Identity politics is the great affliction of our times. It addresses the curse of death not by looking for divine redemption, but by attempting to construct an Edenic world without death. That is why our debates about quarantines and vaccines are so supercharged. We are not arguing about medical science. We are arguing about whether we can construct an Edenic world, or whether we live in a post-Edenic world where death is ever near.
Why did millions of Americans don surgical masks, insist on an inviolable national quarantine to keep death at bay, then suddenly remove their masks, take to the streets, and protest in close quarters in the name of racial justice? Hypocrisy is one answer. The desire to unseat President Trump by any available means is another. But neither answer goes deep enough. The explanation is identity politics, a fever making America delirious.
Identity politics is an American Awakening without God and without forgiveness. Like Christianity, it seeks to overcome the curse of death. Like Christianity, it seeks to overcome sin. Like Christianity, it recognizes that the problem of sin is deeper than the problem of death, and has precedence over it.
Identity politics does not overcome death, as Christianity does, through faith in Christ, so that man may again have eternal life as he did in the Garden of Eden. Identity politics overcomes death by attempting to build an Edenic world protected from death. Augustine wrote that all reasonable beings understandably shrink from death. But that is not what is happening here. Citizens captivated by identity politics quarantine so that they may remain isolated from death until a vaccine arrives that will inoculate them from death. In the interim, they are content to be served by the least among us, service industry workers who cannot quarantine. This is not medical science doing triage in a world where death is always near; it is a religious longing to be saved from death, no matter the collateral damage done to the livelihoods of millions along the way.
Identity politics does not overcome sin, as Christianity does, through Christ, the sacrificial scapegoat who takes upon himself the sins of the world. Identity politics overcomes sin by offering up a mortal scapegoat: the white heterosexual man, who, if sacrificed and purged, will cleanse the world of stain. The Democratic Party’s pushback against national borders; its insistence that fundamental political and economic transformations are necessary to address climate change; its disgust with “dirty” fossil fuels; its demand for wealth redistribution; and its resolve that every mediating institution in which citizens gather must be altered so as to become “inclusive”—all of these have at their root the supposition that the nation-state, market commerce, the petrochemicals that fuel it, the conventional generative family, our civic institutions, and our religious institutions are unclean or obsolete because of the hand white heterosexual man has had in building and maintaining them. Members of this group are not individuals, some very good and some very bad. Instead, each stands for the crimes of the worst among them, just as Adam stands for the sins of all mankind.