"You can have whatever personal beliefs you want, but keep them to yourself." "It's fine to have a personal faith, but keep it out of the public sphere." Or perhaps most commonly in today's political discussions: "I don't approve of what he's done, but as long as it doesn't affect his job performance, I don't see why I shouldn't vote for him." We live in a world of fractured identities, and in a society that desires no intersection of its various spheres. Think about it: it's okay to be a Christian, and it's okay to be a politician, but try to be a Christian politician, and see what persecution ensues. It's okay to be a theist, and it's okay to be a scientist, but try to mention a supreme deity in a scientific discussion, and one instantly loses all scientific credibility. Our society demands that we keep certain aspects of our identities completely separate in the public sphere.
Sadly, this has begun to be accepted as appropriate by the church. Poll after poll shows that Christians are increasingly reticent to use their faith as the basis for making moral judgments on social issues such as abortion and homosexual marriage. It is common to hear phrases such as: "I don't agree with (insert social issue), but as a Christian, I don't feel that I can impose my beliefs on others." This kind of thinking is a direct result of accepting our secular society's Doctrine of Fractured Identity, which basically states that a person can "be" or "believe" whatever he wishes, but that such identity or belief should in no way affect the other spheres or categories of his life. After all, if the tenets of your faith oblige you to believe that abortion is murder, then you don't have to have an abortion now, do you; after all, no one is forcing you - but vote for a candidate, constitutional amendment, or ballot initiative to limit abortion, and all of a sudden you are a hateful, vindictive, judgmental scourge to society!
Those who propagate the DFI are guilty of a massive contradiction of the very rule by which they judge the rest of us. In order to publicly claim that the sphere of private belief has no business impinging on the sphere of public policy, one must give precedence to the private belief that public policy should be free of the influence of private belief... Go ahead and read that again if you need to... Put another way: "We, the propagandists of the DFI, personally believe that personal belief should have no influence in public policy or debate, therefore your personal belief will not be welcomed in such spheres, because of our personal belief... Don't think too hard, just trust us. It makes sense!"
More frightening than this contradiction however, is the fact that Christians have begun to believe it! This philosophy has no place in the life of a Christian. We do not have a "religious life," a "personal life," and a "professional life." We do not operate in our professions as if they were separate from our faith. We do not lead our social lives as if our faith were a Sunday morning affair. If we do this, not only have we subscribed to the Doctrine of Fractured Identity, but we have actively denied the "doctrine" inherent in the Gospel: the doctrine of Inherent Unity. (This is my label. There's no need to call it a "doctrine" if that makes you uncomfortable. Call it a "principle" if you like.) Inherent Unity is present in every key aspect of the Christian gospel. The very nature of God is one of Unity: the Trinity is three in one. God the Son unified Himself to humanity in the Incarnation. God unified His people together as the church by faith, practice, and the Holy Spirit. The notion of Unity is indeed inherent in the Christian faith, and it ought to be inherent in the lives of its adherents.
Can we reasonably imagine Peter saying to Annanias, "Well, your financial life really is separate from your faith, so I guess we really shouldn't expect your professed faith in Christ to oblige you to honesty with us. After all, it's really none of our business." Can we even wrap our minds around the idea of Christ saying to the Samaritan woman at the well: "Great, you've believed in me! Good for you!" without adding "Go and leave your life of sin?" This is exactly the kind of faith that the DFI demands of us. This is a faith that is faith in name only. This is not the kind of faith displayed by the men and women of our proud Christian history. This is not the kind of faith that the Gospel demands. This is not the kind of faith to which God has called us. This is not the kind of faith toward which the Holy Spirit enables us.
Last week, I was blessed to be able to work at Flathead Lake Music Camp. This is a fabulous week of music making with band and choir students from all around the Northwest United States, and even some from other countries. I had the pleasure of being the choir director for the week. This is a public school event. I have been out of the "public school sphere" for the last seven years. Being thrust back into that sphere reminded me that my Christian faith, the very basis for everything I believe to be true about the music that I was hired to teach, was "officially" unwelcomed. I had to make a decision. Would I be a man of fractured identity, intentionally avoiding the greatest things about the music I was teaching so as to protect myself from possible reprimand? Or would I teach "what I believe" allowing the kids in front of me to believe what they would? In a moment of tremendous clarity, I made the right decision. I taught the truth. I don't know yet if there will be negative consequences for that, but I do know that the consequences for doing the opposite would have been far more severe. If I am never invited back to teach at this camp, it will hardly rise to the level of persecution that many have endured, but if I had kept silent, I would have been actively choosing a fractured identity over the inherent unity that my faith demands. If I am a Christian, I must be the best Christian version of everything else that I am. It doesn't mean I can't do science; it means I must do science Christianly. It doesn't preclude me from discussion of public policy; it gives me a foundation for the discussion. It doesn't keep me from teaching at a public school event; it just means that I will teach my content as a Christian.
Please, friends, do not submit to the demand to live a fractured identity. Be who you are in every area of your life. This is what the word "integrity" actually means: oneness of essence all the way through - just like our God, just like His gospel, just like His body and ours, the Church - Inherent Unity.