I was listening to Terry Gross interview comedian, producer and writer, Louis CK on NPR sometime in the week before I embarked on this little bike journey. He was talking about what is appropriate and not appropriate for a comedian to say when it comes to ethnicities. He had honed in for a bit on the whole “black” thing saying he prefers to call a person black if they look black. His point was that he could try to be politically correct and call a person he sees as black an “African American”, but it would be his luck that the person would be offended because she happens to be French. He ended this description by saying “the whole identification thing is sort of a mess right now.” Then later Paul Krugman was on and he said, “I could care less about whether a person calls himself a liberal as long as they are believe in universal healthcare and Social Security.”
This is an important blog for me and it may not be easy for everyone to hear. In fact, once I can figure out the “category thing” on blogging there will almost certainly be one on Christian identity or the “church thing” or something of that nature. I have struggled for years with what to call myself when it comes to my spiritual identity. On Facebook it asks for your religious identification and after many months of working it through I decided the most accurate description of my spiritual identity is as an “agnostic Christian mystic”.
Christian in the sense that the Biblical narrative and the Jesus story are written into my DNA. I could no more abandon this reality than I could change my blood type. I call myself agnostic in the sense that I believe all of life is a leap of faith. Is my perceived reality the true reality of the world? I don’t know, but I am comfortable not knowing and full-heartedly committing my hours and days to the Christian life as if they were the building blocks of heavenly bliss. Finally, I think of myself as a mystic in the sense that I am more interested in encountering God and experiencing the sacred than I am in a belief about God. I want to know, touch, feel, taste, and breathe in the essence of God(dess). Having right belief does not move me.
HAVING SAID THAT…I am still uncomfortable with my self-identification. I don’t go around telling people that I am a Christian. I certainly don’t share that I could best be described as an “agnostic Christian mystic” unless I am looking for that “deer in the headlights” look back. In fact, I am a little uncomfortable calling myself a Christian at all. It is not because I feel like I am wavering on whether this is the life for me or not. It is not because I approach all of life with a certain lukewarm ambition (I think you are beginning to get that!). It about the whole “identification thing” as Louis CK and Paul Krugman point out. Issues of identification are just messy right now. Look at how complicated it is getting to fill out the census form. In fact, I hate marking “Caucasian” because I feel like it’s the catch-all for anything that doesn’t fit in the rest of the categories. I want to feel more special than that!
Here is what feels true for me. I hesitate when asked to name my religious or spiritual identity. The only reason I even came up with the “agnostic Christian mystic” thing was because I was asked to name my religious identity in the same way I was asked to say whether I am male or female (which, by the way, I feel a little more certain about most days). But, if I had been asked what values I am committed to I would be able to answer with all confidence and not an ounce of hedging or waffling. I am less sure about what it means to call myself a Christian than I am about what it means to say that I am committed to a life of compassion. I want in every way I can to mirror grace, forgiveness, acceptance, and honesty in my relationships. When making decisions I want to base them on values of justice, peace, and goodness. I have no shame in sharing my value commitments.
Louis CK says the whole identification thing is messy right now. I agree. I do know that Christ led me to compassion. But calling myself a Christian just doesn’t feel quite complete. And the “agnostic Christian mystic” thing feels accurate, but has no heart to it. Is the “identity thing” losing its power? Are we moving more toward the values that we commit to rather than the religions with which we associate ourselves?
More to follow, I am sure.