Whether we like it or not we are living in an age of “identity politics.” It really is identity everything. Who are you? How do you want to be known? Are you a “Conservative” or a “Progressive” in politics. Or maybe just in life?
How do you want to be known? Charles Schultz, the cartoonist, coined the phrase: You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.” Many of us would settle for that.
With over 25 years of doing reconciliation work in Arica, following the Rwanda genocide, we were gratified to be thought of as “peace-makers.” That is both wonderfully Biblical and up to the minute modern. Two of us on the Pilgrim Center for Reconciliation staff had policemen sons who felt privileged to call themselves “peace officers.”
Jesus honored the “peace-makers.” What a good name for modern Christians. I served a church whose name was proudly “Colonial.” It harked back to a period of the settlement of America and referred to our “colonizing” period. But now, to some who don’t know their history very well, that name has some negative connotations. Recollections of taking land from Indian people, sometimes by force. Despite the 50 years of the Pilgrims living peacefully with the Indian people, many today lift up later periods of warfare.
Now, in the age of George Floyd and violent street clashes and calls to “Defund the police” some insist that a church name, like “Colonial” is a dark and menacing name. They call for a changing of the name.
Well, to what? Names like “Mount Olivet” are Biblical, “Westminster” is historical. “Hennepin Avenue Methodist” is geographical and denominational.
If your identity has been with a historic period, it will be hard to find a name without a dark side.
But, our personal identities have frequently to do with what we do, what our purpose is in the world, what kind of intentions do we have, good or bad?
Some friends and I sat recently over lunch with a dear friend, a retired Episcopal minister, an Ojibwe elder. We could hardly say anything but “George is a good and gracious man.” He has a loving heart. Despite many wounds, he is always positive. He laughs and jokes. He goes straight to the heart, in all his relationships.
So what of the people called “Colonial,” who for 75 years have nurtured love and help to the world around them, and have bravely gone into the inner city to meet needs, and persistently to Africa to bring healing to the horrendous hurts of genocide?
The earliest Christians were thought of as people of “The Way.” Could Christian companies today be simply THE WAY or, “Church of the Way”? Or maybe, “The Gathering” as classically a “gathered church, by the Spirit.” Or, “Company of the Way.”
How about “The Journey People”? Or just “Jesus People Church.” They’d love your answers. You could help them see themselves as people with hearts open, intending to help, like Jesus.
Identity. Identity. Being what we mean to be, and how we want to be known.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES