IDENTITY–Do you have ‘identity’? Of course you do. But if someone asked you to explain your identity, what would you tell them? Likely there would be a hesitant stammering with an eventual ‘well, it’s my looks, or my name, or even what I stand for’. And those would be suitable answers for everyday conversation, But, just what is ‘identity’? The word, itself, comes from the Latin word ‘idem’ which means ‘same’. So, we may legitimately define the essence of identity as ‘sameness’.
That sameness may be applied in various ways as just indicated—by a photo appearance of our basic features—by name—by attitude, political philosophy, etc., etc. However, if we choose to do so, each of those identifying characteristics can be changed. The ‘identity’ I want to address today is our eternal (spiritual) identity.
The eternal identity ascribed to each of us in the Bible would be essentially the same as we are here on earth with one major exception—we would be, either eternally blissful in a New Paradise, or eternally anguished and tormented in the unquenchable fire of hell. It all started, of course, in the Garden of Eden with a ‘talking snake’ enticing Eve to disobey God, and she, in turn, coaxed Adam to do likewise—that’s when ‘all hell broke loose’. God booted them out of Paradise to a condemned life of earning their living by ‘the sweat of their brows’.
Somewhere along the line, God repented from his harshness, and made a deal with them (the Israelites) —if they would be ‘good little boys and girls’, he would send a Messiah who would ‘restore Paradise just for them’. Well, in fact, a messiah did appear after several thousand years—his name (identity) was Jesus of Nazareth. Now Jesus wasn’t exactly what they were looking for—he preached a heretical message of ‘universal love’ of both God and neighbor. They killed him for that.
During the course of his teaching (preaching), they asked him ‘when was he going to restore the Kingdom’, and he told them that ‘the kingdom of God is spread out all over the earth around them, and they didn’t see it’. They didn’t seem to like that answer very much—they either didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand it. However, in their determination to ‘have it their way’, they changed Jesus’ identity somewhat— he became the ‘Messiah in waiting’—he had to die first—then he would come back and separate the ‘sheep from the goats’.
You know the story—the sheep had an identity of ‘goodness’. They would inherit the ‘New Paradise’—they’d all be running around gleefully slapping grandpa on the back and giving grandma a great big smacker on the cheek and a big hug—the ‘poker gang’ would be back together drinking beer, smoking big cigars and telling jokes. In short, it would be just ‘one hellava’ infinite party. In the meantime, the poor goats, whose identity was synonymous with bad (evil), would be cast into the ‘eternal fires of hell’—they would be begging Lazarus for just ‘one drop of water’ on their tongues— they won’t get it.
Strangely, after Jesus’ death, one Saul of Tarsus, who later changed his ‘name identity’ to Paul, decided that it was logical and appropriate to change the identity of Jesus—Jesus would no longer be the ‘Messiah of just the Jews’—he would be known as the Messiah of all. That ‘identity change’ didn’t set too well at first with Peter, James and John, but they eventually accepted it. However, Paul’s identity changed dramatically in the eyes of the Romans—he became identified with ‘insurrection’ just as Jesus had been—so, the Romans killed Paul. In fact, they killed Peter and, eventually, thousands who identified with Jesus of Nazareth.
So, where does that leave us? I can’t speak ‘for you’ but I can speak ‘to you’. I know where it left me—I lost my identity in the ‘fairytale’ of the bible. I would give anything if we could know exactly what Jesus said and did—just as importantly, if we could know exactly what the early writers had to say. Sadly, neither is possible and here’s why. Many of you, maybe most, are unaware of the origin of our current bibles. The original writings were not neatly catalogued in a bound volume (book)—there was no such thing at the time. Each writing was made on a papyrus scroll or a dried animal skin.
As Christianity spread, there became a need for many, many copies of the Holy Writings pertaining to Jesus—each community needed a copy. Each copy had to be made by hand, and that’s where the ‘rub’ came in. It is quite obvious that Jesus’ identity changed from one community to another—that is borne out by the ‘climate’ of near total discord among Christian Bishops and their communities in the year 325 AD when Emperor Constantine called the first council at Nicaea. The sole purpose of that council was to settle those disputes once and for all and establish Christianity as the official religion of the entire Roman Empire. Prior to that time, Mithraism, a pagan religion, had been the official religion of the Roman empire.
There had been a need for literally thousands of hand-made copies of the known writings. Quite obviously, Jesus’ identity changed from one community to the next as evidenced by the resultant disagreements. The copiers either made legitimate mistakes in their transcription processes or, very likely, they deliberately changed the wording to suit their own whims. The final result was this—the oldest known complete one of those copies in existence today was made some two hundred years after Jesus’ death. During the first Nicaean Council, many scriptures were accepted as legitimate and many were rejected—it seems logical that the scriptures which were ultimately accepted identified with the Jesus which the majority liked, while those which were rejected carried a different ‘Jesus identity’. Needless to say, there is absolutely no ‘logic’ in assuming that the majority were correct—winning a war doesn’t prove whose right; just who’s in charge.
All of that background knowledge forced me to define the identity of God—the God presented to me as a child and thereafter, just didn’t exist. From that standpoint, it is quite easy to see why there are so many atheists—the God presented to them by religion is part of an irrational ‘fairytale’.
Eventually, I did, in fact, discover God’s identity: God is a Perfect Rational Being. That discovery changed Jesus’ identity dramatically—it also changed your identity just as it did mine. God’s ‘Perfect Rationality’ pervades all—nothing can be without it. That Perfect Rationality translates into ‘Perfect Love’. Perfect Love knows no conditions—it is total acceptance without any pay-back. And why should it not be that way—after all, God, with his Perfect Intellect, envisioned it all and, with his Holy Will he chose it all. Would it be possible for a perfect God to ‘reject himself’? —that would be totally illogical and totally impossible.
So, what is the ‘net effect’? Simply this—we all are God’s children—we all are Jesus’ brothers and sisters. Jesus told us that, but the ‘framers’ of Christianity just couldn’t let go of their power and control, and the money forthcoming therefrom. So, they ignored Jesus’ teaching of ‘love’—they had to have a God identified with ‘vengeance’—they had to have the tool of ‘guilt’ in order to exercise that power and control—they needed to impose a ‘blanket of guilt’ on everyone just for being ordinary normal human beings—they had to ‘brand us’ with a new identity — shameful, guilty sinners who, not only deserved punishment of the harshest type, but most likely would attain it. They knew exactly how to make a world full of ‘jabbering idiots’—burn them to death on a pile of wood just for being God’s normal creatures—a new identity was created for all.
Jesus, in his brilliance, recognized the invalid identity of such a God who was being presented to us by the Jews. He could plainly see the universal evil of ‘selfishness’ exhibited by everything in existence. Knowing that he, we, and everything in existence are ‘mirror images’ of our creator, led him to understand that God’s Perfect Love must be demonstrated—God’s children must be liberated—his Love must be exhibited, understood and accepted. So, Jesus assumed a ‘new identity’— liberator of the world—and, what a wonderful identity it was/is.
In light of that understanding, what should our response be—a great big “Thank you Lord God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit (Will of God) for my life, for my sustenance, and for my eternal bliss in/with you. Amen, Amen, Amen. Every day should be a day of thanksgiving; don’t you think? The word Eucharist which is applied to the recreated body and blood of Jesus during the Catholic Mass means ‘thanksgiving’.
So, what about our eternal identity? The contemplative Hindus saw this life on earth just as one phase in eternal existence. If I understand them correctly, assuming a life here has been exemplary and filled with love, joy, and happiness, one stands a good chance of passing directly back to hir/her creator. However, if less than perfect, one will likely reincarnate as some other being or entity and get to try over and over again until he/she ‘makes the grade’.
What, then, would/will be our identity at death? My philosophy, based on Jesus’ teaching of Love, my definition of God as Perfect Rationality, and my understanding of particle physics, plus my observations tell me one thing for certain—every particle of energy which make up my body will, in time, be incorporated into another physical existence: be it water, sand, air, a tree, a dog, or whatever. Whether or not, I will have a specific rational identity is only a matter of faith and hope in God’s love—Jesus reportedly told us, ‘Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, nor hath it entered into the mind of man, the glories that await us’ (paraphrased). I believe, without doubt, that I would be extremely happy with such an identity—wouldn’t you?
If anyone is interested in further investigation, please read my books, Wilderness Cry, Peace in Spirituality, and Provocative Catholic. My book, Wilderness Cry was featured as On-line Book Club’s Book of The Month in December 1, 2020. In addition, Growing Up in Fancy Farm Kentucky is both historical from my perspective and humorous.
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