Recently I received an email from a concerned Christian regarding the inevitable adoption of antiracism training for his church’s leadership. With Christian humility, the sender sought assistance in addressing the destructive elements and consequences of embracing critical race theory (CRT) and intersectionality as a means to combat racism and to initiate reconciliation. In making what I thought was a clear and principled case, this Christian observed that this approach is antithetical to reconciliation. The authoritarian nature of CRT (intersectionality and antiracism) suppresses dialogue and fosters separation, which in practice undermines Christian reconciliation and the identity of the Church.
This isn’t the only email I’ve received concerning a church or its leadership self-approvingly incorporating the secular dogmas of antiracism or intersectionality as a sanctimonious advertisement of its stance against discrimination. The speed in which this is occurring communicates to Christians that the imago Dei and the Christian gospel are insufficient bedrocks upon which our identity is centered and in which interpersonal relationships are created, maintained or repaired in the Christian church. Intersectionality concedes to reinforcing a power totem built upon partiality, hate and vengeance, which fortifies a rigid power hierarchy to achieve “solidarity” and “justice”. The Bible clearly rejects this in favor of the righteous and equalizing power of love.
Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, authors of Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, define intersectionality as
“…the examination of race, sex, class, national origin, and sexual orientation and how their combination plays out in various settings. These categories– and still others– can be separate disadvantaging factors… [that] operate at an intersection of recognized sites of oppression.”
According to this ideological framework, a woman potentially experiences discrimination because of her gender. But, if she’s a black woman, she may experience discrimination based on her gender and her race. If this black woman is a lesbian, she then theoretically experiences discrimination or “oppression” based on her gender, race, sexual identity or, all of the above. The intersection of identities expands the possibility of encountering multiple forms of discrimination or social oppression as these identities are associated with traditionally marginalized groups. Attempting to address discrimination without recognition of all intersecting identities is to be complicit in the persistence of discrimination.
Many Christians view intersectionality as legitimizing collective victimization in pursuit of power and unearned moral authority. Subsequently, they see intersectionality as re-establishing the dividing wall of hostility that Christ destroyed; therefore, they fittingly reject it.
Other Christians, however, enthusiastically welcome and exalt the practice of self-identifying with multiple, marginalized identities. Generally, these are people representative of what is increasingly called, the Christian Left.
The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), which according to its website, “equips and mobilizes United Methodists to resist evil, injustice, and oppression as we seek justice for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities,” fits into this category.
One of its several strategic directives is to “model the diversity of God’s creation by training, equipping, and supporting new leadership with intentional emphasis on the development of people of color, young adult, and transgender leaders… to build a diverse network towards the goal of ending oppression and creating full inclusion of all people in the UMC regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ability, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.”
“Diversity,” “people of color,” “transgender,” “ending oppression,” “inclusion,” “gender identity,” … the preceding statement has all the obligatory words and catchphrases of the left. When you take God out of this declaration, it reads like a customary progressive talking point.
The RMN earnestly embraces politicized sexual identities. The “Rooted & Rising” aspect of the RMN is a “reconciling movement for the next season of our collective work for LGBTQ justice and inclusion in the Church.” On October 11th, it celebrated the “National Day of Coming Out” with a virtual worship service, in which Rev. Lora Andrews– who ardently listed her pronouns as she, her, and hers– told fellow worshipers that the church “welcomes,” “affirms,” and “celebrates” God’s children (who are gay, queer, trans, etc.).
Rooted & Rising also commits itself to “center intersectional justice and equity.” It encourages visitors to become familiar with its philosophical commitment, showing a webpage that includes videos and print resources that (re)educates visitors toward RMN’s goal of seeking intersectional justice. Here, one will immediately notice that the informational videos on intersectionality are made for children as well as adults.
Intersectionality’s focus on superficial self-definition– contingent upon actively re-creating oneself in one’s own image, draws Christians away from their identity in Christ. As more and more Christians espouse intersectionality, the foundational premise of the imago Dei and the obligation to conform one’s spiritual identity around the fundamental teachings of God revealed Jesus Christ is rejected.
The Reconciling Ministries Network “affirms” and “welcomes” an intersectional identitarianism that’s in clear contradiction to Christian teaching. The approach of “come as you and are and leave as you came” reflects an endorsement of a life lived strictly according to the flesh with the assumption of divine acceptance and approval. When Jesus saved the adulterous woman from the Pharisaical mob, he didn’t condemn her. However, in combination with compassionate clemency, Jesus counseled her to leave her life of sin. Similarly, Paul teaches Christians to clothe themselves in Christ rather than gratifying the desires of the flesh.
Intersectional Christians– a contradictory term, to be sure– refuse to do this. Conversely, they encourage people to remain comfortable in their self-appropriated identity(ies) and complementary lifestyle(s). Overcoming sin isn’t the focus. The focus is on endorsing assumed identities and corresponding ideologies of the flesh, which are purportedly the primary reflection of who people are. This practice is in clear contrast to leading them toward who and what they can be in Christ.
Intersectionality also draws Christians away from the biblical justice toward the postmodern ideal of equity. Equity is used synonymously with fairness and (social) justice, and in most cases, must be contrived– largely at the expense of another group. That’s not justice; that’s retribution or punishment– here for the commission of historical oppression, much of which has been attributed to people who haven’t committed it. In theory and in practice, intersectional justice is irreconcilable with biblical justice.
Christians should only be concerned with the intersection of sin and human nature, and how it’s resolved.
Intersectionality is infiltrating more and more churches. It redefines religious truths in the terms of its master and in doing so, it seeks to subordinate Christianity to its authority. Jesus was clear regarding the inability of serving two masters. Inevitably, Christians have to choose, and it shouldn’t be intersectionality.