Throughout this course, I have come to realize that many forms of privilege and oppression exist in everyday life, but I never realized that one could experience oppression or privilege because of their chosen religion or faith in society. However, after reading the two articles on Christian privilege it became clear to me that Christian privilege does exist.
I have been baptized as a Christian for 21 years now and I never stopped to think about the privileges that I have because of my faith. To be honest, my family and I aren’t what you would call devout Christians. We are the family who attends church at the main Christian holidays-Christmas, Easter and occasionally Ash Wednesday yet we reap benefits that others don’t just because of our faith. I actually spent more time going to a Baptist church as a child because a friend of mine always invited me to come. Still, I never believed that someone needed to attend church to have a relationship with God, and I also do not believe that I should have privilege over others just because of my faith.
Warren J. Blumenfeld, author of the article Christian Privilege and Promotion of “Secular” and not-so “Secular” Mainline Christianity in Public School and in the Larger Society discusses five common forms “overarching categories or face of powerlessness, exploitation, marginalization, cultural imperialism and violence in relation to privilege and oppression.
After reading Blumenfeld’s article I realized how much schools allow social norms to be marginalized and reproduced when it comes to religion. The school calendar is organized to meet the needs of Christian faith communities, while marginalizing others. Examples of this marginalization include “Jewish students who are compelled to request an excuse from school to attend religious services for their “High Holy Days” and between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kepper, which usually fall during the beginning of the academic year” (248). An interesting example Blumenfeld gave of marginalization was in regards to the case that involved the “17-year old Muslim high school student who was barred by school administrators from praying in an empty classroom at lunch and before and after class hours” (248). In 1963 the U.S Supreme Court case ruled “unconstitutional any mandatory prayers or Bible reading at public schools, subsequent ruling declared the constitutionality of many form personal religion expression on school campus” (249). CAIR (Council on American Islam Relations) stepped in on the student’s behalf and convinced the school district to reverse its policy (250). Lewis Z. Schlosser, also of Breaking a Sacred Taboo, also makes a good point when it comes to schooling and religion. He says that those with Christian privilege can be sure “that [their] children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence and importance of the Christian religion” (246). In school, a lot of the material that is taught and that I remember reading had emphasis on the Christian religion. It just seemed natural to me and I did not feel out of place reading or learning that material but those who practiced a different faith most probably did.
Christians also reap the benefits of privilege in America in many other ways. The workweek is structured to allow Christians “the opportunity to worship on Sundays without conflicting with their Monday to Friday work schedules” (251) .The promotion of music, especially Christmas, by radio stations and Christmas specials played on TV throughout November and December each year, Christmas decorations and the widespread availability of Christmas holiday decorations during the holiday seasons also show that people who are not Christian experience oppression (251). Schossler makes another valid point that shows Christian privilege when he says that one “one can display a Christmas tree and/or hang holly leaves in my home without worrying about one’s home being vandalized because of one’s’ religious identification” (247). Even the phrase “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance or “In God we Trust” on U.S currency shows that Christianity is regarded is the superior religion in our country. Little things that may seem insignificant to those with Christian privilege, because we don’t realize we have it, could have a big impact on the way others who do not practice Christianity feel in our society.
More and more I am realizing how common privilege and oppression is in our society. It seems that no matter where you turn or what you are talking about privilege exists in some way for some group of people. The majority of what I have learned in this course so far I never even realized were forms of privilege that I experienced, whether it be because of my race, class or religion. I feel almost guilty that society revolves so much around a certain groups of people and that I seem to fall into many of these categories and groups. At least now, I am realizing that I do have privilege and I am more aware of how my actions and the actions of others can affect people who don’t experience the same privileges that I do. There are steps that need to be taken to diminish the privileges that certain groups have so that society can be equal for all. It is not fair that some experience such great inequality because of their race or beliefs or gender and I know the saying that life isn’t fair, but I think eventually, if those with privilege took action to minimize the privilege that they have, life could be.