To understand today’s leftists–including why they shut down free speech on university campuses–you need to understand “intersectionality.” And to understand “intersectionality,” you need to see it as a religion.
As a worldview, intersectionality understands all things in terms of identity politics. Specifically, the patterns of oppression based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity. (Also social class, physical disability, mental disability, etc.) White male heterosexuals enjoy “privilege” over people of other races, women, gays, and the transgendered. One person may possess some identities that bestow privilege, while possessing others that are oppressed. Thus, someone might have the privilege of whiteness, heterosexuality, and “cis” gender (that is, accepting the gender assigned at birth), but also experience oppression for being a woman. If she sees the oppression of someone in the other identity groups–for example, a black transgendered man–she must respond as an “ally.”
So far, this is nothing more than the Marxist concept of solidarity applied in a post-Marxist way, replacing class struggle based on economics with identity group struggle based on sex and race. But several observers have noted how intersectionality has become a religion.
Original sin is “privilege.” Conversion is becoming “woke.” Confession of sin is “checking your privilege.” But this is a religion of law. There is no grace. No forgiveness. No salvation. Freedom is not allowed. And unbelievers and heretics must be silenced (“no-platformed”) and punished. Intersectionality is a religion of wrath and judgment.
Here are samples from two observers, the first a conservative and the second a gay Catholic, writing on the subject. Read their entire essays.
From David French:
While there’s not yet an Apostle’s Creed of intersectionality, it can roughly be defined as the belief that oppression operates in complicated, “interlocking” ways. . . .It’s identity politics on steroids, where virtually every issue in American life can and must be filtered through the prisms of race, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
Intersectionality privileges experiential authority, with each distinct identity group able to speak conclusively and decisively only about their own experience. So when an issue impacts trans rights, the trans community takes the lead. The responsibility of the rest of the community is to act, then, as their “allies.” . . . . Contrary experiences, then, represent a threat that must be extinguished. Dissenting women (such as Christina Hoff Sommers) or dissenting people of color often find that they’re vilified, shamed, and “no-platformed.”
For the in group, it’s easy to see the appeal of the philosophy. There’s an animating purpose — fighting injustice, racism, and inequality. There’s the original sin of “privilege.” There’s a conversion experience — becoming “woke.” And much as the Christian church puts a premium on each person’s finding his or her precise role in the body of Christ, intersectionality can provide a person with a specific purpose and role based on individual identity and experience.
The faith is fierce. Intolerance in the name of tolerance is the norm. Debate and dialogue are artifacts of scorned “respectability politics.” I’m reminded of the worst sorts of fundamentalist Christian sects, the kind that claim to take the Bible literally yet live as if mercy is alien to Scripture and that commands to “love your enemies” or “bless those who persecute you” somehow fell off the page. In the church of intersectionality, grace is nowhere to be found.