May I Put My Positive Spin on Christian Privilege?

Because anyone anywhere can enjoy this privilege too

The sink in the little community kitchen is now filled with dirty coffee mugs. As if the people who left them there expect someone else to clean their dishes for them.

“Your mother doesn’t work here.”

That’s what I envision printing on a sign I’d station just above the sink. When I worked as an editor at a newspaper, that was the message on the sign in the employee break room.

Of course, that language was perfectly acceptable and humorous 30 years ago. Now it might be deemed stereotypical, offensive, sexist, misogynistic. (When I hear the word misogynistic, my mind spells it “massage-o-nistic” and wonders what’s not to like. Massage? Yes, please!)

To me, a sign saying “your mother doesn’t work here” is less offensive than leaving your dirty dishes for someone else. But because I don’t wish to offend, I haven’t created the sign. I admit I inwardly judge these people who seem to expect the “Privilege” of cleaned coffee cups.

A different kind of privilege

Privilege. It’s become a political football, especially when you add “white” in front of it. I am white — by birth and God’s design. My success in tanning in my younger years resulted in skin cancer (and lasting scars) in my older ones. So white I stay, to the best of my ability. For my health (and fewer wrinkles).

But I’d like to discuss a privilege that I didn’t realize was political, Christian Privilege. I thought it was a blessing — and the term my own creation — until I did a quick search and found the phrase had been coined back in the ’90s and was considered negative. Wikipedia explores the term as part of a series on Discrimination. Who knew?

Author Lewis Z. Schlosser wrote on “Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo” as a condemnation of a religion that oppresses people of different cultures and religions by condemning them as amoral, immoral, or sinful.

That’s not the Christian Privilege I mean.

Christianity is all about loving God and loving your neighbor — any neighbor! — as you love yourself. Christianity is all about what a Savior did for us because we were sinners who couldn’t pay the price ourselves. It is faith in a God Who recognizes how unworthy we are and how unable we are to make ourselves right with Him. And so He does it for us!

True Christianity is humbling. True Christian Privilege, as I use it, is the blessing of a culture that points to Jesus. Perhaps it is your childhood. Perhaps it is a person, a moment, a downfall in which you could only look in one direction. To Jesus.

What I call Christian Privilege

This is what I consider my Christian Privilege. I was blessed to grow up with parents who came to know Jesus personally when I was in third grade. Parents who hungered to know more of God.

I was old enough to see the difference between how my parents were and how they changed when they became believers. I saw dramatic changes even though they had grown up going to a Christian church, as had I.

I was poor enough to see God provide when my parents’ efforts were not enough. I still remember my parents receiving an envelope in the mail with a hundred-dollar bill and a business-card-sized, typed note that read: God loves you.

I was alert enough to see the needle on the fuel gauge point to E as we drove home from church late at night. I was awake because we sang praise songs (and prayed that God would stretch our gas and get us home). I was awake because I wanted to see how our Holy Spirit-fueled car got us across the finish line.

It always did.

I also was shy and scared enough to trust Jesus as I headed to a new school — for the first time unaccompanied by my older sister Trish, who headed to junior high school.

Privileged with His company

It was my first day of fifth grade at Fruitville Elementary. Over the summer, we had rented a house in the middle of an orange grove. A canopy of trees lined the dirt driveway that took me to the main road. I still remember my tone-deaf mother walking me toward a two-laned Fruitville Road where I would walk — alone — to the bus stop on Christie Avenue.

“Silver and gold have I none,” she sang, urging me along, “but such as I have give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

And I went walking and leaping and praising God, singing as I went toward the fearful unknown. Knowing I wasn’t really alone, with or without my sister. Powered with the confidence that comes with Christian Privilege: He was with me.

I remember getting to my homeroom class at Fruitville Elementary that first day to find Cindy Scott, a friend from my old elementary school. She, too, was new. We greeted one another like old best friends and the newness no longer held any power.

Privileged with an awareness of God

When I was a little girl — four years old — I was playing with my dolls in a dollhouse. As I looked at these inanimate objects that seemed so lifelike directed by my little hands, I wondered if someone bigger than me was playing with me in his or her dollhouse.

I was privileged with an awareness of God, though my image of Him playing me as a doll in a dollhouse is inaccurate.

Though my mom was tone-deaf, my father could sing — and our car rides were a concert of silly Oldies and praise songs. “Down by the old mill stream (not the river but the stream),” we would sing. “She’s got freckles on her but(t) she is nice…” “Mares eat oats and does eat oats…”

But “I Rebuke You Satan” — made up by my dad — was a staple. (Seemed we needed to rebuke him a lot!)

Perhaps it was my parents’ new faith, their growing faith, that propelled me into such Christian privilege. Perhaps it was because we were poor. Or we were imperfect and knew we needed God’s discipline and grace.

Perhaps it was simply that my parents set such a good example for me as Christ-followers. Perhaps because they looked to Jesus as their source.

I had Christian privilege.

Privileged that God answered my prayers

When I was still in elementary school, we traveled to New Jersey for Thanksgiving and stayed with my grandparents. As a third-grader growing up in Florida, I longed to see snow. The last day we were there, it certainly seemed cold and gray enough that it could snow.

“Please, God, let it snow!”

My Florida self desperately wanted snow — though I suppose snow at Thanksgiving in New Jersey wasn’t common. My father, who had to drive the next day, desperately wanted no snow. We were offering competing prayers. Who did God love more?

Me!

When we awakened the next morning, it had snowed! A blanket of white flakes covered my grandparents’ lawn. Trish and I ran outside and set to work, building a small snowman before we were enlisted with packing the car for our journey home.

God had answered my prayer!

As we waved goodbye to my grandparents, my dad backed the car out of the driveway to begin the long trek home. I took one last look at our little snowman before we drove away, still thrilled that God had provided me snow. As we headed down the residential road, however, we were surprised to see that we had left the snow behind, too.

Had it only snowed at my grandparents’ house? Had God managed to answer both my and my father’s prayers?

Privileged to share the joy

What a mighty, creative, humorous God we serve! What a wealthy, privileged childhood I had because I had the richness of a budding relationship with Jesus — and parents who sought Him too!

That memory of the covering of snow God provided that day reminds me of this verse in the Old Testament.

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18, NIV).

When Isaiah captured those words in the Bible, they were directed at a people who were on again-off again in their walk with God. The author captured the grace and mercy God extends to us — all of us — in offering a covering for our sin when we accept Jesus’ death as a covering for our sin. His death to pay our death penalty so we might have new life in Him.

Yes, I suppose some could look at Christian Privilege as a negative. After all, Jesus declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). That’s pretty exclusive.

But when Christian Privilege says Christians oppress others by calling them sinners, it fails to account for the fact that we also consider ourselves sinners, too. The Apostle Paul declared “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, ESV). (In fact, all of Romans 3 points to the fact that salvation is as available to the Gentile, or non-Jew, as it was to the Jew.)

Because God loved the whole world so much that He gave His Son — and whoever believes in Him can have eternal life (John 3:16).

That is a privilege — unearned, available to everyone.

When I served as a summer missionary with Campus Crusade for Christ, I told my supporters via letter that I felt everyone I met was blessed — because they would have the opportunity to hear about Christ. I hope that is still true today.

I grew up poor in possessions but rich in the pursuit of God. I didn’t have a perfect understanding of who God is, but I had a heart trained to try to understand. Tuned to hear him. Seeking to see him. With a goal to glorify him.

Because I had Christian Privilege.

What about you?

Maybe you didn’t. Maybe your background makes it hard to love God as Father or understand the forgiveness that covers all sins. But if you’re seeking Him now, you, too, are experiencing Christian privilege.

It is grace that draws us to Him. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).

The whole of the gospel is outside of us. It is Jesus. We haven’t earned it. It isn’t part of us. It’s not our birthright or heritage. It’s a privilege to be called by him. To be His. A one-time decision with ongoing results.

And once we belong to Him we can extend Christian Privilege to our children or our colleagues or our friends or even our enemies. We can reflect His love and our love for Him.

Perhaps by extending “Privilege” to our colleagues — and doing their dishes.

Tada!

Thank you for reading, my friends! If this post spoke to you, would you leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts? Would you share this post with someone else?

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4 thoughts on “May I Put My Positive Spin on Christian Privilege?

  1. Hi, Sara! Again your blog spoke to me! When brother John joined the Navy, I didn’t see much of him! I always felt when he met your Mother, he became a Christian! Do you remember how they met? I’m sure you were told! 😊Blessings, Aunt Claire

    Liked by 1 person

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