If you have flown in the USA in the last year, surely you have seen the signs warning that you will eventually need a REAL ID to do so. Though the original deadline for this identification card was in the fall of last year, the COVID pandemic pushed it ahead to October 1 of this year.
What is a REAL ID? Part of the legislation of the Homeland Security Act of 2005, basically a REAL ID means you have to pay more money to get a more secure driver's license to use for flying or entering certain places such as federal facilities. A REAL ID is supposed to guarantee that the possessor of the card is validated and truly who he says he is.*
This new identification card highlights the issue of our age. A few years ago, speaking of someone having an "identity crisis" meant he was at a point where he was not sure what his purpose or direction in life was. Perhaps he had suffered a job loss, broken relationship, or disillusionment with life that left him unsure of who he really was at that moment. Today, however, a whole generation is in a crisis of identity. No one understands what their "real identification" is anymore - though everyone thinks he does.
Carl Trueman explains well in his new book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self how we have arrived at this point. The confluence of historical forces such as the psychological view of self, the sexual revolution, and Marxist thinking in much of politics has brought us to the point where, as Trueman states, "the West has come to see sexual identity as the key to the expression of personal identity." He neatly ties it up in a bow when he says
To follow Rousseau is to make identity psychological. To follow Freud is to make psychology, and thus identity, sexual. To mesh this combination with Marx is to make identity—and therefore sex—political.
With the power of social media on the individual, viewing ourselves as solely sexual beings has spread like wildfire and taken us into new vistas of identity. For an example of how quickly things are changing, think of how in five short years our nation went from the 2015 Supreme Court Obergefell case legalizing gay marriage as the cause célèbre to the "transgender tsunami" now capturing the limelight. (To hear more about this shift, listen to Are We All Transgender Now? on Mortification of Spin.)
Young people are increasingly identifying as transgender or gender nonconforming because of these forces at work. The dizzying speed these changes are taking place in the realm of identity are also having tragic effects, as suicide rates among transgender and "non-binary" identifying teens are increasing as well.
In the midst of all this chaos with respect to identity, the church must return to the concept of catechizing. The culture understands this better than God's people do, as it bombards us 24/7 with its mantras on matters of identity. Whether its videos and memes streaming over social media making trans the new gay; every new TV show having a trans-character in it; or having to see ads on city buses or billboards here in Pittsburgh telling us "Trans Families Matter" hosted by the SisTers of PGH (no, that's not a group of Catholic nuns), the world knows the power of repetition. The church, as God's salt and light, needs to return to catechizing as well, drumming into its youth, its people, and anyone who will listen where real identity is found.
Here then are the five starting points regarding one's true identity. The church must work diligently to find ways to take these truths and impress them deeply in the minds and hearts of its people. Note how the Westminster Shorter Catechism has already supplied what we need! We should especially declare to people that it is God, not themselves, who determines their real identification.
You are made in the image of God as either a male or female to serve Him in this world.
Q10: How did God create man?
A10: God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.
You sinned in Adam and fell into a place of miserable confusion about your true identity that, if not resolved, will plague you forever.
Q16: Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?
A16: The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.
Q19: What is the misery of that estate whereinto man fell?
A19: All mankind by their fall lost communion with God, are under his wrath and curse, and so made liable to all miseries in this life, to death itself, and to the pains of hell for ever.
However, God graciously sent His Son as man to redeem His people from this fallen position and show them the way of eternal life.
Q20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?
A20. God having, out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace, to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.
Q21: Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
A21: The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, for ever.
Through the work of the Holy Spirit, you can partake of this life and live in your true identity as a beloved and holy child of God.
Q29: How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A29: We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.
Q30: How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A30: The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
Q31: What is effectual calling?
A31: Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.
Q32: What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A32: They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which, in this life, do either accompany or flow from them.
Your identity in Christ is lived out through a loving relationship with God and those around you.
Q42. What is the sum of the Ten Commandments?
A42. The sum of the Ten Commandments is, “to love the Lord our God” with all our heart, all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind; and our neighbor as ourselves.
If you have ever lost your license or ID card, you know how frustrating that can be. Perhaps that explains why there is so much angst and anger out there in the culture currently. That's why the church has to help this generation find what it has lost. As we do so, remember that Jesus told us that real identity is found, as reflected in the truths above, in the most ironical way. "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 10:39).
*Public Service Announcement: If you already have a valid passport, you can use it in place of a REAL ID to fly domestically.