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.

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