Updated: Mar 4
The “Identity Narrative”
Secular culture in America is now at a point where “the only sin is to tell people that they sin,” and traditional Protestant catechism/youth training needs to better prepare Christian children to thrive in a world where they are constantly bombarded with the new secular “gospel” on social media, television, games and movies.
So the quickest and most succinct way of expressing the current cultural climate, which is exaggerated and broadcast through multiple technologies is that TRUTH is not something to which you conform, outside of you. The TRUTH is alleged to be something inside of you, in your head and subject to your wants and desires.
Additionally, modern secularism repeats the idea that the Christian way of seeing and interacting with the world is THE REAL PROBLEM for culture and it is this powerful set of ideas that needs to be eradicated from the human mind and life.
As one prominent pastor put it, “Modern secular culture is now at the point where people believe that they need to be saved from the idea that they need salvation from God. The thing we need redemption from is the idea we need redemption.”
Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor says that modern secularism moves forward not with argument or reason or evidence, but with saying things that are axiomatically taken as just truth. So for example, he would say, he calls them “closed-world structures” but we will call them “repeating narratives” the secular way of orienting a life.
One of those narratives we will briefly discuss is THE IDENTITY narrative; “you gotta be true to yourself. You have to look inside, see who you are, and be true to yourself.” Parents need to first identify this reinforced, repeated NON-BIBLICAL idea.
1) By pointing out THE IDENTITY narrative when it is subtly or overtly expressed in your presence.
2) Highlight the partial truth embedded in the narrative (and, by the way, this part-truth is the reason most lies are attractive) – what is this part-truth? “That one should avoid hypocrisy and misleading people about your character.” But this clearly does not mean that ALL our desires and habits and actions are automatically pleasing to God and acceptable to Him.
3) Next point out how the greatest person who ever walked the earth, Jesus, directly confronted this false narrative - Jesus says “you have to lose yourself to find yourself” (Matt. 10:39), “you have to take up your cross and follow me!” (Matt. 16:24) This goes directly against this identity narrative. Jesus was the culmination of a Bible that stressed that it was this very IDENTITY narrative that was destroying our world!
4) Next show both a) how no one operates in this role consistently (everyone distinguishes between desires and duties) and b) this “life principle” does not lead to positive outcomes (from celebs to current gen individuals, the outcomes are catastrophic)
5) LAST, show how the Christian identity following Jesus creates is superior to this failed life principle over time, by nearly any metric. You could even show how following Jesus even in a flawed manner is still superior to living by this secular identity narrative.
This is a woefully incomplete/superficial engagement with this enormously influential, repeated idea, however, it is enough for our purposes today. Identification is the first crucial step, then destroying the stronghold and finally defending Jesus’ approach to discovering our identity. “Now May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Rom. 15:13