Personal Identity 1: Fitting You into your Box

Over the last few weeks I have had some interesting conversations about identity. As I have a little time to think I’ve decided to write a few blog articles about the concept of ‘identity’ as I unpack a few of the main issues we have raised. With a fair wind behind me I may even be able to convince Ruth to add a blog about this given that her psychology doctoral thesis was largely about ‘identity’.

Here come the Goths

20130501-101338.jpgLast week Ruth and I met up with a lot of “Goths”. We went to Whitby Goth Weekend where we regularly go to meet up with friends from our university days. Whilst we are there we help raise money for the Bat Conservation Trust on the bring and buy stall. When we arrived on Friday morning we went to the beach (a particularly Goth activity) where we met our friends. As we walked back up the beach a photographer asked if he could take our picture. We obliged and carried walking up the beach. As we did our friends said “You’re in Whitby for an hour and nothing. Two minutes with Robb and Ruth and already someone has taken our picture”.

As we continued on our journey, we were intercepted on the stairs up the cliff by a group of eight A Level sociology students. They asked a variety of questions about why we were there and what we were doing? It was quite entertaining when we were asked what we ‘did for a living’ – mirth and hilarity abounded as we discovered that two IT professionals were in our group. This is not a stereotypical “Goth” occupation!

The final question in the survey was “how do you feel about the word ‘goth'”? This led to all four of us looking at each other and saying things like “but I’m not really a goth”. None of us really identify as “goth” per se. This lead us to have a lot of conversations over the course of the next 24 hours about what all of this means.

From Whitby, Ruth and I dashed back home for me to be “the vicar”. Sunday services and an APCM were the order of the day. Then we rushed from there into the deepest darkest South of England to meet some new people. We’ve been invited to be involved in the organisation of the Goth Eucharist at Greenbelt this year. Again, the question of “what is ‘Goth’?” was raised by everyone. Am I ‘goth’? What is ‘goth’? Am I ‘goth enough’ or just an interloper? This seems to be the inner existential crisis experienced by most people who are ‘goths’.

For me, the honest answer is ‘no’, I’m not a goth. I don’t think there are many people who say that they are. It is usually something that other people say to identify people. Personally, I usually describe myself as a ‘hairy biker’. I’m often found wearing black and riding a big black Harley with the internal soundtrack supplied by George Thorogood whilst I’m doing it. I listen to heavy metal, have long hair, tattoos and piercings. I’ve been known to dye my hair on occasion. I play guitar in a heavy metal band and have some pretty funky clothing. ‘Goth’ isn’t a term I use to self identify, it is a term that other people use to categorise me.

Human beings like to categorise the world around them. They like to compartmentalise the world so that they can store the information in their brains. This is so that they can take a complicated question and come up with a neat and easily identifiable answer. When the world is presented with a large number of individuals who don’t fit into a category it feels the need to create one. In this instance we have the word ‘goth’, a generic coverall that encompasses just about any type of ‘difference’ and makes it ‘the same’. At Whitby Goth Weekend and the Goth Eucharist you will find Metalheads, Steampunks, Cyberpunks, Rockers, Glam Metallers, Trad Goths, Emos, the ocasional cosplayer and probably some people who just like good old fancy dress. And the world can’t cope with all of these individuals. It needs to find a way of categorising them so that it can go back on with it’s business. We must compartmentalise!

Now of course I have put myself in the position of having written Leonard Nimmoy’s “I Am Not Spock” by asserting my individuality; I Am Robb. To redress the balance, I will continue to write about identity tomorrow and draw the Goth*/Priest strands of my existence together for your entertainment.

*See that? I just identified myself as ‘goth’. See how readily I conform!

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The Advent Calendar Conspiracy – Day 7

Join the conversation.

The Advent Calendar Conspiracy

Have you started opening the windows on your advent calendar? Is there chocolate inside? Wondering if there is more than this? I mean what are we really heading towards anyway? Some tinsel, a new jumper from your mum and a roast turkey? Is that it?? Really?!

Each day we will post a new 30 second animoto video clip juxtaposing the issues we face with wealth and poverty and the consumer culture that surrounds Christmas. What is it, or who is it we are really heading towards this December……

www.facebook.com/adventcalendarconspiracy

Faithfully Retelling Our Story

If you have visited my blog on a regular basis you may have noticed that I spend quite a bit of time talking about narrative and story. We are part of an ongoing historical narrative that has been told from generation to generation about the God who has chooses to interact with us throughout time. It tells of our ancestors and it points towards our future generations. Long before we had doctrines we had the story and we are asked to retell this story and continue to live it in our daily lives.

Tony Jones blogged about a sermon delivered by Nadia Bolz-Weber on Easter Morning. Nadia blogs here and tweets as @Sarcasticluther. It is a while since I have visited her blog so I was really glad to be pointed back to it by @jonestony. I’ve just watched the video (about 53 mins in) and it is brilliant. There is something about the way in which Nadia retells our salvation history that is compelling.

This is a leader we can follow. And the thing that really cooked people’s noodles wasn’t the question “is Jesus like God” it was “what if God is like Jesus”. What if God is not who we thought? What if the most reliable way to know God is not through religion, not through a sin and punishment program, but through a person. What if the most reliable way to know God is to look at how God chose to reveal God’s self in Jesus?

I won’t repost her sermon in full. Please watch it. Continue to faithfully retell our story.  Continue to faithfully live the next chapter of our story.  Be inspired. Be renewed. Be changed. Be a “a people who still have the dirt from our graves under our nails, while we stand here shouting Alleluia! Christ is risen”!!

[Yesterday I spent a long time writing this blog post and WordPress ate it. If it does it again I am going to give this up and take to living on a rock just north of Holy Island.]

Worship Idea – The Trial

Each year all of the churches in town walk through to the town square and have a short act of remembrance on Good Friday.  Last year I had no idea what they were expecting.  I put on a Death Row shirt and slung a giant wooden crucifix over my shoulders and carried it at the front of the procession.  This year they asked me to do some form of bible reading in the Town Square when we get there.  It is a public performance really.  I suppose I’ll put on the convict outfit and hold a life-size cross whilst I do it this year.  I have rewritten John 19 (abridged) based upon The Message.  Please bear in mind that many of the phrases are easy to say in a broadish Yorkshire accent as I use the tools I’ve got.  Also, the bold parts will be practiced with a baying mob so that they don’t all shout them in unison.

The Trial (based upon John 19)

Pontius Pilate was the man responsible for governing Jerusalem.  He’d had Jesus publicly whipped because he was a troublemaker.  They were worried because too many people were following him. The soldiers who did it made a crown from thorns for him and rammed in down onto his head.  They kept giving him grief.  They had thrown a purple robe over him like he was royalty whilst shouting “Hail, King of the Jews!”.  Then they kept slapped him in the face.

Pilate went to the baying mob and said to them, “I present him to you, but I want you to know that I don’t find him guilty.  He hasn’t committed any crime.”

In a frenzy the crowd shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

But Pilate told them, “You take him. You crucify him. I find nothing wrong with him.”

Pilate did his best to pardon him, but the Jews shouted him down: “If you pardon this man, you’re no friend of Caesar’s. Anyone setting himself up as ‘king’ defies Caesar.”

When Pilate heard those words, he took Jesus outside into the square and sat down at the judgment seat.  It was noon on the day everyone was preparing for the Passover festival.

Pilate said to the Jews, “Here is your king.”

They shouted back, “Kill him! Kill him! Crucify him!”

Pilate said, “You want me to crucify your king?”

The religious leaders answered, “We have no king except Caesar.”

At this Pilate caved in and sent him to be crucified.

They took Jesus away. Carrying his cross, they led him out of the city to the place they called Skull Hill.  Here they nailed him up, they crucified him with two criminals, one on each side and Jesus in the middle.

Pilate wrote a sign and had it nailed to the cross. It read:

   Jesus the Nazarene
   the king of the Jews.

God is Love

On my way to meet with colleagues this morning I heard the still small voice of God in my headphones reminding me of our baptismal calling

Can’t we give ourselves one more chance
Why can’t we give Love that one more chance
Why can’t we give Love…

‘Cause Love’s such an old fashioned word
And Love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And Love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves

Ready Steady Slow

Tomorrow is the first of December and everyone will be opening the first door of their advent calendar.  The Church of England has launched Ready Steady Slow, an advent video calendar with different reflections each day leading up to Christmas.  The idea is to take time each day to slow down and spend time with God.  This video has a little introduction and some words from Richard Coles.