Wednesday, February 15, 2017
The Lie of Self-Identification
Who gets to say who you are?
The obvious answer is that you get to say who you are, but what does it even mean to say who you are?
Essentially, we use a collection of adjectives or properties to describe aspects of ourselves: what we look like, how we feel, what we do, what we like, what we don't like, et c. This way we can communicate aspects of ourselves to others. There is a problem. This whole idea of language and dialogue requires us to agree on what things mean. We have dictionaries which help us define and understand what words mean. Yet occasionally words have multiple definitions. I think the word, "set" has the most definitions in the dictionary. This does mean that misunderstandings occur, and it also means that we also obtain the humour that comes from puns. Language comes from an agreement of meaning between individuals. It is when that agreement is broken that causes the problem.
As much as I hate to admit it, I fit the definition of Protestant which means "not-a-Roman Catholic", but I deny that this is the proper definition of the word. Am I allowed to do so? Well, yes, in that I am capable of the denial, but no in the sense that the word "Protestant" has a popular meaning, i.e. a meaning that is understood by most people. It means that I have to explain myself every time I come across the word with someone new.
The same is true of Anglican Catholic. I am not an Anglican as Fr Christopher Little would have it, but then I don't use the word Anglican as a noun, only as an adjective that qualifies my Catholicism... and that's another word that I have to qualify because of its popular meaning!
This brings us to an important point. Should the popular voice determine what words mean?
Of course the answer is yes because otherwise the individual loses the ability to speak with the society in which he finds himself. Often the popular voice determines meaning misguidedly and lazily! Words exist as means of communication to an audience. It is an irritating fact that words change meaning rather more rapidly than new words are invented. However, as the words change their nuances and meanings over Time, the "Democracy of the Dead" is trounced by the "Tyranny of the Living". The Dead only get to say what words meant, the living get to say what they mean. Of course, this does mean that in order to read and understand old texts, we have to learn even our own language anew.
Of course, the popular vote depends on the society in which we find ourselves. If everyone around us is speaking French, then we must speak French in order to be understood. Likewise the Church as a community has its own language over which the indigenous society can have no jurisdiction. The popular voice of the Church does include the Dead!
Being an Anglican Catholic means that I have to explain myself in order to communicate with other people, but it doesn't bring me any rights. As an Anglican Catholic Priest, I cannot marry anyone in the legal sense. That is a right enjoyed by the Established Church. In being Anglican Catholic, I cannot have the right to marry anyone legally. Nor can I pretend that I am a clergyman of any other jurisdiction even though I am a validly ordained priest with Anglican, Old Catholic, and Polish National Catholic streams running through my orders which are indeed Apostolic. That means too little to the man on the street. My self-identification is utterly meaningless until the prevailing language makes it meaningful. I do not have the right to force my self-identification on other people. I must, therefore, accept the necessity to explain myself constantly and that other people will be confused by my being an Anglican Catholic. That is not their fault, nor is it unreasonable.
Yet it is this principle of self-identification that is making dialogue between people impossible. These days people can say that they identify with something that they are obviously not. such as Rachel Dolezal the only "black" white woman in existence in the first actual instance of trying to argue that black is white! It is not possible to perform self-definition as a Christian because we believe in "God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth" (unless you're Fr Clatworthy, in which case this statement is, was, or will be false at some time in the future). It means that as human beings we have to develop humility and drop the pride that causes us to assert an identity that we don't have. God created us, He gets to call the shots. If He creates a man, then that man cannot be a woman, or even become a woman. If He creates a sheep, then that sheep cannot become an orca. As soon as man and woman become equivalent, then language breaks down. We now have the phrase "pregnant person" because (oh how ridiculous) some "men" can have babies. Thus "man" and "woman" become utterly meaningless terms, thus fulfilling Kant's Categorical imperative! The language of millennia becomes lost or confused all because we must not be allowed to discriminate. The individual's demand for black to be white undermines the purpose of language as communication with Society. The Church has its own language which is now different from that of Secular Society. The individuals clamouring for the Church to change its language forget that the Church takes its definition from the Supreme Source and thus have no right to change it!
In all the furnace about rights, humility seems to be the ultimate loser. Life is hard because of sin and our fallen nature, and we have to stand up against that sin and fallen nature by being humble. As a result of our fallenness, life is grevously, scandalously, horrendously unfair - men cannot become women, homosexuals cannot receive the sacrament of marriage, women cannot be Catholic priests. The fallenness of our nature here is that we actively want the impossible. We want things that contradict God's revelation to us and we want the things that contradict God's will. We have to start looking beyond our wants and seeking what is actually truly Godly which exists apart from ourselves. It hurts worse than any physical pain because it strikes at our self-worth by the apparent right to self-define and self-identify. But life hurts - it's hurt every human being that ever existed! We have to learn to deal with this pain and seek its alleviation in the One Who wants us as the people He created us to be.
St Paul tells us that we can do anything we want, but he adds quickly that not everything we want is good, will build up society, will be healthy, will make things better for those who are truly in need. We are too ready to see what is unfair on our own terms without thinking about what is unfair in global terms. Yes, women's rights are indeed one of those great issues that need challenging - not subverting the will of God in the presbytery and thus causing division and confusion, but rather the fact that there are cultures that still promote women as chattel, deny their very humanity, refuse their counsel, and give them no worth whatsoever. Likewise, the rights of the homosexual are indeed a great issue that needs challenging - not by changing that which is instituted by God, but rather their protection from persecution, ridicule, and hatred of any kind and, further, assistance to help them find worth, warmth, and genuine appreciation in society as consecrated celibates. Why is it that we do not prize virginity any more? - God certainly does! It is His unconditional love that we need to propagate, but this will not come from pandering to that which is not true. Truth and Love go together - both are as embodied in Our Lord Jesus Christ as His Humanity and His Divinity. If we seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness, then we will truly find precisely what we want and need!
The Lie of Self-Identification appeals to our pride and self worth, but not to beings who surrender this dubious right in recognition of themselves as creatures defined by God Himself, and thus completely sanctifiable. If we reject God's right to create us as He wants us, then we can self-define as much as we like. We just endanger our membership of the Church, that's all - unless "inside" also means "outside"!