Imago Dei and Identity Politics
The great divide in the culture is not between Democrats and Republicans, or progressives and conservatives. It is much deeper. It is the divide between the truth and the lie, between the Oneist fiction of human freedom to invent oneself, or the Twoist truth of God the Creator, who made us male and female in his image—this is our true and only identity—reflecting the identity of the Trinitarian God who, in the person of his Son, died on the cross to save us from our rebellion.
American culture is hopelessly divided over the fundamental issues that define the essence and meaning of life. How we think about fundamentals always affects how we live out those fundamentals, and so, eventually, politics becomes an expression of deeply held beliefs. The American congress is grid-locked politically because of the deep divide between those who affirm the rule of constitutional law and those who espouse liberal progressivism. We are also divided over the nature of sexuality (Is it a biological given or can it be manipulated at will?) and over the status of human life in the womb (Does the pre-born have the right to life or can a mother and doctor destroy that life at will?). These divisions will play out politically.
The cultural division is often expressed by the term “identity politics.” Deep philosophical and religious considerations influence how we think of identity. These differences end up playing out politically. People are dividing politically over how we should define identity. Division increases as we claim the right to individually define and thus multiply our essential identities.
Triggers or warning statements must be provided so people can be sheltered from the personal offense or psychological injury perceived by an unannounced expression detrimental to their chosen identity. Universities mark out safe zones and limit free speech in college lectures lest someone might criticize their progressive orthodoxy.
This affects cultural morality. If personal identity becomes the one inviolable area of human rights to be defended with moral passion, then there can be no universal moral standards. This is especially true in the area of sexual identity and practice, which inevitably leads to a disintegration of the God-ordained family structure, which, in turn, eventually leads to cultural disintegration.
The most noticeable example of extreme identity politics is transgenderism. Carl Trueman puts it appropriately; in a modern form of the Cartesian cogito, a man can now say: “I think I am a woman, therefore I am.” If you have a male body but claim you are a female, then you are morally justified in claiming you really are a female and justified in claiming that a denial of your claim is, in fact, an act of hate.
In a most outlandish attempt to preserve the orthodoxy of identity politics in this area of transgenderism, progressive ideologues affirm that sex is “assigned” at birth, not before, but as Ryan Anderson points out in his When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment:
…sex is a bodily reality that can be recognized well before birth with ultrasound imaging. The sex of an organism is defined and identified by the way in which it (he or she) is organized for sexual reproduction…This shouldn’t be controversial. Sex is understood this way across sexually reproducing species.
How far will we go? In an expert declaration to a federal district court in North Carolina concerning H.B. 2 (a state law governing access to sex-specific restrooms), Dr. Deanna Adkins of Johns Hopkins University stated that physical phenomena and DNA in the pre-born child is “an extremely outdated view of biological sex…the appropriate determinant of sex is gender identity.” Dr. Lawrence Mayer, also a scholar in residence in the Department of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in his rebuttal declaration, declared: “This statement is stunning.” [Ryan Anderson]. This is not identity politics. This is identity mythology.
As to heterosexual identity, in addition to the “right” to private pornography, and the numerous identities that it spawns, some now seek the real thing. We are now in the period of the college Spring Break when thousands of college students, the future intellectual and spiritual leaders of the culture, descend on beaches to express their sexual identities with no restraint. The local police can stop alcohol consumption but are helpless before identity-affirming virtual nudity, endless twerking, wet t-shirt competitions, and public sexual intercourse.
Alas, it is not only the “cream” of our universities that demand identity freedom to do virtually anything they wish. In many schools, children are encouraged to exercise the power to name their own “identity.” Often supported by their teachers, high school children now dictate what they want and who they think they are, with moral indignation for those who might oppose them.
In March 2018, the student newspaper of the San Juan Hills High School (Orange County, CA) published a special issue entitled Relationships and Sex. It began: “The following special report highlights the realities of relationships and sex for high school students today,” Here is the summary by the student editors:
Any concept that shames youths for having or not having sex is detrimental.…Now is the time for acceptance of any sexual experimentation and experiences at any stage in someone’s life with anyone they choose. As long as both parties are consenting, mutually benefiting and understand the potential ramifications of their choices, then sex is okay.
Al Mohler correctly notes, with shock:
What makes this story particularly alarming is the fact that this isn’t something that’s been released by a think tank, a progressive liberal think tank about these positions that should be taught to high school students, no, what we’re getting here is evidence that the high school students themselves are now sending the message, sending it loudly, sending it clearly, sending it quite explicitly.
“Public Education is creating a disaster with our children,” says a thoughtful mother, Tina Marie Griffin (founder of CounterCultureMom.com) in the Washington Times (March 20, 2018). She continues:
…in every facet of our society, kids are being conditioned to believe, act and become anything but the critical thinkers and independent people of value that God created all of us to be.
And our youngest children will be affected the most as an ever more radical, Godless ideology is forced upon them…The result of this Leftist brainwashing? A fired-up, uneducated Generation Z that barks on command.
What can we do? The false analyses and seductive lies of identity politics have gotten us to the point where we are losing our own children. The only way we can hope to put things right is to speak the truth, whatever the cost. Finally, the great divide in the culture is not between Democrats and Republicans, or progressives and conservatives. It is much deeper. It is the divide between the truth and the lie, between the Oneist fiction of human freedom to invent oneself, or the Twoist truth of God the Creator, who made us male and female in his image—this is our true and only identity—reflecting the identity of the Trinitarian God who, in the person of his Son, died on the cross to save us from our rebellion.