Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Scripture's Impact on the Individual and Personal Identity in American Society

Scripture has been useful to impact the individual's "self-concept" as a special creation of God. A life filled with purpose and a future hope of rewards fill the heart of every evangelical believer. But, these understandings are a limited view of what it means to be "human".

These believers for the most part have "experienced" God's grace and seen it's manifestation within "community", where the experience is re-enforced with "belonging". Believers who believe that God inhabits these communities range the gambit from fundamentalists who believe in the literal understanding of Scripture, to the charismatic, who "finds" meaning not just within
Scripture, but also in ongoing "revelations" of the "Spirit". There are many colors in between these distinctives, which are "translated" into community through the understandings of Scripture.

Paul Tillich understood the continual "division" of the "Protestant Principle". But, the divisions have not always been along the lines of Scripture but also understandings of "god", and culture. The Jewish religion broke down in understanding of sectarians (Essenes), resurrection of the dead (Pharisees) or no resurrection (Sadduccees). Religion defines itself in numerous ways.

Individuals within traditions come to understand themselves as identified with these interpretive understandings. Meaning and significance come along with a sense of belonging and value.

But, these "messages" of significance, meaning and belonging are not just understood within religious traditions, but also other social structures, such as family, vocation and ethnicity. Individuals do not have the fullest understanding of the "human" without these social contexts. As apart from social contexts, the individual ceases to "belong" and in a sense, ceases "to be". We are known and we know, as we experience communal ways of understanding, as well as embracing the "otherness of the other".

American identity, in this sense, is a unique one, as it allows individuality in understanding and places significance of the individual's importance to society as a whole. Apart from the individual's unique understandings, giftings, and inclusion, society suffers from a lack of innovation, or creativity, which hinders the colorfulness of the "whole of society" and limits what it means to be "human".

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