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Nov 26 2012

That Old Fashioned Christian Privilege

If there is one thing my book is aimed at, it’s Christian privilege — the innumerable ways that Christianity operates as a cultural assumption, as a given to most people. This site provides more than 30 examples of the ways in which Christianity is privileged in American society, most of which are entirely ignored by the average Christian until someone dares to challenge that privilege. Here are some of my favorites:

You can worship freely, without fear of violence or threats.

A bumper sticker supporting your religion won’t likely lead to your car being vandalized…

If you are being tried in court, you can assume that the jury of “your peers” will share your faith and not hold that against you in weighing decisions.

When swearing an oath, you will place your hand on a religious scripture pertaining to your faith…

Politicians responsible for your governance are probably members of your faith.

Politicians can make decisions citing your faith without being labeled as heretics or extremists…

Disclosing your faith to an adoption agency will not likely prevent you from being able to adopt children.

In the event of a divorce, the judge won’t immediately grant custody of your children to your ex because of your faith.

All accurate. And all very bad.

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  1. 1
    greenspine

    “All accurate. And all very bad.”

    In what way are any of these bad?? It’s bad when Christians discriminate against atheists or minority religions, but the fact that they “can worship freely, without fear of violence or threats” is a bad thing?

  2. 2
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Not sure what you mean by all very bad? Aren’t these things that are good and ought to pertain to everyone? (Substituting neutral, unbiased judges, government officials, and politicians of course.)

  3. 3
    Gretchen

    Aren’t these things that are good and ought to pertain to everyone?

    Many of them can’t pertain to everyone, which is part of the point. Many if not most of them are about Christianity being favored, and when you favor everybody it’s not favoritism; it’s equality.

  4. 4
    dingojack

    Boy oh boy. I’d suggest you people have another cup of coffee and a few reading comprehension lessons.
    Perhaps you might come to understand the concept of ‘implied antithesis’*.

    Dingo
    —–
    * for example the sentence: ‘You are allow to go out’, can have the implied antithesis: ‘…but I am not’.

  5. 5
    d.c.wilson

    The only ones that I see as truly bad is swearing an oath on a religious text and assuming that politicians and judges should share your religious views. The rest are all things that should apply to every one in a perfect world, but in practice, are only guaranteed to Christians.

    Assumptions that are even worse are things like assuming that Christian prayers at public events are “normal” while prayers from other faiths are anti-American.

  6. 6
    JimB

    You guys are missing the point. Those are examples of christian privilege. All of those things are true for christians. Not so much for atheists, muslims or sikhs.

  7. 7
    dingojack

    Christians can do, and expect, these things [others can not].”
    Implied antithesis.
    Dingo

  8. 8
    unemployedphilosopher

    @greenspine, #1:

    It’s bad because that privilege does not extend to people of other faiths, or no faith at all.

  9. 9
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    In what way are any of these bad?? It’s bad when Christians discriminate against atheists or minority religions, but the fact that they “can worship freely, without fear of violence or threats” is a bad thing?

    Uh, the fact that they’re pretty much only applicable to Christians in our society?

    I mean, fucking DUH?!

  10. 10
    heddle

    1. You can worship freely, without fear of violence or threats.

    This is not ignored, in my experience. I would say that maybe 25% of the services I have attended include a prayer of thanksgiving that we can assemble without fear. In fact just the opposite–there is usually an undercurrent of shame/jealousy that we have it too easy while our brothers and sisters in other places are meeting in spite of danger–a kind of feeling that we don’t measure up.

    2. A bumper sticker supporting your religion won’t likely lead to your car being vandalized…

    Well– it did in my case. But I agree with the “likely”. But I also agree that no bumper sticker–barring the extremely offensive, will “likely” result in vandalism. I’ll concede that Christian bumper stickers are the safest of the genre, and that my experience was anomalous.

    3. If you are being tried in court, you can assume that the jury of “your peers” will share your faith and not hold that against you in weighing decisions.

    I believe they will not hold it against me, but not that they share my faith in anything more than a cultural manner.

    4. When swearing an oath, you will place your hand on a religious scripture pertaining to your faith…

    True enough. Let’s stop the practice.

    5. Politicians responsible for your governance are probably members of your faith.

    Or more likely pandering to it.

    6. Politicians can make decisions citing your faith without being labeled as heretics or extremists…

    True enough. See 5.

    7. Disclosing your faith to an adoption agency will not likely prevent you from being able to adopt children.

    True enough.

    8. In the event of a divorce, the judge won’t immediately grant custody of your children to your ex because of your faith.

    This has happened, but it is stated way too strongly above. Immediately? Really?

  11. 11
    Ed Brayton

    Of course it isn’t a bad thing that Christians can practice their religion without fear of violence. The “very bad” part is that so many others cannot, as others above have pointed out.

    Heddle-

    You got your car vandalized? I’ve always been afraid to put a Darwin fish on my car (I don’t put bumper stickers on at all). I live in a rural area and I think the chances of it being vandalized for that are relatively high.

  12. 12
    Michael Heath

    I’ve never been compelled to put a bumper sticker on my car for one reason: I don’t want to tempt others to define me based solely on what one bumper sticker stated.

    I do have the Michigan vehicle license plate which has a picture of a Loon on it.

  13. 13
    raven

    I’ve always been afraid to put a Darwin fish on my car (I don’t put bumper stickers on at all). I live in a rural area and I think the chances of it being vandalized for that are relatively high.

    Same thing here.

    They do vandalize Darwin fish. They usually scratch the paint as much as possible as well getting it off. In some places, they will also smash your windows if they can get away with it.

    There aren’t even that many fundie xians. New Agers and Pagans outnumber them.

    The cops caught one of them once. He claimed the Darwin fish was a satanic symbol.

  14. 14
    dingojack

    Raven = “The cops caught one of them [a christian vandal] once. He claimed the Darwin fish was a satanic symbol”.

    How did that go in court?

    :) Dingo

  15. 15
    raven

    Raven = “The cops caught one of them [a christian vandal] once. He claimed the Darwin fish was a satanic symbol”.

    How did that go in court?

    It never made it that far.

    It was during daylight in a parking lot.

    Someone saw him with a screwdriver hanging around a car and called the cops on their cell phone. They got there before he could get the Darwin fish off the car. The police just told him he couldn’t do that.

  16. 16
    raven

    Back off my Darwin Fish – – Maclean’s On Campus
    oncampus. macleans. ca › Home › Campus News

    2 Aug 2011 – It seems that a couple of biology profs at a university in Florida had their cars vandalized because they had Darwin Fish on them. The vandals …

    The fundie creationists were vandalizing cars at a museum in Florida that had some biology exhibits.

    They did more than steal a few Darwin fish. They also slashed a few tires here and there.

    Escalating vandalism at Florida Museum of Natural History
    www. flascience. org/wp/?p=1362

    13 Jul 2011 – Escalating vandalism at Florida Museum of Natural History … They display Darwin Fish emblems on their cars and some even have bumper …

    It’s just routine xian terrorism.

  17. 17
    frog

    One of the many ways in which my dad was extremely wise: he said to never put any bumper stickers or suchlike on my car. He wasn’t thinking of vandals, though. He figured you never know the political/social leanings of a highway patrol officer, and there is no need to make it even incrementally more difficult for yourself to get out of a ticket.

  18. 18
    Gretchen

    My bumper stickers promote the values of avoiding partisanship, being suspicious of argument from authority, questioning the validity of the desire for political power by those who want it most, and the possible necessity of becoming a political leader yourself if you don’t like the available options.

    They’re also magnetic. I don’t want that crap stuck permanently on my car.

  19. 19
    drr1

    heddle –

    Go get ‘em!

    I disagree with you completely on matters of faith, but I’ll give credit where it’s due: you know science, and you can make a good argument when you want to.

    I realize that beating up on you is something of a pastime for some here at Dispatches, but I like it that you show up every now and again to comment, and you won’t be chased off by the (sometimes over-the-top) remarks directed your way.

    Just out of curiosity (and sorry if you’ve answered this before), what keeps you hanging around this den of pagans and infidels? Quite obviously, it isn’t all the free booze and hookers Ed supplies.

  20. 20
    heddle

    drr1,

    Just out of curiosity (and sorry if you’ve answered this before), what keeps you hanging around this den of pagans and infidels? Quite obviously, it isn’t all the free booze and hookers Ed supplies.

    Having met Ed I can assure you it has nothing to do with booze. I was the lone Baptist longing for a beer in the midst of a bunch of teetotaling atheist Dispatches fans sitting in an Irish pub in Washington DC. It was like waking up in a Ingmar Bergman movie. No hookers in sight–though it was in the middle of the afternoon.

    Why do I show up?.. I have always preferred bantering with people I disagree with.

    Thanks for the kind words.

  21. 21
    Modusoperandi

    heddle “Having met Ed I can assure you it has nothing to do with booze. I was the lone Baptist longing for a beer in the midst of a bunch of teetotaling atheist Dispatches fans sitting in an Irish pub in Washington DC.”
    The Lone Baptist? [rears up on horse] “Hi-yo, Sinner! Away!

  22. 22
    Gretchen

    Heddle said:

    I was the lone Baptist longing for a beer in the midst of a bunch of teetotaling atheist Dispatches fans sitting in an Irish pub

    bzzzzt!

    Hang on, hang on right there, this story needs more details. Atheists? Dispatches fans? Pub? …..Teetotaling?

  23. 23
    spamamander, internet amphibian

    I have an FSM fish on my car, and I live in a pretty conservative area. My guess is that most people don’t know what the heck it is.

  24. 24
    heddle

    Gretchen,

    Hang on, hang on right there, this story needs more details. Atheists? Dispatches fans? Pub? …..Teetotaling?

    It was one of those occasions where Ed announced “I will be here if anyone wants to get together” and about–oh I don’t know–eight of us met up at a pub in DC. I think it was from his trip where he had himself photographed with Michele Bachmann. Ed ordered first and did not order alcohol. I don’t really know if the rest were teetotalers or just following Ed’s lead–but when it got to me (I was last) I caved and ordered Iced Tea. I always regretted that–it would have been a much better story if I had ordered a beer. Or Scotch. Or both. I hate those missed opportunities.

  25. 25
    Ichthyic

    you can safely ignore Heddle’s opinions on things as entirely singular in nature.

    regardless of what he thinks, he never speaks for anyone but himself.

    this becomes readily apparent to anyone who speaks with him for any length of time.

    well, readily apparent to anyone but Heddle, of course.

  1. 26
    boot blog

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    [...]I am now not sure where you are getting your info, however good topic.[...]…

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