Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My Own Personal Pluralism

Now that I am no longer a Temp. office worker, I am slowly beginning to enter that shadowy and mysterious world of clergy and religious associations. ECRA is one such group today I attended my first meeting with them. It was odd, on one hand there was some diversity mostly Christian one Muslim: I am told there are Buddhist and Jewish members of the group as well. I simultaneously felt comfortable and out of place. these are people who are by definition serious about their faith and their religion, most present as Christian clergy and religious make their living as religious types (my co-pastor and I the exception). It is rare for me to be around people like this. The other thing that was odd for me was to be in a situation where the majority (the overwhelming majority) of people where Christians of some stripe. The world looks a little different when Christians appear to be the majority. It was oddly comfortable until I realized that I did not in my introduction self identify either as an artist or a Goth. Rather I identified in that group as pastor and prior. Now the savvy could probably pick up the clues of the other identities like I knew the Southerner who was also Episcopalian.

Outside that circle my identity as a Pastor is either something to be side stepped or is a novelty; "Oh you are a Pastor goth and artists that's very interesting tell me more." In most circles I run in outside of church I am a minority ie. both a Christian and clergy. Whether I go to a club, or a gig or an art opening or theater after party, or film crew one does not regularly run into other Christians let alone another pastor. One might run into someone religious of a different faith but even that is rare enough. This does not necessarily mean one finds atheists or agnostics either. Generally they will claim to be "spiritual" or simply nothing. Maybe dabble with a little meditation or some spiritual practice. I mean no critique in this. I mentioned this at the ECRA meeting and it sounded to me as I said it to be a critique, when I was simply attempting to speak my experience. Apart of me is actually more at home among these than the clergy and the religious. (I know all pastors say that its such a clergy thing to say). Not because I dislike clergy or am uncomfortable with them but because I have many homes, and my identity shifts ever so slightly as I move between them. I find there is often much talk about pluralism in our society but rarely do we talk about our own personal pluralism. While the extent of the diversity of my own identity(ies) may be somewhat rare it seems to me that in a pluralistic context most will find that some form of plurality exists within oneself. I think though that we still tend to homogenize oursleves or at least to put forward a homogeneous identity. This is what I did when I introduced myself at the ECRA meeting and didn't mention that I was a Goth and Artist. In that context I was overwhelmed by my own personal pluralism and felt acutely that all my possible identities don't fit nicely with being clergy and a member of a community religious association. I do not mean that I would have been any less accepted if I had revealed my pluralist personhood in its fullness only that I felt a pressure to homogenize my self presentation. In other contexts I feel freer to assert this pluralism of the self but usually some aspect of my self presentation is ignored usually the information that I am a pastor.
This experience today has made me realize just how deeply pluralism has effected me and the degree to which we talk about pluralism but rarely embrace it in ourselves even if like me my own identity is so clearly plural and not homogeneous. All the aspects of my self and how I identify don't all fit smoothly together. And in one way or another in self presentation we are expected to present a homogeneous and not heterogeneous identity. Slowly but surely I am embracing my own personal pluralism.