We used to have the trinity of race, class and gender in the social sciences. Somewhere along the way we dropped class and added sexual orientation. The idea was that these aspects of human existence are essential to one’s identity — everything you see as a woman is colored by estrogen or something like that.
And then came the religious right and Christian world viewism. Evangelicals saw that a way to acquire a place at the proverbial table was to claim that their faith was as essential to their identity as race is to African Americans, gender to women, and sexual orientation to gays. As one of my non-believing friends likes to ask of this strategy, did evangelicals really want to jump in the bed of identity politics with gay activists?
One way out of this predicament is to ask whether Christianity’s claims on the believer are as totalizing as modern gender or race or queer studies have it. (Even more, is faith merely on the order of race, gender or sexual preference?) Yes, God commands us to love him with all of our being. And in the next breath, Christ adds that we are to love — as if we had any love left — our neighbors as ourselves. Could it be that Christianity’s claims are not nearly as total as modern understandings of human identity construe it? If we have duties as Christians, neighbors, husbands, elders, magistrates, fathers, sons — the list could go on — maybe Christians are called to a vocational life of juggling. And at the level of church-state matters, Christians clearly have to wrestle with their identities as resident aliens — they are citizens of two kingdoms and need to negotiate rival claims and responsibilities all the time.
This leads me to think that the tactic of identity politics was a huge mistake for the religious right and that the only way out of it is to recognize how fundamentally hyphenated the Christian life is.