The Identity Crisis Of George Santos

Jan 28th, 2023 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues.

The deep-seated commitment to the pursuit of personal autonomy, the vital center of the Postmodern, Post-Christian American culture, has produced several tragic effects.  The Millennials, who passionately have bought into this commitment, have no loyalty to institutions.  For that reason the local church, even if they are Christians, is not that important to them.   Technology has enhanced this pursuit of autonomy, enabling Millennials to create and fashion their own digital reality.   Recent census data confirm that Millennials prefer cohabitation to marriage, at least until they reach age 30.  Millennials also find opportunities to work at home more appealing than the normal workplace.  The COVID pandemic has enhanced this preference. But, embracing the pursuit of autonomy as the chief goal of life has also produced dysfunction, disorientation and confusion.  Many Millennials and the upcoming Gen-Zers (born between 1997-2012) are experiencing an identity crisis.  They struggle with who they are as autonomous individuals.  For the millennial generation, work or vocation, which was the primary identity of the Boomer generation, no longer applies.  For many Millennials, the sexual revolution has caused sexuality to emerge as a defining aspect in solving the identity crisis.  The LGBTQIA movement illustrates this phenomenon.  But it would be difficult to see this movement as successful in solving the pervasive identity crisis among Millennials.

The tragic case of the Millennial, George Santos, powerfully illustrates this identity crisis.  As David Brooks so cogently asks, “What would it be like to be so ashamed of your life that you felt compelled to invent a new one? . . . A reasonably accurate and coherent autobiographical narrative is one of the most important things a person can have.  If you don’t have a real story, you don’t have a real self.”  George Santos jettisoned his actual life and replaced it with a fantasy.  His “fantasy” identity includes a contrived family history, work history and education.  Santos fabricated details about his life, apparently to present a more compelling or interesting personal narrative.  His fantasy involved a college degree that he does not have; properties he does not own; a Jewish heritage with a Jewish name that he does not have; and a heterosexual marriage that ended in 2019, which he hid from the public, for he now describes himself as a gay man.  And, he claimed his mother died on 9/11 in the Twin Towers, but later explained died in December 2016.

Since reports first surfaced about his false claims, Santos has made efforts to downplay his fabrications as mere “embellishments.” Santos also denied that he falsely called himself Jewish, claiming he “never claimed to be Jewish” but jokingly said he was “Jew-ish” to the New York Post. He also falsely claimed that his grandparents “survived the Holocaust” and fled Europe to escape Jewish persecution. But CNN found that Santos called himself an “American Jew” and “Latino Jew” on multiple occasions. The Republican Jewish Coalition disinvited Santos from appearing at any of its events because he “misrepresented his heritage.”

Additional elements of his fantasy:

  • “He began Horace Mann preparatory school in the Bronx, however, did not graduate from Horace Mann due to financial difficulties for his family,” his biography read in 2019 for his first campaign for Congress that Santos lost.  “We’ve searched the records and there is no evidence that George Santos (or any alias) attended Horace Mann,” Ed Adler, a spokesman for the school, told CNN.  The truth: “He obtained a GED during his senior year.”
  • Santos claimed that he criticized Goldman Sachs at private equity conference as an employee.  “Have you ever heard of a Goldman Sachs employee take the stage at the largest private equity conference in the world – SALT, run by Anthony Scaramucci – and berate their employer? Well, I did that,” Santos said on a local podcast this summer. “And I did it in the fashion of renewable energy and global warming. This was the panel I was on. And they’re all talking about solar, wind, and this was back, what, seven years ago now? And I said, you know what, this is a scam. It’s taxpayer money that gets subsidized.”  The claim is entirely fictional, according to both Goldman Sachs, which has said Santos never worked there.  Scaramucci told CNN in a message “there is not only no record of him appearing on a panel, but no record of him even attending the conference.”
  • He also claimed that his family’s Jewish name was Zabrovsky.  In an appearance on a Fox News digital show in February, Santos said his maternal grandparents changed their Jewish last name from Zabrovsky—a claim for which there is no evidence.  “We don’t carry the Ukrainian last name. For a lot of people who are descendants of World War II refugees or survivors of the Holocaust, a lot of names and paperwork were changed in the name of survival. So I don’t carry the family last name that would’ve been Zabrovsky. I carry my mother’s maiden name which is the Dutch side of the family.”  Megan Smolenyak, an author and professional genealogist who helped research Santos’ family tree at CNN’s request, previously told CNN, “There’s no sign of Jewish and/or Ukrainian heritage and no indication of name changes along the way.”
  • Santos claimed his mom immigrated from Belgium.  In one radio appearance from December 2020, Santos falsely claimed that his mother “fled socialism” in Europe and moved to the United States.  “My father fled socialism in Brazil. My mother fled socialism in Europe, and they came here and built a family. And today they can be proud to have a son who is a well accomplished businessman, who is now running for United States Congress. That’s something that wasn’t in the cards for my family,” Santos said.  He also claimed in another interview from 2020 that he “grew up with a White Caucasian mother, an immigrant from Belgium.”  But Santos’s mother was born in Brazil, according to genealogical records.

It is rather revealing that most of Santos’s lies were tied up with money and status.  Brooks observes that “He fabricated a new persona, that of a meritocratic superman.  He claims to be a populist who hates elites, but he wanted you to think he once worked at Goldman Sachs.  Imagine how much inadequacy you’d have to feel to go to all that trouble.”  George Santos is to be pitied.  The dysfunction and insecurity of his life must be tormenting for him.  He is a confused and mixed-up man.

The tragedy of George Santos should drive us to the solution.  The solution is found in Jesus Christ.  There are two aspects of our identity in Christ:

(1) As humans, we are created in the image of God, which establishes our infinite worth and value as humans.  It is the baseline for the value of humanity at every stage in development.  That weighty truth establishes one aspect of our identity:  We both resemble God (in His communicable attributes—intellect, emotion and will) and we represent Him as dominion stewards of His world.

(2)  The Bible also makes clear that when we place our faith in Christ’s finished work on Calvary’s cross, we are a “new creation, the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  Our new identity is that we are “in Christ,” a powerful and profound phrase used 242 times in the New Testament.   The power of sin and the power of death have been broken (see Romans 6).  When we place our faith in Christ, we are declared righteous by Almighty God (justification):  Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to our account.  Further, we are adopted into God’s family, with all the rights and privileges of being a joint heir with Christ (see Galatians 4 and Romans 8).  God is now our heavenly Father and we are His children.  We await the wondrous family gathering of all the brothers and sisters of God’s family in His coming kingdom.  Finally, we are being transformed into the image of Christ (Galatians 4:19, Romans 8:29).  We now belong to Jesus, who bought us with the price of His shed blood and we are indwelt by His Spirit (1 Corinthian 6:19).  Galatians 2:20 perhaps best summarizes our new identity in Christ:  “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  The struggles, tensions and confusion about personal identity that the George Santos’s of this world experience are resolved in Jesus Christ.  To be “in Christ” is the vital center of the new identity offered by God.  As with all things in this broken world, the Gospel is the answer.  May George Santos find that answer!

See David Brooks in the New York Times (1 January 2023); Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal (31 December 2022/1 January 2023); New York Times news article (19 December 2022); and (20, 24, 26, 29 December 2022).

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One Comment to “The Identity Crisis Of George Santos”

  1. Peter Wiebe says:

    Great article. Thank you.