Defeating Identity Politics: The Role of The Church

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Identity politics restricts the way people can speak in a society. It exercises mind control, using social and political pressure to manage the way people think and what they are allowed to learn. Its movements give opportunity for certain political players to arise. Once in power, they further remove social and political freedoms to solidify their control. Actual concern for the identity group they claim to represent is false. It is about their coming to power and then restructuring free and democratic societies.

These movements often share a revolutionary ideology. They are not content to gain rights for their identity groups while respecting the values of democratic society. They are often linked to totalitarian platforms, sometimes with links to the Chinese Communist Party, who fund groups and support in other ways. To be clear, the issue is not more rights in a society for minorities, but a political process which desires the complete overthrow of liberty.

Such pollical movements take advantage of segregations within a society and exacerbate these, destabilising communities through violence.  Make no mistake, the church must fight against this, otherwise these movements will continue to intimidate and undermine social institutions, government representatives and the traditional ordering of society within free nations.

So how does the church fight?

First, we must address the injustices within our society that give opportunity for division and embittered political movements. The early church did this, by renouncing racial, economic, and social divisions, and becoming one new family of care. The whole church followed the dictum expressed by Paul: “In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, educated nor deplorable, female nor male, rich nor poor, slave nor free, but we are all one.”

At this “one-table” the misfortunes we suffer due to our minority identity receive attention and are healed. This is where our various identities find nurture and ministry: not through an embittered political process that separates, but through a family table that restores. This is God’s plan to heal our social divisions, and the church that doesn’t behave like this in its daily life is not acting as the church.

Through acceptance and inclusion we find ministry and healing. Our cultural backgrounds reflect a wealth of diversity that is to be celebrated, even as these are enriched in the unity of Christ’s love.  Other “identity categories” (such as sexual issues) might be very real to us but may need healing and transformation. For some of us our issues may not be labelled with identity tags and politicised, but are just plain ego, anger, or power issues that we must crucify daily. Together, we are to receive acceptance and care as God brings healing back to our lives and communities to rebuild his creation.

The church is a place where minorities give and receive protection and witness. As we receive each other, together we are witnesses of restoration, where our identity is found in our contribution to community rather than in our self. Adam and Eve originally found their identity in complimenting each other. In the fall, they sought a self-identity, which sets us apart. The church heals division by nurturing faith, family, society, economics, and environment in a way that rebuilds the wholeness.

The Evangelical movement of Britain in the 18th and 19th Centuries paved the way for great social change which saved the nation from French and Russian styled revolutions. This Evangelical movement, led by John and Charles Wesley, William and Catherine Booth, John Newton, William Wilberforce, Florence Nightingale, and countless others like them, brought care to the poor and reform to the greed, economic and power divisions in the nation.

In recent decades, this good work has been largely undone by the rise of unregulated economies that concentrate power in a few hands that threaten our democracies and humanity. Just as monastic movements arose to witness against corruption and abuse of power in the Middle Ages, the church today must once again find effective witness of transformation in our own lives and relationships.

A good revolution begins with the church, in taking in our neighbours to heal one another. An evangelicalism is needed where we receive a new heart in Christ to heal our society, and not just our own private lives. The Salvation Army in its beginning years called this “blood and fire,” the blood of Christ and the fire of the Spirit to turn us from sin, personal sin and sin against our poor neighbour. This alone can save us from a bad revolution.

It has worked with us locally in Nigeria. Building one neighbourhood of inclusion and care has torn down the divisions that have been exploited by political opportunists and violent extremists.  It works. It isolates the enemy of our communities and demonstrates the reconciling gospel clearly through live action. In Nigeria we have found identity politics is not in the heart of most people. It is rather a political, economic-elite and media-led campaign. As we have reached out to build bridges and live as neighbours the politics has completely vanished.

So don’t allow identity politics to intimidate you. It doesn’t lead to liberty, but to tyranny. To fight against this means to be faithful to those things of true value: the faith, the church, the family, and to include and restore our neighbour, especially those different to ourselves, and those broken and hurting. As we do this in 2021, we shall confront the tyranny in the world and shall overcome it and bring liberty back to our nations. God has promised it. “The meek shall inherit the earth.”