Questions of identity dominate the headlines. The "hero" Bruce Jenner has redefined his identity as the heroine Caitlyn, while Rachel Dolezal identifies herself not as the race she was born as, but as a culturally black woman. Our parents told us, “You can be anything you want to be.” I don’t think they expected us to take them so literally.
The real question is, who has the right to determine our identity? Is it our society? Are we determined by whatever role we play in the larger community? This has been tried and retried, and always found wanting. Is it our families? In many cultures, children live to live up to their parents’ dreams and expectations. There is something truly noble, and yet simultaneously very base about this. Is it the self? Doubtless this has filled the vacuum for our culture.
William Ernest Henley’s poem has sadly become our battle cry, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” I fear the moral bankruptcy of individualism will eventually come to repossess. Where will this lead us? My guess is to radical moral relativism, a scary and dark place if there ever was one: Lord of the Flies without the rescue, where everyone sets their own, often Orwellian rules.
I suggest a controversial, but valuable alternative. Actually, it is more of a reiteration of what has dominated Western Civilization for nearly two millennia. Our Creator determines our identity. God stamped his Image on human beings and endowed each of us with dignity, morality and intrinsic value. He’s the Captain of our souls. We are who He has made and declared us to be.
Does this belief make someone a cultural Neanderthal, a moral dinosaur, or an out of touch fundamentalist? Some might say so. Not to worry about labels, our identity has already been determined elsewhere.