I was at a program recently where one of the speakers suggested that we live in a society (he was speaking of the United States) in which people define themselves more by their partisan political party than by their faith. If that is true – If “I am a Republican” or “I am a Democrat” comes before “I am a Christian” (or “I am a [fill in the blank with another faith]”) – that is a very sorry state of affairs.
We can describe ourselves in a lot of ways. I am a New Yorker (which I’ll always be, even though I’m currently living in Minnesota). I am the daughter of a (now-deceased) NYC police officer. I am of Italian descent. (I used to say “I am Italian” until I lived in Asia and people from Italy corrected me, observing that was American not Italian.) I am a wife and a mother. I am a registered Democrat.
But those are descriptions that do not define me in the way “I am a Christian” or “I am a Catholic” defines me. To say I am a Christian – to say my life belongs to Christ – is to identify that which gives my whole life its meaning and direction, in a way none of the other ways of describing myself do.
I think there is truth to the statement that we live in a society where many people define themselves more by political party than by faith. But it is also the case that there are plenty of people out there who, like me, do define themselves by their faith.
What the speaker’s comment suggests to me is that what we really need is for the people who define themselves by their faith to be a visible witness to that. To help let others know that there are people who see themselves as Christian first and everything else after that…to let them know that that is OK to say that and to live that.