Theologically Sound. Culturally Relevant.

Jon Harris

Jon Harris and “The Inescapability of Identity Politics”

Throughout 2024, Jon Harris has been delving deeper into political theory on his Conversations That Matter podcast in addition to general Christian cultural commentary as these are the conversations that matter. With the elections underway and immigration being the biggest issue, 2024 will perhaps be the year that Identity Politics is no longer a dirty word on the right. Such is the case in the “Inescapability of Identity Politics” written by Jon Harris over at American Reformer.

With this essay published, and having personally written the “Identitarian Nature of Politics,” this is an opportune moment to compare notes and further the conversation.

Similarities and Agreements

Jon Harris opens with a brief explanation of how the Left used identity politics to form its coalition while constantly adding new causes to perpetuate the political momentum.

This works well politically not just because it maintains constant pressure on the Right, but also because it weaponizes a communal aspect of human nature that modern conservatives, broadly speaking, refuse to acknowledge.

It is inescapably true that people will think of themselves in particular ways based on where they live, what they enjoy, who they associate with, and other factors. Some identity markers are superficial, such as membership in a bowling league. But others are deep enough to cause feuds, wars, and political movements when threatened. The Left knows this and uses such differences as a means to gain political power in their cosmic quest for universal justice. In contrast, the Right’s political messaging and goals are reversed.

Both Harris and I agree that the Right’s failures stem from a rejection of “the communal aspect of human nature.” I would go further in stating that the GOP actively hates its own base, that being white evangelicals and working-class whites, while actively supporting the identities of nonwhite groups. Functionally, the GOP is an anti-white party just like the Left.

We both would be in full agreement that “Donald Trump is an exception in that he is the first major Republican in recent memory to overtly court the support of working-class whites, Christians, and other groups by appealing to their particular interests.” This encapsulates the rise of Trump and why voters continue to support Trump. The essay names Pat Buchanan five times, acknowledging the ideological connection between Trump and Buchanan when contending that Trump tapped into American identity and sought to court those who were deemed “deplorable.”

Some evangelicals are concerned if they advocate for themselves as Christians, seeking the benefits a political society can afford them and working to identify that political society as Christian they are engaging in a right-wing version of identity politics, opening the door for white supremacy, or rejecting the “sojourner identity” Christians are supposed to have in the world.

This objection has been lobbied by Lindsay types and G3. There are few if any detractors of Christian Nationalism that acknowledge that there is demographic replacement happening in the West. Naturally, one would have to recognize national identity in order to perceive this as a threat.

Most of these objections are easily dispelled by making simple distinctions though. It would be inaccurate to say that Christians who advance interests from a uniquely Christian tradition, instead of universal values, are simply parroting a right-wing version of the Left’s identity politics where only the names have been changed. As previously discussed, the Left’s identity politics is designed to destroy and replace Western Christian hegemony, which is really just traditional American culture. Some versions of it also assume that certain identities produce uniquely valid truth claims based upon their social standpoint. Christians obviously oppose these features since they believe truth is objective, slander is evil, and natural ordering should be protected. But the idea that social groups exist and possess certain interests, like avoiding persecution for example, is woven into the fabric of reality. At the very least, Christians should work toward propagating the identities God established through creation and custom while rejecting ones that threaten them.

Jon Harris has been a hero in combatting Standpoint Epistemology, something alluded to above. He correctly points out that the Left’s end goal is to “destroy and replace” Western Civilization, which is rooted in Christianity, to where even secular European nations are dealing with the same social contagions. One of the overall strengths of this article is the premise that Classical Liberalism, rooted in these universal values, will not counter the Left. Inherently, if race is an identity God established, then it follows that members of a particular race have the right to advocate for their particular race, especially in nation-states established by their race.

The Boomer Critique

While comparing notes, this is not to say that there are no valid criticisms of Jon Harris’s essay.

Romney’s way of framing the problem in terms acceptable to everyone, including Democrats, is still standard Republican procedure and it seems to assume we still live in time of relative homogeneity like we did half a century ago. During the Cold War, Anglo-Protestantism still dominated culture, people expected immigrants to assimilate, and the threat imposed by another superpower united all citizens against a common foe…Conservatives who lived through the Cold War knew that Soviet forces had infiltrated previous movements on the Left, such as the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements, in order to exploit social weaknesses and turn Americans against themselves. This understandably made conservatives suspicious of social movements that separated groups of people from the mainstream and promoted ingroup preferences among them.

The expectation of assimilation died with the 1965 Hart-Celler Act which opened the doors to third world immigration and demographic replacement. Apart from the paleoconservatives, who were relegated, most on the Right failed to understand that Hart-Celler and the Civil Rights movement were disastrous and subversive. Instead, the Boomer-conservative clings to the view of America as a proposition nation. Since the largest generation of Americans grew up being inundated with the post war consensus via public education, they were unlikely as suspicious of the social changes as their parents would have been.

On Rights and Liberty

This was the final paragraph before the conclusion, which pertained to rights.
 

This means that people do possess God-given rights based upon God-given responsibilities. Unlike the Left’s identity politics, which have no moral reason to prevent the violation of someone’s rights, Right-leaning Christians are not free to reward a social group by taking fundamental God-given rights away from another group. Part of our Anglo-Protestant inheritance is a system of law designed to protect “life and liberty,” by which Sir William Blackstone meant the ability to fulfill “natural duties” like worship God and raise children.

My critique of this paragraph pertains to the vaguer of the language, particularly with the concept of Rights. What exactly are God-given rights? By connecting Rights and Responsibilities, Harris is channeling the concept of “form-freedom” articulated by Francis Schaeffer. But as C Jay Engle, a fellow writer at American Reformer, would articulate, rights are not God-Given but are derived from a shared historical tradition. This being the Anglo tradition. Absent complete assimilation, even that of religious nature, can peoples from nations foreign to the Western Tradition uphold this form-freedom Tradition that binds rights with responsibilities? Highly improbable.

With regards to taking rights from one group as a reward for another, I would ask Jon to consider the words of Jean Jacques Rousseau in Du Contrat Social:

What is this? That liberty requires slavery to maintain it? It may be so. Extremes meet. Whatever is unnatural has its disadvantages, and that is truer of civil society than of anything else.

Circumstances unfortunately arise in which a man can keep his liberty only at the cost of another’s, in which the citizen can enjoy perfect freedom only on the condition of the slave being very much a slave.

The point of this is not to advocate slavery, but to point out that a major philosophical influence of America’s Founding Fathers questioned whether there can be liberty without inherent inequalities. In A Disquisition on Government, John C Calhoun described liberty as a reward rather than a blessing not to be bestowed “on a people too ignorant, degraded and vicious, to be capable either of appreciating or of enjoying it.” When America was most free was also at a time when there was discrimination, and black people were statistically better off under Jim Crow than BLM. Would not liberty be attained by removing civil rights law and allowing freedom of association to exist? When America’s government was formed, suffrage was limited to white, property-owning males over the age of 21. Would not stripping away the rights of women via the 19th Amendment would produce a better outcome with greater liberty? If someone rejects the tradition and the responsibilities, should they not then be “stripped” of the rights that correspond to the relevant responsibilities? Of course, this all depends on what is meant by God-given rights and whether such rights are universal.

Paleoconservatism assumes the existence of natural hierarchies, something that is ultimately biblical. 

Conclusion

The debate over Identity Politics on the right stems from Heritage Americans fighting for the right of self-determination over a nation that their forefathers built. Jon Harris adds much needed commentary to the conversation on why Identity Politics is necessary to fight the Left while further articulating the shortcomings of the Right’s universalist mindset which has refused to acknowledge basic political realities to the detriment of all Americans.

Receive the Evangelical Dark Web Newsletter

Bypass Big Tech censorship, and get Christian news in your inbox directly.

Support the Evangelical Dark Web

By becoming a member of Evangelical Dark Web, you get access to more content, help drive the direction of our research, and support the operations of the ministry.
Facebook
Twitter
Telegram
Reddit
LinkedIn

Leave a Reply