Intersectionality & the Church

In the wake of the last few years of social justice work characterized by the rise of Black Lives Matter and the #metoo movement, the term "intersectionality" has risen in prominence. If this term is new to you, here is a simple definition:
 
The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. (For a more thorough explanation see the links at the bottom of the page.)
 
One of the ways we have pursued our mission of better understanding the relationship between young adults and the church is by examining intersections of privilege or lack of privilege.
 
The first summit we did with churches was focused on general diversity (ethnic, age, sex, etc.). It is often the first thing to come to mind when intersectionality is uttered. But we have studied other intersections in subsequent summits such as how the church treats artists and musicians (Spring of 2019), how the church treats entrepreneurs and innovators (Fall of 2019), and how the church treats non cis-het folks (Winter of 2020).
 
What we have noticed throughout our gatherings is a deep desire to not merely grow the numbers of young adults but to authentically diversify so that those who sit in the sanctuary embody those who are in our communities. If there are no young adults worshiping and serving in our congregations already, it is no wonder that they don't feel comfortable when they darken our doorways: the people they see inside the church do not look like the people they see outside the church and, in some ways, the outside world does a better job of welcoming them and making them feel at home.
 
It also seems clear that intersectionality is an eye-opening concept that is based in radical empathy. Once you start seeing people not for just a single marginalizing issue (woman or man, or black or brown, queer or straight) but rather as a more complex whole containing multitudes of identity (male, yet gay and brown; or white and educated, yet non-binary; etc.) then not only can the church start to reflect the diversity "out in the real world" but also reflect to the real world the true gift of a gospel for everyone.
 
For more on Intersectionality:
How it became a crucial part of our lexicon: https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/5/20/18542843/intersectionality-conservatism-law-race-gender-discrimination
Kimberlé Crenshaw’s seminal paper on Intersectionality: https://chicagounbound.uchicago.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=uclf 

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