Christian privilege. Really?

Is there such a thing as Christian privilege? A blogger at Christianity Today thought the idea worth bringing to his reader’s attention. He links to a list of 30+ privileges that suggests, if you identify as Christian, “there’s a good chance you’ve never thought about these things.” How annoying to presume this of the reader.

Anyway, a quick perusal of the list will reveal just how surreal and absurd the idea of Christian privilege is. Here are three I find worth commenting on:

1. You can expect to have time off work to celebrate religious holidays.

2. Music and television programs pertaining to your religion’s holidays are readily accessible.

11. Positive references to your faith are seen dozens of times a day by everyone, regardless of their faith.

As for taking days off, what planet does the list author live on? California, where more than ten percent of Americans live, does not grant a holiday for Easter. Millions of Christians travel to be with family Easter Sunday, and then must hurry back for school or work on Monday. But the state does grant a holiday in proximity to Easter, in honor of labor organizer Cesar Chavez. Once every few years, the Christian church calendar may coincide with this progressive holy day, granting accidental reprieve to resurrection pilgrims.

torbakhopper / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

As for music and television, here’s an important public service announcement: Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer are not profound treasuries of Christian worship or doctrine. Serious Christians have to search as hard as others to find music, videos, and text that substantially facilitate holiday observance. Possibly, this Christian privilege list copies Peggy McIntosh’s white privilege list, which is essentially pre-Internet. Now, with webpages, YouTube, and streaming music services, a Hindu, a Jew, and an Atheist can walk into a bar and check their smartphones to find whatever suits their worship needs with equal ease.

As for daily affirmations, turning on a television might land you randomly on Family Guy, Modern Family, Bill Maher, Niel DeGrasse Tyson, or–until recently–Piers Morgan mangling a cartoonish conception of Christian belief, history, or practice. Websites like Upworthy, the Atlantic and Yahoo News extend the misrepresentation and stereotypes to the internet.

But let’s suppose that Christian privilege exists. Is it good to propagate a list enumerating those privileges? No, it is filled with generalizations that are liable to cultivate prejudiced stereotypes among most social media readers who read it. Perhaps there is a noble purpose in arousing empathy in certain readers, but essentializing an “other” identity with a list of pilfered factoids seems to contribute nothing to this end. Worse, privilege lists quite possibly aggravate interpersonal comparisons, building envy and escalating already existing feelings of grievance.

Maybe you find expositions on privilege refreshing and needed. If so, I’d love to hear from you. But the next time you come across a list or guide to privilege, I hope you will consider carefully before pressing the “share” button.


About Lewis W
I earned an M.A. in Christian apologetics at Biola University, and occasionally write on ethics, truth, science and politics.

5 Responses to Christian privilege. Really?

  1. Askme says:

    We don’t watch much TV. Just episodes of Downton from the library and Seinfeld reruns. But every now and then I ask my friends, conservatives and liberals, if they have seen a positive depiction of Christianity in media recently. Usually just blank stares. Sometimes there is a contestant on a reality singing or talent show or something to that effect who seems to live and proclaim Christ. But that’s about it. “Positive references dozens of times a day”? What channels is he surfing?

    • Yes. Maybe the author is thinking of a Christian TV network, or even PAX. Is that still around? But on mainstream TV, there is no dozens of times a day. When your child goes to their friend’s house, its more likely they will see some show trashing Christians than praising them. Thanks for dropping by!

  2. jungleboy says:

    I just got back from a country where Christian privilege includes: being disappeared by plain clothes secret police, along with your family and possible execution followed by subsequent disposal of your body in the jungle where it will never be found. Or, if you’re lucky, you might just be sent to a re-education camp for a decade or more. In other countries I’ve visited, Christian privilege can include being shot in the back while praying at church, being blown up with a hand grenade at services, or simply watching your church be burnt to the ground. In Nigeria, it can mean being kidnapped and enslaved. When I hear people talking about “Christian Privilege,” it seems so silly to me. It’s one more way for westerners to marinate in a false guilt, and it means that the western people who invent this twaddle are not seriously considering the condition of their Christian brothers and sisters around the world. But, if you really believe that to suffer for Christ is honorable, and that it will be repaid in the next life, then those murders, those beatings, those enslavements, rapes, and bombings are ‘Christian Privilege.’ And while I don’t think I’m strong enough to endure those things, I know that God will faithfully reward those who do endure them. (James 1:2, 1:12)

  3. Tim Peirce says:

    Thank you Cogitating Duck and well said Jungleboy.

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