Episode Three: Self- Titled
As silly as it may be to some, we as a species put a lot of weight into the titles we (and others) assign ourselves, other people and the things around us, concrete or otherwise. If you don’t believe me, go to the YouTube comments section of any musical recording from any “heavy band” and see how upset people get when someone groups their favorite artists under a different genre than the one they themselves had assigned to said band. It often gets way more heated than it should, and you really get to see just how some commenters can flex their vocabulary of insults. It’s really quite impressive. Now, it’s all very entertaining when these types of disagreements occur over subgenre semantics. What’s not entertaining is when these types of debates occur over much more personal topics, such as one’s faith (religion or otherwise), ideologies, appearance, sexual/romantic identity or gender identity to name a few. When the things that we hold dearer than anything, the things that make up the very foundations of our identity, the things that make us who we are, are questioned or denied by others, it’s not so entertaining anymore. Even more than that, it’s right out offensive. These people have never once been inside our heads, have not once experienced our moments of existential contemplation into our own individual make up, have not once peered into the depths of our very souls, yet they claim to know our identity better than we do, so much so that they’d tell us we’re wrong? It’s absolutely and utterly absurd when you really think about it. Although, I’ve been guilty of participating in this type of behavior in the past, and I think if we’re honest with ourselves a lot of us have. As a young Christian, it used to be one of my favorite things to do, denying one’s right to call themselves a Christian (“There were beer cans in so and so’s tour bus, they’re not a Christian band”, “So and so dropped an F-bomb, they’re obviously not the man of God I thought them to be”, etc.). Which is ironic, because I find myself on the receiving end of these types of comments now. Back then, being a Christian was everything to me. It defined every facet of who I was, or who I allowed myself to be, and in my mind there were strict guidelines that had to be followed in order for one to be able to call themselves a Christian. I mean, I had to follow them, why should they get a free pass? I see how ignorant and arrogant that was of me know. I was trying to deny a person’s right to call them self who they believed them self to be, all to preserve my perceived world view that their version of the title I held was false, couldn’t exist, and was actually insulting to those of us who “actually carried that title with pride.” Now that I stand where those I accused of being “false” once stood, I understand, frankly, what an asshole I was. Being a Christian still means the world to me. Not because it makes me feel like I’m a part of some select, superior group, but because Jesus and His teachings mean the world to me. I’m passionate about learning to walk as He walked, to love as He loved, to be as inclusive and as understanding as He was, and to receive even a fraction of the wisdom that He held. Christianity is the path I walk, and I claim that title because it reminds me of what I’m aiming toward with each step I take. Now, while there are people who I feel have made a mockery of the man/God they claim to base their belief systems off of, I would never deny them the right to call themselves Christians because that’s who they believe themselves to be, and I have no right to tell them that they can’t be Christian unless they believe as I do. To many of those people, it defines their identity just as it defines mine. It’s ingrained in them. It’s who they are, and while I hope they learn to grow and break free of the hurtful ideologies and theologies that they cling to so tightly, I wouldn’t dare tell them that they can’t possibly be a Christian. Sure, I’ll critique the hell out of those faulty ideologies and theologies, but I won’t go crying heretic or false Christian. And this is just an example of this type of behavior between people who claim the same title! It can be far worse. Imagine if someone who didn’t hold the same title that you’ve assigned yourself told you that you couldn’t be who you know yourself to be. Imagine if they claimed that your very identity didn’t exist because their perceived worldview claimed that it couldn’t exist, and that to claim such an identity made you a pervert, sick in the head, or even evil. My friends in the LGBTQ community experience this type of judgement and ridicule every day, where what they know from the very depths of their souls about themselves is not only questioned but denied and condemned by those acting in accepted ignorance. Titles are important to people. They can often bare a part of that persons very soul; Their very identity. Whatever you, or anyone else, feels about another person holding a title doesn’t matter. It’s their title, they can claim it if they want, and your opinion about them claiming a title doesn’t mean a damn thing. Disagree with a person all you want, but don’t try and take their identity from them. They’ve claimed their titles for reasons of their own, and that’s all you, I, or anyone else, needs to know.