Identity Politics

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Now, here’s a thing. We live in an age of ‘identity politics’. What is that you might ask? Well Wikipedia defines it as:

“A term that describes a political approach wherein people of a particular religion, race, social background, class or other identifying factor form exclusive ….alliances, moving away from broad-based, coalitional politics to support and follow political movements that share a particular identifying quality with them. Its aim is to support and centre the concerns, agendas, and projects of particular groups, in accord with specific social and political changes.”[1]

In other words people are not seen as being bound together by what they think, but more by the nature of the group that they belong too. Sometimes people are seen as being in two intersecting groups – for example ‘Black Ex-Servicemen and women’.

Often, people who hold this perspective not only recognise the membership of such groupings as being paramount in their identity (i.e. how they see themselves), but it becomes the touchstone for all their activity, particularly in the political sphere.

Generally, taking this sort of approach is seen as being popular on the Left. People on the Right tend to disagree with it, often with scorn.

So, where do we stand on this as Christians? Well, in one way we subscribe to it, in that we see ourselves first and foremost as Christians. We have a strong bond with each other and with other Christians around the world. (We often think about political issues and conflicts around the world in terms of their impact upon Christians who might be affected by it). On the other hand, as the Christian Institute says[2]:

‘Identity politics’ is a divisive ideology that has come to dominate public debate. It fractures society into groups formed around characteristics such as gender, sexuality or ethnicity, pitting people against one another in an arms race of victimhood. It also shuts down debate: expressing anything but the most socially liberal views on issues such as transgenderism, homosexuality or abortion makes you unfit for any public office or platform.

The key here lies in the bold type section of this quotation. In fact, of course, the bland Wikipedia definition leaves out quite a lot. Subscribing to identity politics really depends upon what type of grouping you are forming or claiming adherence to,  and also your approach to discussion, debate and accommodation of the rights of others to express views that are contrary to your own. Also, I think, it is important not to stereotype other people and to lump them into categories for convenience.

I came to these thoughts by reading about the centuries-long relationship between settlers and Indians in the US down through the years. In the 1830’s many Indians were forcibly moved hundreds of miles westwards to make way for settlers. This movement became known as the ‘Trail of Tears’ as none wanted to go and many thousands died on the way. One tribe to be forcibly moved was the Cherokees.  Many of whom had, in fact, adopted the settler’s way of life and had become Christians. The white missionaries who became their pastors often went with them and shared their hardships. Make of that what you will.

[1] ‘Identity Politics’, Wikipedia,

[2] ‘Identity Politics’ -The Christian Institute,