Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness, you that seek the Lord. Look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug. – Isaiah 51:1 (NRSV)
Identity politics – the term for political alliances based on race, religion, class, sexuality, or gender identity rather than traditional party affiliations – often gets a bad rap. People who’ve never had their lives cut short or their opportunities foreclosed because of who they are often have a hard time understanding why identity is so important to others.
But what about identity theology?
When times are hard, says the prophet Isaiah, when you’ve been held down so long you no longer believe in up, remember who and whose you are. Consider where you came from. Reflect on the grace that brought you this far. When you can’t find solid ground, hold tight to the One whose love never falters.
Isaiah’s geological metaphors are meant to bring comfort and hope to Israel’s exiles: When the world tears you apart, misplaces you, misnames you, cling to the One who knows all your names and identities.
What is your go-to identity?
American? Person of faith or follower of Jesus? Black, Latinx, Asian, First Nation, or white? LGBTQIA? Male, female, or gender-queer? Poor? Republican or Democrat? Baby Boomer or Millenial? Successful? Myers-Briggs or Enneagram? Traditionalist or proud smasher of all things binary?
How does your identity – claimed or not – shape your worldview? How does your identity reflect what is important to you? To what, or whom, do you pledge allegiance?
For Isaiah, it is our identity as beloved children of God that is most important. From that, all else follows. In God, all the identities by which we are known become one whole reflection of the God who loves us.
Rock of Ages, may I find myself in you.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.