Saturday, October 14, 2006

Identity and Conversion


I was thinking of the first reading from today's Mass as it regards identity. Paul states;

'There is neither Jew nor Greek,
slave nor freeman,
there is not male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3

I thought of my friend who is struggling with the issue of identity. As well as others who may have been abused or degraded at some point in their life, who struggle with low self-esteem and a shattered self-image. Even women not unlike the Samaritan woman who perhaps have been married several times in some unconscious effort to find validation in the love of a man. Or the promiscuous whose identity is and emotional life is affirmed and assuaged by meaningless sexual encounters.

From what I understand, recently in this Archdiocese there had been a 'coming out' prayer service for so-called gay people at one of the Catholic churches in town. That is just unfortunate. Again, I think it is based in an identity problem. (If it had been a healing service, that would be all together appropriate, yet a prayer service, a coming out service, is a rebellious act.) Gay culture wants people to come out as a political act - it is not so much a liberation of self. Certainly there is a camaraderie and a modicum of acceptance amongst peers, but it is in the end a political act. The more self-proclaimed gays coming out, the more clout for the gay agenda - whose battle cry is that the gay life-style is normative. Hence, not only their demand for recognition and acceptance, but validation by Church and society.

The person who experiences same-sex attraction should understand this as an aspect of personality, not as their core identity. Their identity is as Genesis states, "Male, female, God created them." Each person's identity is that of being a human being created and loved by God, and now, as a baptized Christian, his true identity is in Christ, that he has become a co-heir with Christ. That is the starting point in conversion, the beginning of self-knowledge and discovery of identity. At least, that is what I always think of when I hear St. Paul's letter to the Galatians. Let me change some of Paul's words;

"There is neither black nor white,
addicted nor free person,
there is not male or female,
gay or lesbian,
therian or animal person;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
You are a new creation."

We have been created in the image and likeness of God - Christ came to restore that image. He has subjected all creation to Himself, and therefore to us. To mistake our true identity for something else is a form of idolatry on some level. We are placing the creature above God as it were. Christ, the Church calls men to conversion, to turn from what is false, to turn from their idols, and to be converted. There is indeed a wave of diabolical illusion sweeping the world, distorting the truth, while ensnaring many souls.

Elsewhere, Paul speaks about those of us who engaged in all sorts of sin and he tells us emphatically "you must put all that aside now." (Colossians 3) I do believe, however, there is good reason in the "school of self-knowledge" to accept the distorted image of one's self in an effort to understand and deal with it - not to fear it, since oftentimes the adoption of the identity was a result of fear, thereby becoming a coping mechanism in one's life. To accept one's 'therianism' (therian - derived from theriomorphic- is a person who believes his core identity is that of an animal, or an animal's spirit I believe. It seems to be associated with African or Native America animism.) or to accept one's homosexuality, is a first step in understanding the self. After all, same-sex attraction can be a rather neutral thing, if not acted upon. While the idea that one is a bear remains neutral, unless one begins to live like a bear. (Acceptance does not mean acting from it.)

The key would be in understanding what these experiences mean for the individual. What need is being satisfied, what does it do for the person? When did you first encounter it? Get to the bottom of the issue; where did it originate? Gradually one will unlock the secret and lessen it's power. It requires faith, courage, and perseverance. To understand the why and wherefore, is to begin the process of healing and conversion. Prayer, the sacraments, a good confessor is a necessary component in the process - because everything is a grace.

"Do not surrender your confidence; it will have great reward. You need patience to do God's will and receive what He has promised." Hebrews 10: 35-36

(Just some thoughts for "you" and you know who you are. :)

4 comments:

  1. Very interesting post indeed. I've actually come across the concept of therianthropy before. A clarification: some believe it is spirit within some don't. No one knows exactly what causes this condition. Some believe it is the adoption of an archetype or some hardwiring in the mind that makes them that way. There are, afterall, many neurological conditions that have no explanation. This may be just one of them. A good question that comes to mind for me is..is this something that God allows for a reason? Is there some purpose not yet revealed? And like you said, how should one deal with this in their life since it is an identity and not a game or behavior they can simply take off or quit doing? Provided one isn't out causing harm and sinning and using it as an excuse..does it matter? I like what you said about being male and female. That is the base of who we are as human persons. The issue of identity comes in when that base is marred or destroyed by others. Again..good post and thank you for talking about this often not talked about issue of identity.

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  2. Boy, I'm glad I have an unadbridged dictionary 10 feet from me, and access to the internet. Reading this blog constantly has me scurrying for help.

    With respect to the prayer service you mention. I don't know that it is an offial "coming out" ceremony as the "official" coming out day was on October 10 and the service is scheduled for the 17th.

    But of course, some who attend will consider it what they will.

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  3. A man I once worked with used to get dressed up as a woman because it wss fun for him, although he was not a transvestite. I asked him about it once, he is identifies himself as gay of course. Aside from that, he assumed an interior identity as a powerful and beautiful super-model.

    Since childhood he admired strong, beautiful women. (He loved "Charlie's Angels" and Jacqueline Smith.) It became a hidden strength for him, odd though it may sound. It was like an ultra-ego. I was always entertained and facinated to watch him at a social event at the company, after a few drinks, he would walk like a runway model and pretend to throw his hair back - he had close cropped hair. He was tall, handsome, and appeared manly, although effiminate, he was very talented and well liked.

    In speaking with him, I came to understand he grew up the youngest in a family of girls with one distant older brother. He identified with the girls, although I also understand that he was sexualized at a very early age by males.

    He is a successful business man today, although very lonely - he has never been in a reltionship. He continues to identify as gay, and believes he was born that way, when in fact, I believe there were factors that conditioned him to adopt this identity.

    Because a person's experience convinces them that something is real, it isn't necessarily based in truth. Relativists would say that it is that person's truth, but it doesn't make it truth.

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  4. Human experience is often on the subjective leval and doesn't always fit into a nice, neat, labeled box. We live in such a complex world with all sorts of psychological issues that we can't explain. It's hard to tell someone that the sky is blue when they've been led to believe that it's green or rather that what we call blue is defined in their minds as green. I do beleive in "personal truths" I just don't accept that their conclusions or premises are necc. true if you get what I mean. People with identity issues ARE that way regardless how many times we tell them "No you're not." There's a reason WHY they believe it and usually it's not because it's fun. I would imagine that having some sort of identity issue in one's life would make things weird and difficult. Ooh I'm loving this topic. Thanks, TN.

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