Friday, July 6, 2012

Belonging ~ Who am I?

In her book Christianity After Religion (2012), Diana Butler Bass talks about belief, behavior, and belonging as "three intertwined strands of religious faith" (page 47), each asking a basic question.
Believing:  What do I think?
Behaving:  How should I act?
Belonging:  Who am I?
I recently shared some of what she said about believing, about behaving (and doing), and today I want to quote from her chapter on belonging.  If I ask you who you are, you will most likely give me your name.  This "me" named Bonnie has changed from time to time, like having to redefine myself when I became a wife and got a new last name, when I became a mother, when I divorced, when I got a job, when I changed jobs, when I moved far to another city where I had no family.  My life kept changing because I kept "going places" either mentally or physically.  Bass says,
"In this context of mobility, philosophers and theologians say that the most logical understanding of the self is that of a seeker, searcher, nomad, traveler, pilgrim, or tourist — identities of discovery and fuildity.  Who am I? has become the question Where am I?  I know that I am because that is where I was, this is where I am, and I am going somewhere else" (p, 177).
Years ago, a Roman Catholic friend was surprised when I told her the Bible was basically a family story, going from Abraham to Moses and Judah and King David and eventually Jesus.  Diana Butler Bass mentioned a specific aspect of the family in this chapter.
"...the Hebrew Bible is a sort of family spiritual pilgrimage memoir, a record of a communal journey to and from God and back again that reveals ever increasing faithfulness, deepening awareness of what it means to be a Jew, and a widening understanding of God and God's love and justice" (p. 179).
And the question becomes, Whose am I?  Because we are relational beings, we need connections and community.  As Bass says,
"Accordingly, our very existence is relational. ... The church is, therefore, not an institution, an organization, or a building, but a community of relationships where people's selves are with God and with one another, bound by love" (p. 195).
Believing, behaving, and belonging — but, according to the next chapter in the book, we've got the list backwards.

What about you?  To whom do you "belong"?  Who is part of your closest community?


Beth said...

Wow, are asking some very thought-provoking questions this week. I think, for an oddball like me, it's very hard to find a place where you feel like you belong. I certainly do feel a sense of belonging to my immediate family---my husband and children. And to the small band of friends I've managed to connect with over the years, including the dear blog friends like you. But only once have I been in a commnunity where I felt truly accepted for who I was.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Now I'm curious, Beth. That one community where you felt truly accepted for who you were -- was it a church? or some other group?

Beth said...

It was "some other group." Too long and personal to explain here, so I'll write you about it. :-)