Politics Magazine

Unspoken Reality

Posted on the 03 July 2013 by Steveawiggins @stawiggins

In that impressive cultural marvel known as Facebook, a few gems amid the overburden occasionally appear. The post of a friend brought to my awareness a site known as everyday feminism, where, last year a post about religious privilege appeared. The brief piece entitled “30+ Examples of Christian Privilege” highlights one of the persistently overlooked aspects of religious liberty. No matter how much the founders of the United States valued freedom of religion, the colonials were, at least on the part of the non-slave side of the equation, Christians. Whether Jamestown, Plymouth Rock, or Guanahani, those Europeans who first set foot ashore did so under the banner of one variety of Christianity or another. (Such a case might be made for Vineland as well.) Religious liberty meant fleeing the oppressive practice of state religion—always Christianity—that kept shifting according to the whims of frequently unstable monarchs. For all its wide variety, Christianity is cut from a bolt of the same cloth. At least in the lining.

The Christian Privilege cited on everyday feminism is the most insipid kind brushed with the widest strokes. Still, it does reveal just how thoroughly Christian even the secular can be. Christianity, as I often told my students, pervades our culture. We live it, breathe it, ingest it. Often subconsciously. America was and wasn’t founded as a Christian nation. Intentionally, according to the wishes of the founders, no. Unintentionally, according to the dictates of privileged classes, yes. The problem here is not Christianity—it is privilege. Depending on whence you read the words of Jesus, his message seems to have been one of a general equality, or at least fairness. Those same words, however, can be distorted to support the monolith of the privileges granted those who follow the “one true faith.” The privilege to own slaves, for example. Or to oppress others born into less fortunate circumstances.

Ironically, among academics, I’m told, there is a push to hire those who are authentically unprivileged. Although I must, by my accidental Caucasianness, maleness, and inherited Christianity, be classified as privileged oppressor, I did grow up in economic privation. So much so that my wife feared to take our infant daughter to the unsafe house in which I was reared (which was, fortunately, condemned and demolished before that became an issue). It still shows in my natural, placating obsequiousness to supervisors and bosses—I was raised knowing my place. Yes, sir. As a first generation college student, I still find myself confused by why I was rejected by a higher education into which I poured all my youthful energy. Yes, in such circumstances, it is difficult at times to see the privileges. They are there, however, as anyone willing to walk across town with their eyes open may see.


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