This blog post is written partially in response to a recent blog post titled Fragility, Resilience and Beyond… by Richard Abbot.
Identity erasure is a troubling issue in the church. There really is no valid reason for it to even be an issue when the Bible so clearly lays out that though we are one body in Christ, we are many different members. We are all equally important, yet we are not all made to feel equally important. There is silent pressure to conform to the cookie-cutter version of what a Christian ought to look like in any given denomination.
Based on personal experience and conversion to a Baptist Evangelical faith at age 17, I can testify that there is something oddly comforting about being told, or a silent consensus on how you should look and behave. When you come to the faith because you are in pain and feeling lost, it doesn’t seem like a big deal to hand over your own thoughts. ‘Please sir, give me your thoughts instead, as long as they make the pain of existence go away.’
What you don’t realise at the time is that this is only ever going to be a temporary fix. You can honour God and think you are living a godly life but if you do not honour who God created you to be, you are not truly living the life God intended for you.
Shame as a Tool of Identity Erasure
The foundation of identity erasure is shame. The Swedish government and the Swedish state church used the tool of shame with great effect on the indigenous Saami people, to get them to relinquish much of their identity and what made them unique. Sadly, they used Christianity as a weapon for this very purpose.
Like many indigenous peoples, the Saami lived in harmony with nature and were highly intuitive. Intuition is a wonderful survival tool in the cold, harsh North. However, the authorities instantly equated intuition with the domain of the shaman who, according to the church, was doing the devil’s work.
The Saami were forced to abandon many of the ways in which they related to the environment around them, making a large number of them feel disconnected, unrooted and ungrounded for many generations. What is worse, they were forced to look at their own roots as pure evil, satanic and utterly useless.
The problem with this is that our unique gifts cannot blossom and thrive when we are forced to disown our past. Intuition is a wonderful gift and the fact that the Swedish state church leaders didn’t recognise that is very sad.
My grandmother on my father’s side of the family was one-quarter Saami. She was made to feel ‘less than’ those who were of pure Swedish origins. Nevertheless, later in life, she developed a sense of pride in her Saami origins and took up some of the Saami crafts to heal that generational wound.
In my father’s case, he dealt with this generational shame by moving down to Stockholm, immersing himself in the world of science and quickly making sure there would be no trace of a ‘Norrländsk’ accent in his speech. Later in life, he too embraced his Saami heritage with pride.
Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity on the journey of individuation to gain an appreciation for the parts of one’s history and heritage that initially seem a poor fit with the rest of society.
Idealism Instead of Identity
When things aren’t so great out there in the real world, it becomes easy to make idealism a refuge. This is different from healthy rooted beliefs and ideals that lead to taking action in real life. What we are seeing now is an army of social justice warriors who have sought refuge in their idealism online, whether that idealism is left, right, atheism, religion, anarchy, virtue signaling, or whatever.
The truth is, many of them have no idea how to translate their ideals into real-life, practical solutions. The reason is that they don’t know themselves. They have no roots.
Questions to ponder: has the shift from identity to idealism been implemented on purpose by the (nefarious) powers that be? Is it perhaps easier to divide and conquer this way?
When I returned to Christianity earlier this year, I did so mindful that I needed to forge a new identity in Christ. The emphasis from all Christian teachers is this: you must die to the self to become one with Christ. That’s fair enough because it is a Gospel truth.
Ego mortification is great – It helps us serve others at a much higher vibration but it ought not to be confused with understanding which part of the body we are and how to hone unique skills. In many modern churches, I believe seers and prophets are like the bits of the body the rest of the church like to cover up. Sadly they do this, not to take extra good care of them but because there is a mix of shame, embarrassment and even fear of gifts and personalities they can’t very easily control.
Perhaps church leaders are not clear in their own minds about what these people are for and how they can benefit the whole body. Maybe it’s just easier to focus on the next church raffle to raise money for a school in some distant third-world country. Or it could be that they don’t know their own unique identity/gifting well enough to encourage it in another…
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”1 Corinthians 12:21
Gifts Not Discussed in the Bible
It’s interesting to note that a person who is gifted in IT, for instance, can gain enthusiastic support and encouragement from the church family. A plumber is rarely turned away but is welcome in every Christian household. However, someone with a more right-brained gift often struggles to be seen and affirmed. Often, they are even shunned.
Personally don’t think the church should be so much like the world in this sense. And the irony is that it is often those who are the most adamant upholders of the literal teachings of Paul who are most like the world: they deny that the softer, right-brained gifts have a place and do nothing to lift up those who are not of direct use to the church. Musicians usually they are so they get a free pass if they can serve on the worship team.
This ousting of sensitives, empaths, intuitives and creatives is of course of enormous benefit to the New Age who welcomes disenfranchised right-brained Christians with open arms (well, at least those who are willing to open their pocketbook).
Identity In the Tarot
Unlike the Tarot, the Enneagram has been labeled okay for mainstream Christians to use. Some Christians also feel okay with MBTI personality typing but most would frown on using the Tarot as a way to work out who you are and what you are for. Some (especially Evangelicals) would go so far to say that the Tarot is Satanic and if you use it or even have it in your home, you belong to the devil.
That’s a real shame because of all the tools that I have come across, the Tarot has been the most helpful. Not only does the Tarot Major Arcana function as a map for our spiritual journey but the Tarot Courtiers (court cards) also help us understand our unique gifts and how to develop them.
Who Am I And What Am I for?
There are many ways to work on individuation (how to become whole) and nurture identity with the Tarot but one of my favourite ways is a method that Richard Abbot taught us in Tarot Conference workshop a few years ago. The method is extremely simple but because you will only do it once, you will need to do it mindfully and prayerfully.
Basically, you shuffle all the cards in the deck and then randomly choose two cards, face down. The first card answers the question: ‘Who am I?’ and the second question answers the question ‘What am I for?’
In the image at the top of the post you can see the two cards I pulled all those years ago, flanked by cards on either side about what to avoid/do less of/waning influence on the left and what to embrace/do more of/waxing influence on the right.
A Soulful Approach to Individuality
What I have learned so far is that when it comes to who we are in Spirit, Christian theologians and teachers have grocked our spiritual nature and righteousness through Christ but they have missed out on a soulful approach to discuss the identity and identity issues a person might struggle with.
There is a gap there and many have stepped in to fill that gap: psychologists and many kinds of therapists, as well as Numerologists, Astrologers and Tarot readers.
When it comes to individuality, churches are like dysfunctional families that still (Paul must be double face-palming) do not honour all members of the body.
Primed for Obedience
Individuals who do not feel safe and rooted in their own unique identities are easily swayed by the kind of propaganda we see now on a daily basis. This propaganda speaks to our emotions rather than to reason. The propaganda is unscientific and downright nonsensical but it doesn’t matter because the desired effect (raised levels of fear) has been achieved. Censorship is actively used to shut down voices that go against the narrative.
Primed to Shine Your Light
Now that I’m returning to the Tarot and looking at how to use it in a way that honours God, I can’t think of a better way of using it than to help people realise their full potential. There is definitely a gap in the market for Christian Tarot readers and intuitives.