What Is Intersectionality?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The term “intersectionality” has become a cultural buzz word. Churches are embracing this concept, newscasters readily promote it, and political activists use it to empower their messages. Despite its popularity, there is perhaps no more inherently divisive ideology than that of intersectionality. As a facet of cultural Marxism—more popularly known as critical theory—intersectionality relies upon Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony which divides everyone into two classes: the oppressor and the oppressed. According to one sociologist, “Cultural hegemony refers to domination or rule maintained through ideological or cultural means. It is usually achieved through social institutions which allow those in power to strongly influence the values, norms, ideas, expectations, worldview, and behavior of the rest of society.”[1]

Cultural hegemony refers to the dominant power in our culture. It is what is meant when people speak against “the Man” or the “the system.” According to critical theory, those who belong to this dominant power class will always oppress those outside the hegemony. Interestingly, the qualifications for belonging to this dominant power class have nothing to do with a person’s level of influence. Instead, a person’s classification is based upon his or her group identity—things like race, gender, and sexual identity.

Critical theorists define the cultural hegemony in America as being white, male, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied, native-born Americans.[2] Everyone who belongs to a group identity different from this list is necessarily a victim of this oppressor class which has created a cultural structure designed to preserve its power. As such, anyone who does not match these traits is inevitably at war with those who do because those who do are the ones in power who are oppressing everyone else by their very existence. However, there is a large swath of society that identifies with some of the traits represented in the oppressor class and also some traits represented in the oppressed class. This is where intersectionality becomes important.

A white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied, native born woman identifies with the cultural hegemony in every way but one. Not being male, this woman checks one box in the oppressed class and five boxes in the oppressor class. She is a victim of the hegemony, but only slightly so. The more boxes a person can check in the oppressor class, the more privileged he or she is. Likewise, the more boxes a person can check in the oppressed class, the more aggrieved he or she is. Thus, a black, lesbian, woman is a greater victim than someone who can only check the box “female.” And a black, lesbian, woman who is also an immigrant is a still greater victim.

Every group identity outside the dominant power class provides its own perspective of oppression. These “lived experiences” provide the victim with social credibility and moral authority as they speak against the hegemony—“the system.” Naturally, those who identify with more victim-class group identities possess more lived experiences, which grant them greater victim status, more social credibility, and more moral authority when they speak against the hegemony.

Importantly, this greater moral authority does not come with greater moral responsibility. Oddly enough, the greater one’s victim status, and the greater one’s moral authority within critical theory, the less moral responsibility that person has for his or her behavior. After all, victims should not be judged, according to critical theorists. Also important to note is that those who belong to the oppressor class can only gain moral authority by becoming subservient to the oppressed victim-class.

Where group identities that belong to the oppressed class intersect, they find common cause. For example, a gay Hispanic man and a gay black man may not belong to the same victim group, racially, but they do belong to the same victim group on the basis of their sexuality.[3] By focusing on their common cause of resisting oppression in the area of sexuality, the crusade against the hegemony is strengthened because it now incorporates the added lived experiences and moral authority of Hispanic victims and black victims speaking into the common cause of resisting the dominant power class in the area of sexuality. This is intersectionality.

The more various victim-class group identities can unite in common causes, the greater their social credibility and moral authority when speaking against “the system.” However, intersectionality seeks moral authority in the wrong place. Moral authority does not derive from lived experiences. Afterall, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). Our hearts—the seat of our emotions—deceive us, making our perception unreliable. Instead, our moral authority comes from our alignment with the truth of God’s Word (Psa. 33:4–9; 119:160; Prov. 30:5; John 17:17).

This flawed view of moral authority represented in intersectionality depends upon dividing society into classes and identity groups. As such, intersectionality is inherently divisive. However, God offers an alternative that unites rather than divides. Through the ministry of Jesus Christ on the cross, those who are willing to give their allegiance to God and submit to His moral standard receive new identities as sons of God. The Apostle Paul writes, “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. … There is neither Jew nor Greek [ethnicities], there is neither slave nor free [oppressed and oppressors], there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26, 28).

As Christians, we cannot accept the validity of intersectionality. It is a philosophy rooted in human understanding, not the truth of God’s Word. Christians who embrace this false teaching will inevitably elevate deceptive human perception above the moral authority of God’s Word and will ultimately sacrifice their unity in Christ. This is the inescapable fruit of intersectionality.

Related Posts

Timothy Zebell

Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
Posted in

FREE DOWNLOADS

Share...

1. Founders Ministries. “Cultural Marxism | Dr. Voddie Baucham.” YouTube video, February 21, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=GRMFBdDDTkI.

2. Founders Ministries.

3. PragerU. “Jordan Peterson Debunks Intersectionality.” YouTube video, February 4, 2020, 3:37. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmNUbf1OHes.

 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.