Today I heard on the news that the new ‘secure’ form of passport, in which a tiny computer chip containing many things about one’s personal identity is placed within the document itself, has been breached. A computer hacker in the United Kingdom has shown that within twenty minute he could breach this system. The same helpful person has demonstrated how he could use false identities to enter a number of British ports.
The Australian Government, along with others around the world, has sought many new ways to ‘secure’ its citizens.
Many of these new securities have been provided for us as the cost of our civil rights, but strangely this does not seem to bother the populace, so long as we are given this promise of ‘security’.
It hasn’t worked, and it never could.
There is an amazing new wave of crime called identity fraud. That is, people are very carefully working to steal other people’s identity.
I heard a detailed report about how this happens. It seems we are all just so slack, in giving away to those who want to find it, all sorts of information about ourselves.
For example, identity thieves work through our garbage, especially the paper we set out for the recycling people. They find bank statements, or old bills we have paid, and so on. Before we ever imagine it, they can reconstruct who we are: our names, the names of those who live at the same address, phone numbers, occupation, employer, our bank (of course!), credit card numbers, etc, etc. One story of identity fraud involved the creation of an entire new (but false) person with the same name, address, etc, and new credit cards were issued in this name, but used by the thieves.
It was many months before the real Joe Blow eventually twigged that the card bills he was receiving were somehow not his, and then he had the amazing task of trying to convince the bank that he, and not this other ‘person’ known only on paper, was the real Joe Blow.
The bank would not believe him.
How can you proved who you are? What in fact establishes your identity?
When we go to the bank or someplace we use paper documents, such as a passport to show who we are. Really?
What is the basis of our identity?
There is in fact only one basis for identity, brilliantly identified many centuries ago in trinitarian theology, especially following the thought of the Cappadocian father, Gregory of Nazianzus.
We are who we are through relationship. To be is to belong. Identity is constituted through belonging. Relationships, Gregory suggested, constitute our identity. Who we are is in fact a matter of whose we are.
In trinitarian theology, this means that the Father is the Father of the Son and the Spirit. The Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and the Son. The Son is the son of the Father, in the Spirit.
Jesus invited his followers to know this reality, not as information but as a way of living and being. In John’s Gospel, this kind of ‘knowing’, the knowing of personal relationship and inter-personal communion, is a theme. There Jesus uses the imagery of the vine and the branches, to describe this life of mutual indwelling (Chapter 15). Followers of Jesus are invited to live in him as he lives in the Father.
There is no secure identity, to be established by separateness. This is the folly and fallacy of our current approach to ‘security’ and foreign policy.
A secure identity is one in which we know who we are and can have confidence in being who we are, and can genuinely and even without fear relate to others, even those very different from ourselves. This secure identity is possible only through relationship, through living and relating together. It may be scary. It means being vulnerable. But it is also living, not hiding in fear. It may also be exciting, and creative, even loving. It is about living in community, or perhaps we might say living into community.
This secure identity has its foundation in the one who chooses not to be secure, apart from us in glorious, splendid isolation, but rather who came to us and comes to us, in relationship—that is, Immanuel, God with us.