‘Identity that sends us toward the other with love’

The truth is we are very, very different. Our biggest problem, though, isn’t our differences. Our biggest problem is that we build identity — whatever our religion — we build identity by enforcing hostility toward the other. In other words, I learn who I am by learning who I’m against. I learn who I am by learning who’s against me.

And so when your identity is oppositional — when identity is based in your fear of the other, then it doesn’t matter whether you put a label of Christian, Muslim, Buddhist on that, you have an inherently hostile identity.

My question is, can we find a way of holding Christian identity that sends us toward the other with love and hospitality rather than with fear and hostility?

 

  • Guest

    Thank you for providing what I assume is a transcript, for those of us unable to watch video.

  • http://lawschoolissoover.wordpress.com/ Andy M-S

    I would accept a model of fear and hospitality as well; for hospitality eventually undermines fear.  Durkheim taught us how groups define themselves in terms of the other; in the 1950s and 1960s, sociologists learned how interaction breaks down fear.  We can be as frightened of the other as we want; but we still must welcome the other with open arms.

  • Enoch Root

    Quote: “My question is, can we find a way of holding Christian identity that sends us toward the other with love and hospitality rather than with fear and hostility?”

    No, you can’t. You can’t transcend fear and hostility while holding on to your own identity. You have fear because your identity is threatened, and you have hostility because ‘the other’ is the one threatening it.

    All identities work this way. Hospitality is always in contrast to identity. If it’s not in contrast to identity, then it’s something else by definition, such as friendliness or care or empathy or love or intimacy.

    If you are moving ‘toward the other,’ then the other is still the other, and the problem is entirely in your mind, not in the method of ‘moving toward.’

    Cease being a Christian in order to be Christ-like. If you can’t manage that, then please at least be hospitable.

  • Fusina

    “No, you can’t. You can’t transcend fear and hostility while holding on
    to your own identity. You have fear because your identity is threatened,
    and you have hostility because ‘the other’ is the one threatening it.”

    I disagree. Because I am myself, and cannot be other than that. But what I can do is not fear the other, but rather attempt to understand them. Not to change them, but to know.

    On the other hand, for many years I was an outcast, from my family, from the neighborhood, from the church my family attended, from school–I was physically abused by my Mom, and so shut down entirely. Familiarity for me is not a pleasant place, I prefer the new and different (and possibly friendlier) other. Which does not make me less me.

    This probably does not make sense–on the other hand, it does explain why different is more attractive to me than the same old same old. Hey, I learned something about how I am wired. Cool!

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    All identities work this way.

    No they do not. 

    I identify pretty strongly as Swedish-American. I grew up surrounded by Swedes and Swedish-Americans, Swedish traditions, Swedish language. I don’t fear Norwegians, or any other type of ethnicity.

    I identify extremely strongly as a woman, and a ciswoman at that. Not because I “fear” anything else, but because that is what I am. That is my identity. 

    I identify as an American. I am an American, I care about this country more than other countries. But I don’t fear people because they are from other countries. The people I fear most are American, in fact.

    It is simply factually incorrect that identity always stems from fear. Fearful people find fearful reasons to do just about anything they do. That they exist does not mean they represent the human race. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    For a model of hospitality, look up “Pagan Place” by Laura Love.

  • LL

    How am I supposed to know how awesome I am if I don’t compare myself to everybody else and conclude that they’re inferior? 

  • aunursa

    Cease being a Christian in order to be Christ-like.

    That doesn’t make sense.  A Christian, by definition, is a follower of Christ.  Presumably the most faithful Christians would be the most Christ-like.

    That’s like saying “Cease being a Jew in order to be Jewish.”   “Cease being a Muslim in order to be like Muhammad.”

  • MaryKaye

    “Stop being a Christian in order to be more Christ-like” makes sense to me as an attack on the religion one is currently practicing–it’s an oblique accusation “Your form of Christianity has departed from following Christ.”  But such an accusation makes sense only if the accuser knows something about the accusee’s style of Christianity–if it’s a blanket condemnation of *all* followers of Christ as having missed the point, that’s awfully arrogant.

    Alternatively, it could also be seen as “Do not pursue a self-definition as Christian (or anything else)–just do good.”  Which sounds nice but I think it’s going to be very hard to accomplish–as hard as Buddhist enlightenment, to which it sounds vaguely similar.  Humans are innately self-classifying and self-defining.  Shutting that down would be tough going.  Is there really any benefit that wouldn’t be gained from, instead, “Define yourself as you please, but what is hateful to you do not do to others”?

    I belong to a radically eclectic strain of Wicca which has great trouble defining itself in opposition to other religions, because it borrows anything that’s not nailed down (and pries things up when they are nailed down, as I can’t help thinking whenever I hear archangels invoked to anchor the four quarters).  The only thing distinguishing us is a general tendency of practice, and an acceptance that eclecticism is valid.  It, um, doesn’t actually prevent witch-wars, but they do tend to be more about in-group politics, or at least more obviously about in-group politics, and less about theology.

  • redsixwing

    Citation needed, on hospitality always being in contrast to identity.

    Also, I know people who will ; – as a statement of identity- that they are hospitable; that ‘hospitality to others’ is part of who they are at a core level.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I was wondering who would make this mistake. 

    Identities are defined by contrasts. “I am this” is framed in the context of “this/not this”.  Even among those with whom we strongly identify with, it is the points of contrast that define ourselves as different from them. 

    That’s not a negotiable point. In order for there to be a “this”, there must be a “not this”. In order to identify with Swedish traditions, there must be other traditions which are not Swedish. In order to be a cis-woman, there must be two other groups: persons who are not women, and persons who are not cis-women. 

    Yes, there’s an “other” element there, but not an Other. The tension between “this/not this” isn’t a fear/hostility dynamic, and that’s the point of the post. Red/green/blue are distinctions of colors, without fear or hostility. 

    There will always be “others” that are not like you in all ways. But that does not make them an Other to be hated or feared. 

  • Victor

    Fred! After looking at the film, I had written some pretty deep material but believe “IT” or not “IT” just disappeared and although sinner vic could paraphrase “IT” again for me if “I” let him butt sinner vic has been fine tuning my life for too long NOW so I’ll just say that “GOD” (Good Old Dad) knows everything and loves everything that he, I mean HE created. We could say that HE’s kind of like an over sized spiritual fictional reality being and forget about trying to figure HIM out butt HE’ll gladly let U>S (usual sinners) try.

    (((There will always be “others” that are not like you in all ways. But that does not make them an Other to be hated or feared. )))

    (((“Define yourself as you please, but what is hateful to you do not do to others”?)))

    I hear ya! Victor, sinner vic owns 92% of your spiritual reality cells and your Jesus only owns about 7% of your cells butt who’s really in-charge?

    Go Figure! My soul who owns the other “ONE” per cent!? :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YrTidoW2Erc

    Peace

  • Terilianne

    I read this post this evening and it felt like there was a higher power at work.  Because this afternoon when my son got home from school and showed me the rough draft of the essay he wrote for his senior English class about “This I believe” program.  He chose to write about my Father and his question “What good are you going to do today?”He talked about how my Father’s strong faith influenced his daily life, and although his faith was not as strong, formed or devout he strives to be more “Christ-like.”  I wish I could copy the whole paper because his way with words is much better than mine, but his point was his sense of “good” was the daily application of empathy.  “That by living your life with an open mind could be the greatest good.” As an example he stated, “your good could be by learning more about those you don’t understand”  he ended by saying “I believe that this little good will end up changing the world in a greater scope.”    

    So it felt like some higher purpose was being reinforced for me.  Maybe if we could really spread that, open mind, accepting hearts, application of empathy we could change the world.

  • Mary

    The thing that disturbs me about the way that Christianity is practiced today is that it seems to be fear-based rather than love-based (I am making a generalization on this.) The bible encourages the dicotomy of “us=good/not us=evil.”  Again not all Christians are like that, but many are. Revelations as interpreted by most people describes a bloody battle against non-Christians. Many Christians say that they are tolerant but of course they won’t admit to their underlying belief that “God will get them in the end.”

    Many “good” Christians have an ulterier motive for supporting the Jews in Palestine. Supposedly the bible foretells that the Jews will eventually gain back their ancestral homeland. Following this comes Armageddon. So essentially many Christians see this as a sign of the end-times. However when God gathers the faithful to battle against the “godless” no mercy will be shown to anyone who is not Christian, including the Jews.

    I know I sound very cynical but there is definately a dark side to Christianity. My hope is that humanity can rise above our petty differences. But many Christians are frightened by the idea of world peace because the “Antichrist” is supposed to be the one who brings that about and so any attempt at reconcileation is viewed with suspicion. With this world-view then how on earth can we expect peace in the middle-east or anywhere else?

    Follow Christ, but don’t follow the church. 

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

     Follow Christ, but don’t follow the church.

    Well, not a church that is suspicious of peace and obsessed with the Apocalypse, but I think there are fewer of those than you seem to believe.

  • Mary

    Maybe so, but it seems like the extremists are the most vocal and the most disturbing. However I am suspicious of anyone who claims that the bible is inerrant because that is a red light for me. It means that they can use that argument to justify oppressing others because unfortunately, parts of  the bible are ethnocentric and condones violence against unbelievers. This in no way means that all Christians believe this, or that the bible as a whole is bad.

    However I will say that even peaceful Christians can be swayed to become angry and violent if someone uses their faith as a battle cry.  Or they may not be violent but still see others who believe differently as a threat and therefore deny them their rights.  These people will defend themselves by claiming free speech and may deny that they are motivated by hate. And maybe they really don’t hate. Instead they fear and fear can turn very quickly into hate.

    It is “groupthink” that has spawned religious violence all over the world (not just by Christians). Psychological studies have shown that people make riskier decisions as a group. And the famous “Milgrim experiment” showed that people can put their own values of non-violence aside if an authority figure tells them to. These vounteers were told to send painful electric shocks to others and to not let up even when people begged them to. Of course the shocks were fake but the participants were not told that. Seventy percent of these people actually followed the directions of someone they never even knew! Imagine how more powerful a call to violence would be if people are convinced that it is what God wants.

    I am not dumping on people’s faith but I feel that many people really don’t think much at all about what they actually believe verses what the church tells them to believe.

  • Enoch Root

    Quote: “Yes, there’s an “other” element there, but not an Other. The tension between “this/not this” isn’t a fear/hostility dynamic, and that’s the point of the post. Red/green/blue are distinctions of colors, without fear or hostility.

    “There will always be “others” that are not like you in all ways. But that does not make them an Other to be hated or feared. ”

    Red, green, and blue are colors. In one context, they are simple categorization of energy wavelength. Or they could mean Communist, Environmentalist, or Democrat. Context is everything, and for an unknown other to not become The Big Bad Other, there must be a cultural context of acceptance.

    That cultural context does not exist, by and large, in any culture I know of. This is generally speaking, of course; you can encounter subcultures that are open and accepting, but they are the oases in the vast desert of distrust. This is the fellowship you should seek, because it’s the only place you’ll find other people struggling to be accepting of people like you and me. :-)

    Another Quote: “Alternatively, it could also be seen as “Do not pursue a self-definition as Christian (or anything else)–just do good.”  Which sounds nice but I think it’s going to be very hard to accomplish–as hard as Buddhist enlightenment, to which it sounds vaguely similar.”

    Yah, that’s closer to my meaning, but I’m not even asking anyone to do good. I’m addressing the concept of identity and the esoteric journey. Identity is chitinous and you have to shed it every now and then to remain healthy, and to maintain healthy relationships with others of other identities.

    And of course it’s hard. Why would it be easy? :-) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_Good_Samaritan#Narrative

  • Victor

    Fred believe “IT” or not! “I” had written a little something concerning NRA: Stick to the script because like the old days, you really made me laugh. “I” really liked “IT” and as a matter of spiritual reality fictional fact, every “ONE” of my 100% cells puppet directors liked “IT” also but  when I was finished “IT” all again just disappear. Long story short, “I” guess GOD (Good Old Dad) and/or his angels didn’t want to high jack that post of yours! :)

    Instead I’ll just write a little something here but “I” must make “IT” quickly cause my wife just said that I’ve only got less than twelve minute before church. So here goes nothing!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJ9oLwi2Q7c

    “There will always be “others” that are not like you in all ways. But that does not make them an Other to be hated or feared. ”

     

    Another Quote: “Alternatively, it could also be seen as “Do not pursue a self-definition as Christian (or anything else)–just do good.” Which sounds nice but I think it’s going to be very hard to accomplish–as hard as Buddhist enlightenment, to which it sounds vaguely similar.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEwp_Vobfx8

    I hear ya sinner vic, we must all learn to stick to get her or else we’ll lose our mind!

    Eve you say sinner vic? What a pitty! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMSWAUAKJn0http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faron_Young GOD bless his soul

    Got to go NOW!

    Peace

  • Mary

    There is only one religion, the religion of
    love.
    There is only one language, the
    language of the heart.
    There is only one
    race, the human race – Sai Baba

  • Victor

    Mary! That’s a beautiful name! Anyway! How could any body, I mean anybody argue with those words of Sai Baba. I’ve never ever heard of that person but if that’s what he/s believed  at any moment that was truly “IT” then who “AM I” to call any human a liar? 

    Personally! I like to keep “IT” simple and believe what I’ve been thought until “I” can prove otherwise after death. In other words, I believe that GOD (Good Old Dad) created himself as Adam to admire some of what HE had created but HE knew that HE, I mean Adam had no problem naming some of his creations and for a GOD moment Adam was kind of lost cause no matter how deep Adam looked into the animal’s eyes before naming them, Adam could not find himself so Adam, I mean GOD put himself to sleep so that HE could talk, I mean dream with His Angels as to what HE should do next and…….

    STOP “IT” RIGHT NOW Victor cause you know that’s not the way “IT” occured! Our 92% spiritual reality cells that we NOW share with you spoke to Adam and told him that he could mate with any of the animals in paradise and he simply told U>S (usual sinners), I mean gods,  that he would sleep on “IT” butt when Adam woke UP, “IT” was too late cause the alien gods had already mated with all of the animals and are
    NOW evolving in outer limits as we speak and will someday come back to take over
    the world which they truly own and then……..

    STOP BEING SO SILLY sinner vic cause you know that is only partly true. You should
    let humans know that these aliens are nothing more than lost sins who won’t accept who they truly are which is creatures of created sinners and between you and me some of them have evolved to become even  Unglier than human sin but we won’t get into that until Halloween! So enough of that sillyness  sinner vic! :)

    I hear ya folks! Victor, are you sure that you didn’t skit your meds today! :(

    Sorry!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtQOY-0sViQ&feature=fvwrel

    Peace

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ASKRR5U2P4KWCCB4NZOVG2EAW4 Margarita Ville

    WOW! Fusina.  I can really identify with your post!  You have clarified for me why different has always been so attractive to me, as well as understanding and knowing others!  Thanks!  And yes – way cool!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ASKRR5U2P4KWCCB4NZOVG2EAW4 Margarita Ville

    Lliira – if you look up the definition of identity – -  it is the thing that one uses to separate themselves from others, to compare one to another, which CAN turn into negativity and hostility.  It is a state of remaining the same…perhaps rigidly holding onto an image of oneself.  If you look at the purity of the word as it is defined then perhaps it will make more sense.  I would suggest that if you are not in fear then you are not in identity, or at the very least your identity is not your primary sense of being.   

    Although I am an American, a woman and caucasion, much more than that I am human and that is my true identity.

  • Arriba Woods

     Yes, Wicca does indeed borrow from everything that isn’t nailed down and then pries up the boards.  But what is wrong with that?  Yes, I too am Wiccan though I could only be a solitary practitioner here in Dogpatch MO as since if I said that out loud to anybody here I’d likely be burned at the stake.  Just putting a bumper sticker on your vehicle here that supports a Democrat would get your vehicle vandalized.  Just mentioning that you’re a Democrat will get you the old “fishy eyeball”.  ;-}  


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