As always, I loved this offering by Joanne Harris. It’s different than many of her works, more disturbing, but still maintains all her usual trademarks; a great imagination, fantastic use of all the senses in description (more relevant her than usual for reasons that will become clear if you read the book) and a playing around with the reader’s mind. The book explores two topics, the nature of our relationships especially with those closest to us, and the nature of personal and public identity and the way the virtual world can blur this. I’d say that her exploration is successful, but will restrain from saying more to avoid spoiling the plot for those who haven’t read it yet!
Whilst others haven’t enjoyed this as much as they expected, I certainly did, and am looking forward to her next offering.
No, not that Kate Middleton, rather Kate Middleton from Pembury, Kent. After two years of holding an account in her name on the famous social networking site, she tried to log on one day only to find her way barred. The reason given by Facebook? Her account was disabled as she was faking her identity, impersonating her now more famous namesake, the fiancée of Prince William. Facebook are reported as having apologised and looking into her case.
An easy mistake to make perhaps, although a quick trawl through Facebook reveals that there are plenty of other accounts belonging to Kate Middleton – it would seem that they have their work cut out if they are going to go through them all to work out if any are impersonators of either Kate Middleton future royal or from Pembury.
Impersonation is becoming a serious issue, especially in this digital age. Identity theft with the resultant potential financial fraud and embarrassment is on the increase, and we are often reminded to be vigilant regarding what we reveal about ourselves online and in the ‘real’ world so that we don’t unintentionally let slip anything that others can use against us (as football pundit Andy Gray found out this week with his ‘off-air’ comments about female linesmen).
As many of you will know, I’m a fan of social networking. I’ve got both a Facebook and Twitter account and use them to keep in touch with friends old and new and indeed all around the world. I also run a number of websites (church and hobby related) and a blog (online journal). During the next couple of weeks I shall be using both my Twitter account and the SLM site to let people know how we’re getting on in Sierra Leone – do pop by and say hello! I’ve become increasingly aware how careful you have to be in what you post as once something you’ve written is out there it can’t be retracted, and often there is the illusion that you’re conducting a private conversation when what you write is open for all sorts of people to read (the things I see revealed on Facebook for example are staggering sometimes, things people wouldn’t say in public, and yet write for all the world to see causing hurt, confusion and embarrassment!)
As a Christian minister, however, I want to encourage identity theft! There is a form of impersonation that is to be encouraged, that in fact is fundamental to being followers of Jesus. Paul repeatedly refers to our identity as being ‘in Christ’. He says that when we were baptised, we clothed ourselves in him (Gal. 3:27) and that we should put him on rather than our fallen nature (Romans 13:14). It is a challenge, although fortunately we have the gift of the Spirit to help us, but wouldn’t be wonderful if our Facebook accounts were disabled because people thought we were committing this particular identity fraud.
This week the BBC lost a legal battle to prevent the publication of the auto-biography of the man claiming to be ‘The Stig’. For those who don’t know who The Stig is, he is the mysterious racing driver who dresses permanently in his white racing suit with white helmet, the blackened visor of which is never lifted. His identity is thereby kept secret. He never speaks, just stands menacingly in the background, or drives with silent efficiency in their vehicle test drives. Why did the BBC take this legal action? Their feeling was that the power of the Stig is in his anonymity. If he is revealed as simply A. N. Other racing driver, he is no longer as potent a figure.
Reading this reminded me of the following passage in Ephesians, Eph. 1:15-23:
‘For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.’
Here Paul extols the greatness of God the Father as demonstrated in his ability to raise Jesus from the dead – which of us could achieve such a task? Who else has such power over life and death? He also extols the power of Jesus, God’s Son – he is the one to whom God the Father has and will give all authority and power. But there’s more! In the last verse, we are let into a breath-taking secret. If we’re honest, the Church is a motley bunch at the best of times. We’re not the most glamorous or fashionable bunch. We have more than our fair share of failures, scandals and misfits, but what does Paul say about who we really are? Paul says that in his Church is the fullness of God! In and through us, God is known and made known, his character and power is revealed. The Stig may be a powerful figure, with an ordinary secret identity, but we’re an ordinary people, with a most powerful secret identity. Perhaps its time we are prepared to let the secret out!
Church Newsletter article for Sunday 5th September 2010