The Despised Ones: a Reflection on Identity

I am pleased to announce that I have joined with a number of other bloggers in the newly-formed blogger’s collective, “The Despised Ones.” Read up on the group at Morgan Guyton’s blog, Mercy, not Sacrifice, where he has posted a summary of the group. Morgan is a fellow Christian blogger whom I believe I met when he found a post of mine through Reddit. It is a very exciting time as this project kicks off.

I seem to be the odd man out in this whole ordeal. Most of the people involved are more of the theological bent. I know probably a good deal more theology than average, but I am certainly no expert. My expertise is more in the realm of philosophy.  Therefore, I shall philosophize. What is it to identify as despised?

The collective derives its name from 1 Corinthians 1:28: “He has chosen the despised ones and those who are not to bring to nothing the things that are.” In context, Paul seems to mean all Christians by this phrase, “despised ones.” Yet we should hesitate to equate Christianity with being despised, as there is a strong temptation for fabricating a persecution complex.

First, let us observe that one’s privations (things which we lack) cannot constitute an identity or essence. If we tried to define ourselves by our privations, then I would identify as a person who has not spread peanut butter across my chest. I would also identify as someone who does not own a lizard. Of course, this makes no sense. Why would I identify by the things that I am not? I am despised — or rather, I am not liked. But what am I?

Thus, if we identify as despised, then it is likely an ironic sort of identification by which we indicate something positive, or else we ought also to identify as “Those Who Do not Have Peanut Butter on their Chests” and “Non-Lizard Owners” (though I suppose I can’t speak for everyone in the group on either count ((please don’t answer the first))).

So if it is an ironic identification as despised, then we are saying that we are despised for some aspect of our character for which we should be loved. This aspect reveals itself when we examine the things for which we are despised: support for feminism, gay marriage, secular schools, science (including evolution), support of the poor, protection of the environment, etc. In each of these cases, we support cooperation and unity rather than casting out a group based on fabricated criteria.

“This man is gay and lives outside our bounds!” say those whom we oppose. We say, “How can we live in a community with this man that we may love him?” “Women are not fit for teaching men!” I hear. “What can I learn from these brilliant women?” I ask. “Schools should teach Christian values!” “How do I live in such a way that accepts our Muslim brothers and sisters and treats them well? …Hindu…? …Buddhist…?” The desire to love others sets us apart from those who have exercised their claim to exclusivity. For this, we are despised.

This is what we mean when we call ourselves “The Despised Ones:” we are despised for our love. Our identity is a direct threat to those who despise us; it is an accusation of hatred, of corruption. It is a call for us to love against all odds, even to love those who despise us, to the point that we would die before we forsake our love.

I humbly choose to take up this identity with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We are The Despised Ones.

About Chris Attaway

Chris Attaway is a Christian philosopher seeking to refine the way we live through reasoning and reflection. Be sure to follow his blog, The Discerning Christian, for challenging articles which offer new perspectives on old problems.
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2 Responses to The Despised Ones: a Reflection on Identity

  1. Pingback: Bouleversement. | Les notes de Séra-Holêthysie

  2. Pingback: What are atheistic sexual ethics? | The Discerning Christian

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