Friday, April 04, 2008

On Being An Individual

There are many things I enjoy about the generation I am a part of. It is more open-minded, more willing to accept change and those of different viewpoints, more engaging, more creative, more confident, and more diverse. I know many older Christians fear for the young people of this generation, and I will be the first to admit that my age group certainly has its problems. However, when I think about the young devout Christians I know and love, I have the overwhelming sense that when these Christians grow up and start becoming leaders in the Church, the Church is going to rock more than ever before.

At the same time, there is something about my generation that I do not like at all. When I think about it, it is really hard to be an individual nowadays. Sure, we all have our Facebook pages and our blogs, listing every detail of our personal lives and our likes and dislikes. We all know how to dress in the way that best "expresses ourselves." We all have different play lists on our iPods and have neurotic personality quirks that we share with the whole world through a variety of means (for example, it's common knowledge amongst my friends that I don't drink coffee, but still have a fondness for coffee shops). All of this, however, really doesn't mean anything. These individual characteristics that we think make us special are often used to simply categorize and compartmentalize us, and that makes it hard to really have some individuality.

This constant desire to label everything and make it all "nice and neat" is something that really drives me crazy about my generation. I know we often blame stereotypes and bigotry on older generations, but it's not really the case. Just check out any Facebook group: "You might be Cuban if...," "You might be a lesbian if...," "You might be from Boise if...," "You might be a Methodist if...," etc. Then watch all the stereotypes roll. I know it's all done in fun, and sometimes those groups are really funny, but at the same time I think they're indicative of a generation that is fine with individual differences as long as those differences fit within a specific range.

I guess what I'm getting at here is that it's hard to fit in when you live a bit on the fringe like I do. There are no Facebook groups for "guys who are celibate and deal with homosexual attraction although they have reservations about labeling themselves as 'gay' even thought they usually do it for clarity's sake anyway." There are no denominations for "Calvinists who still like the traditions of the United Methodist Church and have an affinity for Catholic Mass as well." There's no ethnic community that describes an "Irish-French-German-English man who might be part American Indian, has an Southern accent with a hint of Outer Banks brogue and speaks in Spanish to his brother." Yet those are things that I am (and before you ask, I don't really speak Spanish well. I wish I could take more courses but my majors don't really allow it).

At the same time, I think a lot of the people who do label themselves are just as unique and don't fit into their labels as neatly as everyone else (or perhaps they themselves) would like them to. It's just strange then, to me, for them to keep the label at all. I've just gotten to a point in my life where I want to be an individual, not a statistic or a label. I don't want to be treated as a demographic, but as a person. That's why I hate it when people like Sally Kern speak out against "homosexuals." They aren't taking people like me into account. Heck, they aren't taking anyone into account except for the promiscuous, unhealthy, depressed people who fit into their statistics and what they think it means to be "gay." Don't worry, I get equally mad when some liberal hotshot starts talking trash about "Christians," all the while revealing how few he or she has actually met.

So I guess it's just a choice to make. I can either not label myself at all and really not fit in with anyone, or I can label myself but make sure I list all the reasons I might challenge people's perceptions of what it means to be gay, Christian, a Southerner, an artist, a writer, a student, etc. It's confusing and it's a little tiresome, and I guess the only real thing I've said in this post about being an individual is that, well, it's not easy. Take care, everyone!

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