April 18, 2014

Check your #privilege

No, this is not another post about the so-called "social justice warriors," despite the hashtag in the header. Well, it's not primarily about them, but they'll eventually get worked into the picture.

Rather, it's about who most exercises "privilege" in modern-day America. And, I'd say it's not whites as whites, males as males, or straights as straights.

Rather, it's Christians as Christians, specifically, the mix of fundamentalists, conservative evangelicals and conservative Catholics. Whether it's the #PrayForSouthKorea hashtag on Twitter over the recent ferry sinking, or a bunch of evangelicals pretending to refute Bart Ehrman's new book "because the bible says its so" when they've done nothing of the sort, it's the assumption that a conservative version of Christianity is the default version of Christianity and the default version of religion in general in this country. (I'm not counting cultural "Christianists" like Bill O'Reilly, who is probably not that much more Christian than Samuel Huntington.)

It usually doesn't infuriate me, unlike the way it seems to do so to the atheist version of social justice warriors, or Gnu Atheists and Atheism Plusers in general. Rather, it leads to more of a sad laugh.

Among those Christians trying to gin up fake culture wars, or pretend that they have no responsibility for actual ones, most such people seem to be blandly and blindly unaware that they're engaging in privileged stances.

And, the way to deal with people like this is to first try to enlighten them, make them aware of their unawareness. Now that often may not work. But, it's the first thing to try, rather than berating them.

Berating such people assumes one has the right, er ... the privilege! of being a berater. As well as doing little to no good. Per the old academic left-liberal literary theory political correctness mash that fermented social justice warriors, you see how easy it is for someone to go "meta" on you?

Atheist SJWs might try turning the mirror around, and ask how much they've liked Christians who don't care about the issue of privilege willingly berating them.

See, I told you we'd get to the SJWs.

So, atheistic types? I've said it before. If you don't want to be a mirror image of conservative Christians, and don't want them to be your tar baby, the ball's in your court.

Beyond that, every one of us has at least a bit of privilege vis-a-vis one other person in the world. A great many of us have, in some part of our lives, even for those who are of a racial or ethnic minority, women, gay/lesbian, etc., have some aspect of privilege vis-a-vis a few other people at least. (A good example of "never assume" would be the number of men who have eating disorders.)

I don't claim to know what it's like to be black, or Hispanic. But, I have lived in black plurality and black majority towns. I'd like to think I've learned a little bit about what it's like to be a minority in a non-minority society at least. But, I'll never know perfectly. And, even among people who are aware that they're not fully enlightened, it's a struggle to get them interested; that's kind of what Perry's getting at.

Otherwise, none of us can ever perfectly know another ethnic, sex, sexuality or other group, or another individual from that group. Indeed, we'll never know our own selves perfectly.

Rodney King famously asked, "Can't we all just get along?" No, not perfectly, because, beyond the issues above that can be barriers, we're all individuals.

Can we, at least, reduce how much many of us don't get along? That's more likely and more possible. And more reasonable. Beyond the fires of idealism comes the progress of realism. At the same time, we don't have to have minimalistic definitions of realism.

Back to the original point in a wandering post, though.

Conservative Christians who do semi-deliberately speak from a point of privilege will ultimately result to one of two answers to this.

One is the "success gospel." You're right and doing well because you're propperly aligned with god. (Unfortunately, many a New Ager holds to a more pantheistic version of this.)

The other is that there's no Jew nor Gentile, etc., so all current-world differences are virtually erased now in religion and totally will be so thereafter.

The first? We saw that become a new opiate of the masses in the run-up to the Great Recession. The second? It's the usual answer when people complain about the first.

If we could get a few conservative Christians to have just an ounce or two more of honesty and self-insight, we might start something.

And, if not? While I don't go out of my way to berate conservative Christians, when I see a "PrayForX" hashtag on Twitter, I usually give one, or both, of two responses, using the same hashtag:
1. To which god are "we" praying?
2. If a god didn't stop tragedy X in the first place, why should I pray to he/she/it now?

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