One Family's Journey to Transcend Culture's Labels of Intersectionality
Kristi and I were married in 2003, and today we are a family of seven. No two of our kids are alike.
Our oldest two, a boy and a girl, are 13. We call them “the twins.” My oldest son is a ferocious reader with an interest in history. He’s not into sports, but he can school you in Greek mythology and dominate you with the yo-yo. My oldest daughter is a nurturer. She will feel your feelings before you do. Her sensitivity is a strength with the typical challenges that come from sensing what others are thinking. She’s also a budding artist.
Then, there’s our 11-year-old daughter. She’s by far the most imaginative. No one can play as she does, and no one can get us laughing at the dinner table as she can. She has all the marks of a typical youngest child, which was her badge of honor until the two babies were born. In 2019, God gave us a little girl who has an amazing poker face and a little boy who is all smiles.
I see all this and more when I look at my kids. Just like any parent. Each child has a unique profile of strengths and difficulties, interests and insecurities, birth-order traits and unique potential.
So what makes our family a unique test case for the impact of intersectionality? All but one of our children came to us by adoption.
I want three identities especially fixed in the minds of my kids. These are not the only important facts about them, but these are the especially objective, and therefore orienting, facts about them.
1. ‘You are made in God’s image.’
By fixing our eyes on color, intersectionality reduces the resolution of our shared humanity. That is, it takes out the detail. It focuses our attention on incidentals, not essentials. It settles for what we can know about a person when we squint.
I can remember being asked as a new adoptive father, “Are you going to teach your children about where they’re from?” Of course. How could we not? Why would we not want to? But there is more. I want to go back further than their country or state of origin. Our children came to our family from various places and peoples, but all those people go back to our common ancestor, to one man named Adam (Acts 17:26). Adam understood this when he named his wife Eve, “because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). In Adam, we share a common origin and divine purpose for humanity.
Intersectionality must assume some basis for human dignity in order to ground its appeal to justice. But without moorings in a transcendent worldview, it fixes our attention on our differences, judging differences as disparities. We may certainly assume the best of many who hold this worldview — namely, that they promote our differences to protect persons from hostility. Some disparities, to be sure, represent difficult and sad realities that should concern us all. But a relentless focus on differences — and especially superficial distinctions — undermines not only a proper understanding and productive response to real problems, but also the deepest truth that holds humanity, and my family, together.
Intersectionality dehumanizes my family when it prioritizes our skin color over our basic humanity. That’s why, in our home, we prioritize our common humanity. This stands in stark contrast to what we see and hear when we step outside our home; from the wall of books at Target, to an advertisement before the movie, to the messages on jerseys of our favorite basketball team, the world tells my children, “You are Black” or “You are White.” That might not be a problem except that these categories — impersonal colors as they are — come preloaded with an ideology that tells them what team they are on, where they come from, what they are to think, and how they are to relate with the rest of their family.
Instead, we say, “You are a person made in the glorious image of God,” and after that, “You are a man,” or “You are a woman.”
2. ‘You are Hunters.’
That’s our last name, Hunter. Sometimes we’ve been asked what we know about our children’s “real parents.” We have never taken offense to this question. We know what they mean. But it has thrown us off balance when someone has asked that question in front of our children. That’s because the second most important truth our children need to grasp is that they are indeed our children. After the fact of their humanity, the priority is their human family.
Taken seriously, intersectionality would make us foreigners first, family second. This is its intention, and not just for families like ours.
There’s a reason that the Bible teaches us about the origin of marriage and moms and dads by the second chapter of Genesis (Genesis 2:24), and why the apostle Paul prayed to the Father, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14–15). Family is a basic source of meaning for us all. But intersectional thinking undermines all of this for a family like ours. It teaches my children that they are not truly at home among family. It teaches my children that the primary sphere of belonging is that of a group identity assigned by skin color or some other victimhood status.
Intersectionality aggravates our already fragile relationships owing to sin by leading my children to hold the deepest motives of their parents and siblings in suspicion. Intersectionality teaches my kids that people who are white, like mom and dad, brought them into our family for wicked — even if unconsciously sinister — purposes. Intersectionality teaches my children that racism is as alive as ever, albeit in a covert way, underneath the surface of our interactions as a family. At worst, intersectionality stokes the fires of racism in their own hearts against the people who love them most.
Simply put, intersectionality hurts my family by prioritizing the color of our skin over our family name. That’s why, in our home, we make a big deal about being Hunters. We come from a line of morticians, creative inventors, brilliant managers, war heroes, and yes, so we imagine, hunters. Inside our home we are real brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. This is what we see in the mirror, and it’s who we talk to across the dinner table. Adoption is not an asterisk to this picture. It’s a part of our family history.
3. ‘You are Americans.’
Intersectionality alienates my children from their neighbors by discounting the value of our shared citizenship as Americans.
Citizenship can be a neglected grace. When Paul picks up the image with reference to our heavenly citizenship, he draws on our experience of earthly citizenship as those who belong to nations (Philippians 3:20). Earthly citizenship is a reality, and, though a fleeting one, a good reality.
It is true that, considering eternity, our earthly citizenship is relativized when we become Christians, but it’s not reduced to nothing. Not only was Paul comfortable in his Roman citizenship, but he claimed it when he was persecuted, arresting the attention of the authorities hundreds of miles from Rome (Acts 22:22–29). Paul’s citizenship meant something for him and for everyone else. Everyone in the room knew it.
It seems virtuous in some circles these days to be cynical about America. There are aspects of our country (past and present) that are heinous. Decent Americans agree. But that’s at least an indication of one of America’s strengths: honest self-criticism. We’re not unique for having a history of slavery, but we are unique for our literature on that history. That’s because our nation was born suspicious of humanity. The very structure of our government reflects that creaturely humility. The ideas that define America are humble, even if the humans who penned them were sinners.
No, our American citizenship is not the final ground of our interactions with one another or our neighbors. That belongs to our shared humanity and, for Christians, our new humanity. Nevertheless, our American citizenship is a meaningful category and a way for my children to understand who they are and where they are when they walk into a room.
But of course, there is more to say.
We are Christians
Intersectionality displaces the gospel, making Christ’s atoning sacrifice unnecessary for some and never enough for others. In its place, its logic demands never-ending penance to appease the unappeasable grievances of whole classes of people. Like a parasite, it feeds on our grievances and our guilt, real and perceived.
I don’t see how love can breathe in that air. I want my children to take on the identity that puts into proper perspective every other human difference, to say with their parents, “We are Christians.” That’s why, in our home, we tell our children: “You are sinners in need of grace.”
Trent Hunter serves as pastor for preaching and teaching at Heritage Bible Church in Greer, South Carolina. He is married to Kristi and they have five children. To read the full, original article, click here.