Philip F. Esler on Why Identity Matters

Interesting Op Ed by Philip Esler on Bible and Interpretation.  Here is a snippet:

“Identity Matters” is the title of a recent book by a group of social scientists on ethnic and sectarian conflict.1 And so it does. If a person is explaining who he or she is or a group who they are, they are answering one of the most fundamental questions of all. It is also invariably true that people or groups answering the question “Who are you?” have a much richer understanding of themselves than outsiders will. Indeed, one of the major problems in human and social relations is the practice of stereotyping the other, of reducing the enormous complexity and richness of what it means to be the people they are to a handful of characteristics alleged to typify them.

Accordingly, when we explore issues of personal and group identity we are obliged to take the question very seriously and to be sensitive to the self-understandings of the people and groups we are investigating. If those in focus come from a different culture, we are also into the distinction between emic and the etic, between insider, indigenous viewpoints and outsider, often social science informed viewpoints. When the people in question are in the past, we encounter the additional complication of how the subsequent course of history of their descendants, physical and spiritual, affects, or should be allowed to affect, our interpretation.

via The Bible and Interpretation – Oped name.

Go there to read the rest.

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