Janie B. Cheaney - Identity or personhood? | WORLD
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Janie B. Cheaney - Identity or personhood?


WORLD Radio - Janie B. Cheaney - Identity or personhood?

One is chosen by man, the other bestowed by God

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NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, February 8th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Here’s WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney on the difference between “identity,” that is to say, something we choose, and “personhood,” that is to say, what God chooses.

JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: If “down the rabbit hole” is an apt comparison for anything, it’s the Gender Wiki website. This is a waystation for young adults and teens trying to locate themselves on the gender spectrum, with 249 varieties to choose from. For example, Antigender is the opposite of a specific gender while not being that gender. Gardenian is a gender identity that blooms and dies in cycles. A Tarantula is one who feels genderless with a strong female energy.

At least one skeptic in the comments section wonders if people are just making stuff up, to which a true believer replies, quote, “People don’t make up genders, they make up gender labels. Female and male are made up labels.”

Pronouns can be made up, too. Tetrisgender people, who develop their identity incrementally over time, may choose the pronouns block, blockim, and blockself. You’re not likely to meet a Tetrisgender at Walmart, but apparently it’s a thing.

Anyone over 40 could have a lot of fun with 249 genders, flags, and pronouns. But it’s no laughing matter for young people trying to figure out who they are in a confused and confusing world. The real tragedy is some may be so intent on crafting identities that they’ve let go of personhood.

Identity, as we now understand it, is the skin color or sexuality or any other marker, chosen as a primary definition. And it’s inherently limiting. I could “identify” as a woman, an American, and a septuagenarian, but none of those would express who I am as a person.

Personhood is bestowed. The factors that shape us most are the things we did not choose—beginning with being itself. I had nothing to do with my birth, or my parents or grandparents, or my race or country. I didn’t ordain my family’s income or the myocarditis that nearly ended my life at age 12. I couldn’t control what the grownups thought I should learn in school and church, but they, in turn, couldn’t control what I actually learned. The person I became is very different from my siblings, as they are from me. I’m a bottomless being that no one but God can fully plumb.

As Psalm 139:15 says, “My frame was not hidden from you when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth”

Skin color describes a person, but it’s not the person. Transgender feelings may be real, but not definitional. Personhood escapes easy classification: what we are remains essentially mysterious, known fully to God alone.

Identity turns inward; personhood expands outward. The saints described in Hebrews 11 and the saints of today share one trait in common: our eyes are fixed on things unseen. We seek not a handcrafted identity, but God’s promise fulfilled—fully and finally in us, when we see him as he is.

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.

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