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02 May 2014

Who am I?

Who am I?

My last trip to Scotland was just a few days after supermodel Kate Moss, speaking on behalf of David Bowie at the Brit awards, somewhat bizarrely made a passionate plea: “Stay with us Scotland!” I am not sure what impact the Bowie request had in the Alex Salmond household but it certainly highlighted the issue of Scottish independence to a wider UK audience.

Scotland goes to the polls on 18 September on a very simple yes/no vote as to Scottish independence. But May 2015 will see UK-wide Westminster elections, at which the question of membership of the European Union will have a significant influence on the debate, not least because of the impact of the UK Independence Party and David Cameron’s promise of a referendum on our membership. 

All this debate on the whys and wherefores of membership, whether of the United Kingdom or of a European Union, has raised afresh the question in my own mind of where I find my own identity. Is it in my gender? Or my ethnicity? Perhaps it’s the fact I’m a husband and father? I’m not sure it’s being ‘English’ – perhaps more ‘Yorkshireborn – but now a citizen of London’. Mass movements of people over vast distances of the world together with the globalisation of key cultural influences – music, film, TV, sport and so many products – makes the question of identity even more complex. 

Fred Drummond, national director of the Evangelical Alliance in Scotland, and Kieran Turner, our public policy officer in Scotland, are helpfully leading a conversation among Scottish Christians in the build-up to the referendum, asking the key questions ‘what distinctly makes us Scots?’ and ‘how do we see our place in the world?’. At the same time, what kind of society would Scottish Christians like to see? A society that is just, caring and compassionate and where religious freedom is respected for all, sounds like a good starting place. 

As we engage in this debate in the coming months and years and as we cast our vote, whether we are in or out of the United Kingdom or the European Union, let’s also recognise the radical nature of the gospel which sees our primary identity as far more significant than my ethnicity, my nation, my gender, my class, my social status or, dare I say it, the theological persuasion of any particular denomination or church network I might belong to. 

The Apostle Paul, writing to a highly divided, racist, sexist and status-orientated society makes the astonishing statement “so in Christ you are all children of God through faith… there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:26–28). It is difficult for us as 21st century Christians to realise just how radical such a statement is. Paul is speaking to the very core of the Christian believer’s identity. We are first and foremost, by His Grace, children of God, made in His image and encouraged to call out ‘Abba, Father, Dad’. This means as we meet up with fellow believers, regardless of background or culture, we recognise each other as family – brothers and sisters in Christ. Our togetherness – our unity – is not institutional in its make-up, it is relational. We might not express ourselves the same way, we might differ in our understanding and practice, but there is a wonderful unity in our diversity because we are family together. 

Whatever happens in the coming months and years in the determining of our national identity, the wonderful truth will remain – we are part of an amazing family, made up of people from every nation under the sun. We are a truly global phenomenon – the Church – the worldwide body of Christ.

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