so that we can explore and embrace a new identity. 

Additionally, the Church is the place that says that you have an identity that cannot be stolen and you cannot lose - you are forever identified as a beautiful, beloved child of God.


What a Conversation Between Kermit & Fozzie Shows About Self Identity

In 1979, The Muppet Movie was being filmed. It is the only film that I know of with a product placement of both a Studebaker and pistachio ice cream.

The genius of Jim Henson Productions cannot be contained in one post, but the first two minutes of this video between Kermit and Fozzie is another example of their brilliance.

This is recording of a sound and camera check for the film and so the dialogue is improvised. Rather than going through the standard "check" or "Sibilance" there is an existential conversation about self identification.

Fozzie takes the position that he is able to self identify as a bear. Kermit plainly points out that in fact Fozzie is not a bear. He is made of foam rubber and fake fur. He does not hibernate. He is not a real life bear. Now you and I know this, but this comes as a huge shock to Fozzie who then, in a turn of tit-for-tat, informs Kermit that he has a wire attached to his arm. 

As silly as this conversation is, it is an example of how Christians think of ourselves. 

Christians in America tend to think of Christianity as an identity that we can claim all on our own. We are like Fozzie who thinks he is a bear because he says he is a bear. I am a Christian because I say that I am Christian. We live in a place where self-identification as Christian goes unchallenged. There are few Kermit-type people saying, "You cannot say you are a Christian and condemn people like you do." Or "You cannot say you are Christian and do not practice the spiritual disciplines that Jesus taught." 

Christianity is a religion that is practiced by the individual but confirmed by a community. It is like saying you can study medicine all you want but unless people agree to be treated by you, you are not a doctor. We are not Christians unless the community (and as a Methodist I affirm the community to be Bible, tradition, reason and collective experience ) confirms that your actions reflect what the community understands a Christian to be. 

We all know this in the extreme. When someone says they are Christian then murders and steals and lies and cheats, the community agrees that the person in question is not Christian - no matter how they self identify. It is the actions of the person that defines who they are, not their words.

This idea requires more space and time to unpack everything, but this is not a thesis paper. This is a blog post designed to kickstart a conversation. 

So let the conversation begin!