Fluid and Fragile, or in between: Christian Identity in Crisis?

Perspectives from Pastoral Psychology


  • Viera Pirker, Ph.D. Faculty of Catholic Theology, University of Vienna


identity, identity process, identity formation, religious education, psychology


To be alive means to struggle with and to balance between identity and difference. In today’s society this process seems to be even more difficult and risky for the individual. The rise of ‘identitarian’ political movements indicates that the question of identity has not yet passed its zenith. Young adults still struggle to find their place in society while figuring out their norms and values. Pastoral Theology and Religious Education need to understand how people construct their identity, whether and how this implies religiousness and religious values. Since identity is a psychological term, the viewpoint of Pastoral Psychology is relevant. Narrativity and aestheticization have emerged as two broader directions regarding conceptualization of identity during the last decade. In this article, two models of identity construction will be presented: the social psychological model of procedural identity (Keupp et al. 2006) and a model of identity as a process of formation (Pirker 2013) which summarizes various theoretical and empirical identity theories from different backgrounds. From there on, the connection between religion and identity as of inner religiousness and exterior ties will be discussed and related to research projects in Psychology of Religion (Verhoeven/ Hutsebaut 1995; Zehnder Grob /Morgenthaler 2013). The proposed contemporary metaphor of identity as fluid and fragile contains psychological, anthropological and theological sensitivity. Within this framework, the current processes of narrativity and aestheticization will become better understandable for matters of Religious Education.






Holistic approach to religious education