January 19, 2018

Christians and Identity Politics

Brian Collins

The Public Discourse has a worthwhile article explaining the similarities between Donald Trump’s campaign and identity politics on the left:

Trump is a champion of identity politics, which in case we should forget, was invented by the left. He advances without apology or qualification the interests and values of his supporters. As a group, they possess the identity of people put-upon by their opponents. It may not be correct to say they are all one ethnic group, although many are indeed white; but it is true that Trump’s “tribe,” regardless of its demography, identifies with him as one of their own because of his unique political style. Like members of the politically correct left, Trump and his supporters see themselves as immune from criticism not because of the strength of their arguments, but because of the distinctive characteristics of “who they are.” They are defined by their grievances. Although their identity politics exists on the opposite end of the political spectrum from the left, they do make a claim to victimhood, the same as “black lives matter” activists do to assert their immunity from criticism.

There’s a warning for Christians in the Trump campaign. For many 2015 felt like the year the United States shifted from being a nation in which a Christian heritage garnered some respect to one in which holding to orthodox Christian ethics is bigoted beyond argument.

In this context Christians may also be tempted to view themselves as victims. They may be tempted to play identity politics to “get our country back.” This is a dangerous path to travel because it puts Christians in a frame  of mind contrary to that Jesus expects of his followers in such situations.

Jesus said (Matt. 5:11-12):

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

It is hard to play identity politics as the victim and truly rejoice in being slandered for Jesus’s sake. Jesus’s own example forbids this course of action (1 Pet. 2:21-23):

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

The way the Christian respond to reviling needs to demonstrate that his real trust is in God, who will render justice in the end, and not in our own verbal or political skills.

None of this means that Christians ought to be politically unengaged or that they fail to make use of the liberties they have under the law. The apostle Paul in Acts appealed to his Roman citizenship when needed. It does mean, however, that Christians engage in politics in a distinctively Christian manner, a manner informed by the two great commandments.

Christians press for laws that conform to God’s law not to take their country back, as if it is theirs and not their non-Christian neighbor’s, but because they love God and that neighbor. First, Christians love God, and they should desire for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Second, Christians should love their neighbors, and they know that laws which violate God’s laws will ultimately harm their neighbors.

If Christians engage in the public square with love rather than with the bitterness of a victim claiming rights they will truly stand out as distinct on the American political landscape. And whether they achieve their political goals or not, they will bring glory to God for being like Christ.

Dr. Brian Collins is employed at the Bob Jones University Press. He blogs at Exegesis and Theology, where this piece first appeared. It is republished here by permission.

Although Proclaim & Defend is the blog of the FBFI, the articles we post are not an expression of the views of the FBFI as a whole, they are the views of the author under whose name they are published. The FBFI speaks either through position statements by its board or through its president. Here at Proclaim & Defend, we publish articles as matters of interest or edification to the wider world of fundamentalist Baptists and any others who might be interested.

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