Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

I Am Me

Written by: on March 7, 2024

Hi, I am a follower of Jesus. My given name is Ryan, my family name is Thorson. I have lived almost all of my life in the Pacific Northwest of the United States of America in the late 20th and early 21st century. I have been married to my best friend for almost twenty years and we have four wonderful kids, 3 who are biological and 1 who is adopted. I am Caucasian, heterosexual and a male who can trace my ancestry back to the Mayflower. I am a pastor of a large, small church of 200 people. I have a high school degree, a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature where I played Division 2 American Football and I have a Master of Divinity from George Fox University. I like to flyfish, read poetry and go on adventures. I live in a progressive university town that is mostly white but says it believes in equality and justice for all. My wife teaches at a public school, I pastor a traditionally ‘evangelical’ church (its our middle name…ugh) and my kids go to a conversative Christian private school…for now. I’m writing this post while at the laundromat in the town I live in because our dryer is broken at home and I couldn’t repair a light bulb if I tried.

So who am I?

I am me.

Writing this bio was a good exercise for me, and hopefully gave you a small insight into who I am. And, while I potentially overshared and gave you (and the internet) a lot of data about who I am, even all of what I have written does not contain the complexity of who I am, what has shaped me, and who I might become. In writing this bio, I struggled with what words to use, what order to put them in and when to stop, cognizant of the lenses I was using to introduce myself, as well as the way the effect of those words might cause you to interpret who I am.

Which items I shared on my list surprised you? Which disappointed you? Which ones had the most influence on the opinion you are forming of me?

Yascha Mounk’s book The Identity Trap describes well the various lenses we’ve used to identity, separate and even subjugate people over centuries in the Western World. In response, many well meaning people, in search of justice, have fallen into the same trap as their predecessors and will unintentionally create a similarly divided world.

The way in which our reactionary world has begun to see itself through the limited lenses of gender, sexuality and ethnicity in order to promote and advance “liberty and justice for all” has not always bothered me. In fact, I’ve championed it at times when it has seemed appealing to accomplish my deeply held values of freedom, compassion and grace that come from my upbringing and my belief in a God who died to give everyone person who ever lived those same values. But something has felt off, I’ve felt strained and stretched like putty or gum that is growing thin at the center. This book has finally broken the thread in the center.

Mounk’s book was a welcome respite from either-or thinking and helped me put language and framework around some of the concerns or problems I have seen with identity synthesis thinking in recent years. As someone who is progressive in conservative circles, it has been easier to observe and critique the more conservative ideology and way of thinking because it is more familiar. In a therapeutic rejection of the ideology of Manifest Destiny that drove my answers to oppress and harm so many, I have sought to salve the shame and right the wrongs of previous generations. Because I am drawn towards justice and drawn towards equality (values that I believe to be deeply Christian) it has been easy to adopt the identity synthesis in recent years as ways of seeking to steward the experience I’ve had and the position of influence I am in.

But Mounk’s book has reminded me, not only that there is a way forward in our country and society that re-centers our focus on the values of freedom and equality, but that, ultimately, those will only be experienced with the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom in my life and in my community. His suggestions as ways to argue the Identity Trap are a great map forward if they are incorporated into a Christ-centered view of each person made in the image of God, ally and enemy, and a belief that it is ultimately the self-sacrificial power of the cross that will break the bonds of injustice in our world. May it begin with me.

About the Author


Ryan Thorson

Follower of Jesus. Husband. Father. Pastor. Coach. I am passionate about helping people discover the gift of Sabbath and slow down spirituality in the context of our busy world.

11 responses to “I Am Me”

  1. Christy Liner says:

    Hi Ryan, I loved your post! I laughed as I read your self-description. I was most surprised by your ability to trace your family back to the Mayflower. I’m curious, how many generations since your family migrated to the west?

    You said “I have sought to salve the shame and right the wrongs of previous generations.” I can see that you in. You have a kind humble posture towards others and have shared about your awareness of the power that comes with your gender, ethnicity, and body composition. Does this book have any influence on how you view your posture towards others?

  2. Graham English says:

    Hi Ryan, thanks for your blog. It really is an issue that many of us are wrestling with. Like you, I think without the Kingdom we are unable to accomplish what he’s proposing.
    I love how this has been a process for you and that you continue to shape your thinking.
    How might this book influence the way you shape thinking in your church?

  3. Adam Cheney says:

    I struggled to start this book. I got about 3 pages in and had to turn away from it for a day and clean my house instead. When I finally read it I also found the terminology helpful and appreciated the centrist perspective. I also find myself as a progressive in conservative circles. I like that definition. I grew up in California and am now in the Midwest so I just naturally fall more progressive than many around me.
    You mentioned that you adopted. I forgot about that. Where did you adopt from? How long has it been? I resonate with many aspects of your identity but it is the adoptive dad aspect that stuck out to me. How do you help others see the identity trap and instead have a more Christ-centered perspective?

  4. Diane Tuttle says:

    Hi Ryan, Thank you for your post and your vulnerability in it. As I read your thoughts about the road map in the book about His suggestions as ways to argue “the Identity Trap are a great map forward if they are incorporated into a Christ-centered view of each person made in the image of God,” are compelling. Yet I am wondering what that might look like as far as how to get started and what form it might take.

  5. mm Shela Sullivan says:

    Hi Ryan,
    Thank you for your post. Loved it!
    How do you navigate the complexities of identity, both personally and in your interactions with others, especially in light of the lenses through which people may interpret who you are?

  6. Jeff Styer says:

    I appreciate your post, sharing who you are. I shared this with Christy, one of the exercises we have our 2nd year social work students do is similar to what you did. Using the Acronym ADDRESSING created by Pamela Hays – Age, Developmental Disability, (acquired) Disability, Religion, Ethnicity/Race SES, Sexuality, Indigenous Group member, Nationality, and Gender. We also include First Language and where they grew up (Urban, Suburban or Rural). students identify all the social groups that make up their identity. Student then fill out a pie chart indicating how much time they spend each day reflecting on each aspect of their identity. We do this to allow students to realize all the different aspects that make up their identity, that they do not have a single identity and neither does anyone else, yet each of these identities impacts how they view and interact in the world. Based on what you wrote, what aspect of I am Me do you think about or reflect on most in a given day?

  7. Daren Jaime says:

    Hi Ryan! Thank you for giving us a glimpse into more of you. You have a journey worth telling. As a pastor, how do you wrestle with Mounk’s message? What Christ-centered approaches would you employ?

  8. Nancy Blackman says:

    Thank you for sharing your bio! It was lovely to learn more about your family history. It’s interesting to me how you have become a progressive voice in conservative circles. How do you navigate those conversations with grace? Please teach me — LOL.

    And, yes! May it begin with you. Thank you for using your voice in spaces where many POCs might not even be invited or welcomed.

    You mentioned this book broke “the thread in the center.” How will you utilize some of Mounk’s key concepts to guide your future conversations?

    What are some takeaways from this book that might intersect with your NPO of practicing Sabbath?

  9. Debbie Owen says:

    Ryan, as a coach and retreat leader, sometimes I have the participants do an exercise. Two people have 5 minutes each. They look at each other, and one says to the other (over and over again, maybe using different inflections, but always the same words), “Who are you?”

    It’s easy to answer at first. Just like you did in the paragraph above.

    But when you get to minute 3, and minute 4… It becomes harder and harder to say who you are.

    Or… you could say it becomes easier to get to the core of who you are.

    The next time you do this exercise – not for the internet because you’ll censor yourself – keep going for 5 minutes. Maybe get your wife or a trusted friend to keep asking, “Who are you?”

  10. Akwese says:

    Ryan, thanks for sharing your ” I AM” story. It was a nice switch in flow and tone for me. Like Diane, I, too, would love to hear your thoughts on what you suggest as possible ways to make this more Christ-centered and also how this book impacts the way you engage these conversations within your church?

  11. Chad Warren says:

    Ryan, you asked which item on your bio list surprised me. The one about not repairing a light bulb. I mean, you are so tall and well-suited for it. I need a chair, but you could just stand there and unscrew the old one and keep standing there while serving in the new one. On a more serious note, as you recognize your adoption of identity synthesis in recent years how do you reconcile Mounk’s view of this to be harmful with your desire to do right by those in your care?

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