How We Understand Ourselves
First of all, one thing that I'm very convicted of is that the history of identity politics—and understanding of identity politics—helps us to understand how we ourselves, as Christians, are often complicit in that. And that's very useful for helping us to avoid a kind of Pharisaic attitude towards others. Once we realize that the problems we face are ones that we are partly responsible for, that injects a certain humility into our response, which is appropriate and, frankly, God-honoring.
Secondly, I think that an understanding of identity politics helps us to understand what, you might say, people out there are thinking. And one of the issues with people out there today is, of course, that they're not simply out there. They're also in our churches. They're also in our families.
And one of the gratifying responses to my earlier book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, was the number of parents who would say to me after reading the book, Now I understand more about how I can talk to my own kids who are wrestling with this stuff. Now I know better how to talk to my child who thinks they're transgender or says they're gay.
So, I think understanding the way the world thinks has a sort of payoff for us in terms of how we listen to what the world's saying, how we understand what's being said in the world.
Once we realize that the problems we face are ones that we are partly responsible for, that injects a certain humility into our response.
And thirdly, that leads to an apologetic dimension to this. If we can actually understand what's really going on in something like the LGBTQ+ movement, it enables us to respond more effectively. Once we realize that debates about sexuality are not, for example, primarily debates about sexual behavior, but are debates about fundamental human identity—at least that's how they're understood in the modern world—then we're able to address the problem as it presents itself and not the problem as we think it exists.
So, an understanding of the history of identity politics has at least those advantages to it. It injects a certain humility into the enterprise, it helps us talk to our own kids about these things, and it helps us respond more effectively to the challenges that the world is placing at our feet.
Carl R. Trueman is the author of Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution.
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