For more than 20 years Godfrey’s restaurant and nightclub have been a prominent part of Richmond’s LGBTQ scene, hosting drag shows, creating a hospitable environment for young people with alternative sexual identities, and participating in charitable fund-raising events that transcend the LGBTQ community. As the restaurant website describes its mission: “RVA needs a space where young people can come together in an environment that is inclusive and safe regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. We hope Godfrey’s is that space.” (continued here)
The title of the post, Identity Politics Are So Extreme Now that Gays Look Old Fashioned and Conservative by James Bacon, explains where the article is headed. Identity politics are inherently divisive, and Liberal Democrats have pursued identity politics to the point where they are now having trouble unifying around a common, hated enemy.
What is identity politics ultimately about? “Me.” Identity politics is all about “me”, affirming MY identity. It is a selfish form of individualism, and selfish people don’t work well together. So I have my doubts about a “blue wave” this year. Extreme individualism isn’t that appetizing.
Consider a couple of different definitions of the term “individualism”.
1a(1) : a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount also : conduct guided by such a doctrine
(2) : the conception that all values, rights, and duties originate in individuals
b : a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests also : conduct or practice guided by such a theory
2a : individuality
b : an individual peculiarity : idiosyncrasy
the habit or principle of being independent and self-reliant.
“a culture that celebrates individualism and wealth”
independence · self-direction · self-reliance · [more]
self-centered feeling or conduct; egoism.
a social theory favoring freedom of action for individuals over collective or state control.
“encouragement has been given to individualism, free enterprise, and the pursuit of profit”
Words mean different things to different people. The first definition emphasizes political individualism, glorifying the individual. The second emphasizes personal independence and autonomy, the ability to go it alone. Neither definition speaks of individual responsibilities. Neither definition reminds us that with rights come responsibilities.
Even though we are individual human beings, we are also social creatures. None of us thrives alone.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 New King James Version (NKJV)
The Value of a Friend
9 Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
With friendship comes responsibilities. We care for our friends. Friendship, the love of our neighbor, is the appropriate counter to extreme individualism.
- If we overemphasize our “rights”, then we may find ourselves entering the realm of identity politics. Here we will busy ourselves forcing others to “give” us our “rights”, demanding affirmation of our identity and beliefs.
- If we overemphasize our personal independence and autonomy, we sacrifice the pleasure and the security of having good friends. People we can help. People who can help us. People we can love.
God did not create us so we could make it all about “ME”. Jesus commanded us to emulate Him, to think first of our responsibilities to each other.
We don’t have “rights” so we can make demands on other people. We have rights because we work to protect our each other’s rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We each have the responsibility to practice a form “rugged individualism” (see here and here). Instead of demanding “rights” and affirmation from others, we each have an obligation to seek our own purpose and happiness in this life without imposing on others. Further, when we can, we have an individual responsibility to help each other.
John 15:12-13 New King James Version (NKJV)
12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
Not even our government has the authority to demand that we lay down our lives for our friends. Yet that is what our Lord asked of us.