A powerful social force in the world today is called “identity politics” (IP). Simply, it divides people by race, gender, economic class, and numerous other factors, creating a large number of micro-groups, each supporting political agendas important to the group.
For Christians and the church, commanded by God to live in unity with other believers and be peacemakers with everyone else, IP thinking can be rather toxic.
“That’s all I have to say about that” (Forest Gump).
Strangely, the general premise behind identity politics has been present in book publishing for a very long time. I suppose other words for it could be “credentials” or “authority.” After all, if you are going to write a book about something, the lowest bar to clear should be knowledge of the subject and an identity that has something to do with it. Writing ability has never been enough on its own.
Writing a book about leadership? You need to be leading something.
Marriage books written by someone who is or has been married.
Business books by someone in business.
Theology books by someone who knows theology.
Race-relation books by people who are deeply involved in that arena.
However, “identity thinking” takes simple prerequisites and adds to it a list of other requirements that must be met by the author. Just look at the above list and add gender, race, political affiliation, and anything else you can think of as the driving perspective behind each.
A book might be published and spend its relatively short life searching for a few hundred readers.
I fear Christian book readers will be influenced by societal changes and require some version of “identity publishing,” where they seek out authors who look, live, and think exactly like them. They won’t seek to be challenged and stretched by someone who doesn’t match them exactly.
And I am not talking about theological differences that could add even more complexity.
Consider this: The Bible was written predominantly by males living in the Middle East. Using the logic of identity thinking for Christian messages, one could believe nothing in the Bible should rightly apply to anyone other than men in the Middle East.
However, it was dictated and/or inspired by the Holy Spirit of the living God, which hopefully satisfies people challenging the Bible’s validity of application.
To show how this situation could quickly go sideways, Scripture specifically states the role of older believers is to disciple younger believers. Identity thinking would prohibit this since the only people qualified to speak to my needs would be people like me. Age would be one of the additional qualifiers (or disqualifiers). Forget multi-generational Bible studies. Each church would need pastors for every age group and lifestyle.
What does the Bible say about itself? Go to 2 Timothy 3:16-17 for an explanation of the source and purpose:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The words you write can find readers in unexpected places, most who will not be like you at all.
For sure, iron sharpens iron, but so does steel, stone, fire, and a hammer.