Intersectionality: Building A “Community Of Intolerance”

May 9th, 2020 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

Rosaria Butterfield, former tenured professor at Syracuse University and former radical lesbian feminist, came to know Jesus Christ through the love and compassion of a pastor and his wife stretching over three years.  She describes her conversion as a “train wreck,” for God had to dismantle her entire worldview, replacing it with the worldview detailed in Scripture.  Butterfield is now married to a pastor in North Carolina, is a homeschooling mother and continues using her giftedness as a writer and speaker.  She recently summarized a question and answer session she was hosting on a college campus in which she detailed her conversion to Jesus Christ.  Because of Butterfield’s description of a transgender friend, the student accused her of hate speech.  She declared boisterously, “Transgender women are hurt by such insensitive observations.  It’s hateful . . . Who cares about truth?  Your truth isn’t my truth.  Your truth hates my reality!”  Butterfield then correctly asks, “How did we get to a place where it makes sense for a person to reject truth not because it’s false but because it hurts?  How did we get to a place where we label people—image bearers of a holy God—as knowable primarily by their political and social group, as if that is the truest and most indelible virtue?  Under what worldview could my words cause suicide but the genital mutilation that allows biological men to masquerade as a woman cause celebration and affirmation?”

The answer to Butterfield’s questions is intersectionality.  Intersectionality is a neo-Marxist theory that deals with the various aspects of social oppression (e.g., race, gender, sexual orientation, class, etc.) interconnected in the various hierarchies of power in America.  It creates a metanarrative out of oppression.  It maintains that the world is made up of power struggles, and that white male heterosexual patriarchy must be destroyed in order to liberate those who are oppressed by it.  “It understands the biblical complementarity of husbands and wives as perverted and ‘weaponized.’”  It believes that if we can expose the myriad ways in which people suffer down to the smallest detail and then rearrange the power-oppressions, we have the ability to reemploy a person’s history (of oppression) and destiny (of liberation).  For example, the “dignitary harm” clause in the 2015 Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) which legalized same-sex marriage, expanded “the concept of harm to include harm to one’s dignity and identity.  Thus, any perceived rejection of personal identity based in the LGBTQ+ affirmation constitutes harm.  Harm, then, is both material and psychological, both real and perceived.”  Intersectionality maintains that “who you truly are is measured by how many victim statuses you can claim—with your human dignity only accruing through intolerance of all forms of disagreement about your perceptions of self and world.”

Several points of clarification about Intersectionality:

  1. The Oxford Dictionary definition: “The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.”
  2. Who came up with the term Intersectionality and why? The term Intersectionality itself is attributed to legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in her 1989 essay “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” though the actual notion behind Intersectionality extends into the early 19th century.  Crenshaw coined the term to express the particular problems that immigrant women of color face and why their issues were being ignored by both the feminist and the anti-racism movements.  Crenshaw contends that there are overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination. “Intersectionality is the idea that multiple identities intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities.” These identities that can intersect include gender, race, social class, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, age, mental disability, physical disability, mental illness, and physical illness. These aspects of identity are not “unitary, mutually exclusive entities, but rather…reciprocally constructing phenomena.” The theory proposes that we think of each element or trait of a person as inextricably linked with all of the other elements in order to fully understand one’s identity.  This framework, it is argued, can be used to understand how systemic injustice and social inequality occur on a multidimensional basis. Intersectionality holds that the classical conceptualizations of oppression within society—such as “racism, sexism, class, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia and belief-based bigotry”—do not act independently of each other. Instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, creating a system of oppression that reflects the “intersection” of multiple forms of discrimination.  Such oppression is cyclically perpetuated.

Andrew Sullivan, in a brilliant article in New York Magazine, comments on the “religious-like” nature of Intersectionality.  Consider these points:

  • It posits a classic orthodoxy that explains all aspects of human experience and “through which all speech must be filtered.”
  • Its version of original sin is the power of some identity groups over others. “To overcome this sin, you need first to confess, i.e., ‘check your privilege,’ and subsequently live your life and order your thoughts in a way that keeps this sin at bay.  The sin goes so deep into your psyche, especially if you are white or male or straight, that a profound conversion is required.”
  • Intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse. It enforces manners.  It has an idea of virtue—and is obsessed with upholding it.
  • The “saints” of intersectionality are the most oppressed who nonetheless resist.
  • Life is simply an interlocking drama of oppression and power and resistance, ending only in death. There is no future hope or release. Sullivan: “It is Marx without the total liberation.”
  • Perhaps the most salient observation Sullivan makes is its power to control: “If you happen to see the world in a different way, if you’re a liberal or libertarian or even, gasp, a conservative, if you believe that a university is a place where any idea, however loathsome, can be debated and refuted, you are not just wrong, you are immoral.   If you think that arguments and ideas can have a life independent of ‘white supremacy,’ you are complicit in evil.  And you are not just complicit, your heresy is a direct threat to others, and therefore needs to be extinguished.  You can’t reason with heresy.  You have to ban it. It will contaminate others’ souls, and wound them irreparably.”

Academic freedom and academic discourse have no place in the Intersectionality worldview!  In the words of Andrew T. Walker of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, “intersectionality offers a cosmogony of sorts (a theory of everything).  It explains the world and supplies progressives with a comprehensive account of justice devoid of any transcendent account.  Further, and importantly, according to Intersectionalists, the here and now are both necessary and sufficient conditions for approximating perfect justice and redressing all social ills.  So Intersectionality functions in the role of Divine Judge and Divine Mediator, but displacing divine judgment and mediation altogether and places it is the hands of non-divine beings attempting to execute judgment and mediation for the sake of justice in the present.”  Intersectionality is thoroughly intolerant, manipulative and controlling.  It produces never-ending social division and fragmentation—“a culture of identity politics on steroids.”  It claims to create community, but the community it creates is fractured, victim-minded, angry and inconsolable.  It is a never-debated set of ever-expanding personal qualities that constitute identity and personhood: age, race, class, sex, sexuality, gender identity, weight, attractiveness, feelings, phobias—the list goes on.

In conclusion, permit me several observations about Intersectionality:

  1. Intersectionality provides an understanding of how progressive college campuses and progressive tenured professors can institutionalize intolerance in places once known for the tolerance of all ideas.
  2. Intersectionality is positing a set of absolute ethical standards without any absolute framework for those standards. It promotes universal judgment and justice without any appeal to that which is universal.
  3. In the pursuit of ending oppression and exploitation, Intersectionality promotes oppressive and exploitative methods to accomplish its seemingly just ends. For the intellectually honest, this is absurd!
  4. Genuine, biblical Christianity has the solution to the serious social and cultural problems raised by Intersectionality. It is of course Jesus Christ, for He alone can solve the problems of social injustice, discrimination and oppression.  He forever solves the issue of personal identity—see Galatians 2:20.  And we, His disciples, must model that love, humility and compassion sourced in Him and His indwelling Holy Spirit.  In doing so, we cannot wield the same sword of intolerance that Intersectionality wields.  As we point out the shortcomings and bankruptcy of Intersectionality, we must show respect and honor to these image-bearers of God who are advocating these positions.  We are apologists, we are ambassadors and we are representatives of the Lord of the universe.  We cannot allow ourselves to become intolerant bigots as Intersectionality advocates are becoming. As John Piper concluded in 2002:  “. . . since Jesus Christ alone, the Creator and Lord of history, has the right to wield the tolerance-ending sword, we dare not.”

See Rosaria Butterfield, “Intersectionality and the Church, in Tabletalk (April 2020), pp. 72-75; Steve Williamson, “What Is Intersectionality and Why Is It Important?” in www.care2.com; “Intersectionality” article in Wikipedia; Andrew Sullivan, “Is Intersectionality a Religion?” in New York Magazine (www.nymag.com), March 2017; and Andrew J. Walker “’Secular Religion’ and the Impossibility of Religious Liberty” in www.thefederalist.com (14 March 2017).

One Comment to “Intersectionality: Building A “Community Of Intolerance””

  1. Marla Kloeckner says:

    Hi Dr Eckman’s.. Just a suggestion to please include the actual Scripture when it is short like the one you referenced today, because odds are an unbeliever will not look it up. And we know the Word does not come back void!! Appreciate your articles! Blessings to you & yours!

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