Identity Again

Posted on March 23, 2010 by David Creech

I would like to pick up where I left off in last week’s post.  I concluded with the following musings:

I do wonder how much a shift in group identity could begin to address some of our reticence to do good in the world.  What if we saw ourselves as part of the poor and marginalized group?  What if a threat to those who are vulnerable was perceived to be a threat to ourselves?  I hope to get back to this idea in another post.  For now, I’ll suggest that as the body of Christ, this may be the most natural identity for us to assume.

None of these ideas are particularly new. The ELCA’s HIV and AIDS strategy affirms that the body of Christ has AIDS (as did the World Council of Churches before us).  Stephen Bouman (director of Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission at ELCA churchwide) co- authored a brilliant book, They Are Us (please look past the grammatically frightful title), in which he explores the many ways that immigrant stories are our own.  Martin Buber’s I and Thou (written in 1923!) essentially gets at the same idea, just with different language.

From a biblical perspective, as Kris pointed out, Paul redraws kinship lines (see also the early Christian language of “family”).  (Sadly the fictive kin language is also used to divide–see Galatians.)  The “body” language Paul uses suggests that as one body, when one part suffers, the whole suffers (see esp. 1 Corinthians 12:26; perhaps also Philippians 2:4-10 applies here?).  Much could be made of how we as the body of Christ are wounded as he was (and is) by the evils in the world (I think I will have to reflect on this in a further post).

Jesus too redefined the family (see Mark 3:31-35).  Jesus also practiced table fellowship with those who were otherwise considered outsiders; that table fellowship was a clear sign of friendship.  And Jesus to the end brought the “other” into the fold (see this week’s text, Luke 23:39-43!).

The biblical text then offers considerable support the idea that we are those who are poor, vulnerable, and marginalized (and perhaps I have overlooked other key texts–please share them in the comments).  Is this enough to affirm that they indeed are we?  More posts to come!

-David Creech