It has now become the standard playbook when there is an officer involved shooting of a person of color – the narrative becomes about race, not the law or even fundamental right-and-wrong. Initially this struck me purely as a diversionary tactic, a way to take the focus off the fact that in most, but not all, cases the person shot did something if not wrong, very stupid. But the more I think about it, the deeper it becomes. It is not just a tactic, it is a shift in how we think about everything – a shift away from questions of right and wrong, lawful and unlawful and a shift towards identity über allles. Identity trumps (no pun intended) the law. It is not a diversion designed to cloud judgement under the law; it is an entirely different way of thinking about any situations. It is a shift away from the rule of law.
We have now come to the point that when someone does something good, and noble, and kind and loving they are pilloried by those for whom identity is über alles. Forget the goodness, forget the nobility, forget the kindness, forget even the love – only the identity matters. The rule of law, on which this nation was founded, was designed to place the law above identity – as Jim Geraghty pointed out earlier this week. You can claim that was just about the identity of the monarch, but you’d be wrong. England was fairly democratic by the time of the revolution and while the British government, to this day, acts in the name of the monarch, it is not about the monarch’s identity. The American Revolution was about the fact that colonials were not second class citizens in comparison to the island dwelling British though they tried to treat us as such.
People that tell us identity politics is somehow built into our DNA and therefore inescapable are denying us the opportunity to reach for the better, to improve ourselves. But that also is what this nation was founded on – the belief that a person should not be limited by matters of identity, whatever the basis for the identity in question. Saying identity politics is inescapable is part of what is roiling the country right now. So prevalent has become this mode of thought that not only do we have problems like those discussed in the first paragraph, but we also have people inventing identities where there previously was no basis for one simply for political leverage. Not only is it supplanting the rule of law, it is dividing us into smaller and smaller tribes.
No where is this division more apparent than in American Protestantism. Protestantism arose out of the Roman Catholic Church’s tendency to corrupt in a fashion not entirely dissimilar from the corruptions in England that drove the American Revolution. The ideas highlighted by the Protestant movement are the ideas at root in the American Revolution. As those ideas went awry in the the Protestant movement, so they also seem to be going awry in our nation. Post-Reformation, Catholicism reformed itself slowly and painfully, but once again seems to be perched on the verge of schism, driven largely by matters of identity.
Bear in mind I am an outside observer, but the RCC seems to be dividing into tribes awfully fast. What is truly frightening about it is that the questions about the evil perpetrated by some in the church are rapidly fading before the questions of tribes, or identity. I give you exhibit A.
All these parallels – nation, RCC, Protestantism indicate that what is at play is in some sense larger than any of those things.
Before there was a church formal, there was the church ad hoc as recorded in the Book of Acts. They had all sorts of disputes. The congregation in Corinth was especially prone to certain wanderings from the fold and often disputive about what to do and how to be. So when the Apostle Paul wrote to them he said:
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
In other words, before we can settle the disputes, we have to get the fundamentals right. If I tried to establish the fundamentals for the nation right now, sadly, I’d just get continued debate. But my Catholic brethren have the same fundamentals I do and that the Apostle Paul had – “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”
I would ask, even beg, my Catholic friends to go back to these basics before the current disputes get out of hand.
Jesus Christ is your identity.