"Under a Naked Sky" Reflection on Identity Formation

By Scott Hughes

Under a Naked Sky - Scott Hughes

“If religion once served as a sacred canopy of meaning, we since seem to have grown quite comfortable living under a naked sky.”1

Who are you? No, not “What do you do professionally or where are you in school?” Not, “What generational demographic or ethnicity or country or sub-culture do you most align yourself with?” I mean, really, who are you? Certainly, answers to those other questions are important and play a role in who you are, but underneath those questions what makes you, you?

To go one step further, does what you do reflect your deepest held beliefs? Are your beliefs and actions in alignment? Do you know your purpose in this life?

Perhaps I’m laying it on a little thick with all the questions. But these are some of the questions that can haunt us if we’re still long enough. On the other hand, answers to these questions can give us our deepest convictions and perspectives for viewing the world.

These are difficult questions, because the answers may seem, not just difficult, but too fluid to really nail down. One day we check the “married” demographic check mark; and the next, “divorced.” Or we’ve gone from “employed” to “unemployed” or even “retired.” It seems only yesterday we checked the box with a lower age bracket than our birthday now suggests we fit. Determining our identity and our purpose seems elusive. Some seek fulfillment through work; others, through spirituality. Might religion, specifically United Methodist Christianity, have anything to offer in developing identity and purpose? I believe it does. I hope you’ll follow this blog as we explore this topic together – Forming a religious identity “under a naked sky.”

Reflection Questions for Individuals:

  • What provides you stability in life?
  • How does religion provide or contribute to that stability?
  • What issues do you face in identity formation?

Reflection Questions for Church Leaders:

  • How might churches help adults with identity formation?
  • What life stages serve as transition points as adults are re-evaluating their identity?

1 Porpora, Douglas V. Landscapes of the Soul: The Loss of Moral Meaning in American Life. Oxford University Press, 2001; p. 96.