I am a woman-wife-mother-introvert.
I am a democrat-progressive-child advocate.
I am a Christian-universalist-meditator-educator.
We all have many layers of our identity, different roles emphasized at different times or in different settings.
Later today at Shadow Rock UCC, people interested in the idea of people identifying with more than one religious tradition will be gathering. Some will be folks who themselves identify as Christian-Buddhist or church-attending Jew or Muslim-Christian or Sikh-Wiccan. Other participants will be religious leaders who want to prepare their faith communities to better meet people of faith who claim a variety of backgrounds. Some – like me – will be curious and eager, coming with questions and assumptions about what this might mean to the future of faith.
Yesterday, I saw a video online about a Palestinian woman who is striving to be an active participant in the struggle for Palestinian identity and liberation as a woman. Activists often call this ‘intersectionality.’ I found this definition (thanks Google!) of intersectionality quickly, but I didn’t really need it. It’s one of those things that you know when you see it.
Intersectionality (or intersectionalism) is the study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination by examining the complex multiple facets of identity of an individual such as race, gender, class, sex and age.
My best understanding of intersectionality is that society often appears to ask people to choose and prioritize from among their identities. Are you advocating for families or union workers? Are you representing African-Americans or women? Intersectionality pushes back against this phenomenon, instead recognizing that people crave space to be their whole selves… bringing every bit of their identities and experiences to bear on issues and decisions.
So, why are we even a little bit surprised when this idea of wholeness and recognition and valuing unique experiences breaks into religious communities? Maybe a Christian-Hindu should surprise and challenge us no more than a Native American feminist. Don’t we want churches to be places where people can be their whole selves and be welcomed? Don’t we want more genuine people in the world?
These kinds of developments remind me that as a species we are still growing, maturing, evolving. It’s exasperating! And it makes me hopeful for the future.