Following Jesus versus Identity Politics

I shared last week why I’m not political. What I really don’t like about politics is what it’s become, especially in what’s been dubbed, “identity politics.” I don’t like it when it comes from either the political left or right. And we will quickly find when we read the teachings of Jesus, and how He explains God to us, that identity politics is diametrically opposed His Kingdom values.

But before I continue, I think some clarification is in order, especially in light of the highly charged and polarized environment we find ourselves in.

First, identity politics is not the same thing as identifying with your culture, ethnicity, race, or gender. It’s actually a very modern notion that came into being in the 1970s. Jordan Peterson gives its origin in a video interview found here. Here’s a snippet from that interview:

“Identity politics is something that is nested inside a particular political view of the world. It’s got a Marxist basis and manifests itself in postmodernism. It emerged first in France in the 1970s, and then in the American Universities, and increasingly in the rest of the West since then.”

I mentioned identity politics and the origin of postmodernism in “Marxism, Artificial Intelligence, and Postmodernism.”

Jonathan Haidt, author of The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, identifies two kinds of identity politics: one good and other very bad.

The good kind, he says, is when people are denied equal access or discriminated against. The bad kind, which we are seeing increasingly on college campuses, is what Haidt calls “common enemy identity politics.” In other words, the very bad kind is when we unite people by saying, “Let’s all unite against them.” They’re the bad people, they’re the cause of the problems. Let’s all stick together.” And Haidt says this is a really dangerous thing to do in a multi-ethnic society, especially in Universities where this practice is prevalent. For instance, on college campuses today, a student can report someone anonymously if they said anything that offends them (from video clip, “Two Kinds of Identity Politics“).

So, in our Universities, where open thought is supposed to flourish among the students and faculty, it’s being silenced out of fear of expulsion or even violence.

As Peterson said, this has its roots fundamentally in Marxist class warfare. We’ve entered into the totalitarian world of Orwellian Thoughtcrimes. One is punished for having divergent thoughts from the group.

You may have heard about the hysterical attacks that happened a couple of years ago against Brett Weinstein, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Evergreen State College in Washington, who suggested that the students’ “Day of Absence” was a form of racial segregation. Sadly, the following clip is just one of a growing number of examples of the bad fruit of angry mob Groupthink that shuts down anyone they don’t want to hear from.

In stark contrast to this, Joseph Klein explains on a video here that the civil rights movement was not about identity politics, it was about destroying identity politics, creating a society where we see people as individuals rather than members of groups. What we’re seeing today is the very opposite of this.

And that’s my point: when we compare this class-warfare mindset to that of Jesus, and how He explains the principles of the Kingdom, we find they are polar opposites. While God obviously loves our diversity (because that’s how He created us in the first place), He does not love our carnal divisiveness.

Christ’s teachings constantly point us to a God who searches out the individual and loves each of us uniquely. He leaves the ninety-nine for the one (Luke 15:1-7); He came for the lowest and the highest in society alike. God shows no partiality (Acts 10:34; Rom.2:11; Eph.6:9), and us showing partiality was condemned (James 2:1-9). In the early church, every class of people were found meeting together.

28 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.” (Gal.3:28 Message)

The Kingdom of God is about people from every ethnicity, tribe, and tongue (Rev.7:9). We are not to judge others but treat them as we ourselves want to be treated (Matt.7:1-5, 12). Jesus died for the sins of everyone, including those we may want to hate on the “other side” (John 3:16-17; 1 John 2:2).

This is but a small sample of the Kingdom values of Jesus.

My country, the U.S., was founded on these principles. And while it took a long time for them to bear fruit in practice, still they helped guide the trajectory toward the current freedoms we enjoy. But in this uncivil environment of identity politics we find ourselves in, where everyone is put in groups of either the oppressor or the oppressed, we have reverted backwards as a civilized people. We’ve lost the plot. And because of this, one cannot have a conversation based on the merits of an individual’s ideas, or see the other on the basis of their character. We’re judged based on our identity grouping.

In that regard, let me close with Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous words that will forever echo what Jesus tried to teach us:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

May sanity return and we heed his immortal words once again, remembering where we came from.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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10 Responses to Following Jesus versus Identity Politics

  1. “While God obviously loves our diversity (because that’s He created us in the first place), He does not love our carnal divisiveness.”

    Really well said. I will remember those terms, “diversity versus carnal divisiveness.” I live not too far from Evergreen. Two of our kids went to college a few years back and it was a huge shock to my system. The behavior, the environment, what was being promoted, was just surreal. It was like something out of a sic/fi novel. College is always “weird,” right? No, this was something else entirely, all these adults who had lost their darn minds and were trying to share the insanity, trying to instill it in their prodigies.

    • Mel Wild says:

      “No, this was something else entirely, all these adults who had lost their darn minds and were trying to share the insanity, trying to instill it in their prodigies.”

      Exactly, IB. I agree with Haidt’s subtitle to his book: “How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.” Sadly, that is spot-on.

      Or, as one the commenters on YouTube observed, “Those students are the most privileged, entitled brats I’ve ever seen,” which just highlights the hypocrisy of their whole rant even further. The scary thing is, they may get their way. Just shows that intelligence disappears in the context of an angry mob. We’ve certainly entered into the Twilight Zone here.

  2. John Eli says:

    Great insight. Thanks for sharing.

  3. hawk2017 says:

    TY. But I do not believe we will ever go back to the truth.

    • Mel Wild says:

      It is a lot to hope for, I admit. 🙂 I’m not sure we ever arrived at the truth as a culture, but we can hope for a return to a more positive trajectory. What’s different is we live in a pluralistic society now, not one dominated by Christianity like it was for the last 1,000 years. This can actually be a good thing for reasons I won’t go into here. And I’m not afraid to stand up what Jesus offers with all the other diverging thoughts in the marketplace of ideas. But we should be able to communicate in this diverse society without being shouted down the way these people have. The irony is, by trying to promote their “equality,” they’ve become more totalitarian in their behavior.

  4. The universal nature of Christianity automatically inoculates itself against the proclivities of identity based ideologies. You can be a Christian regardless of your ethnicity or nationality. This isn’t true of all theologies. Some are ethnocentric.

    While I am not a Christian, I do throughly respect this aspect of Christianity. A set of moral principles at odds with identity politics is something that is greatly need in society as a whole. Identity politics are a cancer to our society that is that fosters more conflict than cooperation in our society.

    Great blog entry!

  5. Pingback: Why Critical Theory is not compatible with Christ | In My Father's House

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