God Bless America?: Being White, Christian and American

September 17th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Well Amber,

You may have been on hiatus, but you came back in full force. If there’s a topic that will get me really fired up, this is it (well….there are probably many topics like that, but this is one of them). This is a myth I hate: the white American Christian whose religion is (un)equally a patriotic and biblical one.

Why do I hate this myth so much? Because it’s a mask and Christianity (as a faith) is about taking off masks. Because it’s banking on a privilege and Christians should be working hard to dismantle that privilege, not tapping into it. Because it alienates and hurts.

Because, what would Jesus do? ;)

First, cut the Christian nation talk. Stop demanding that America turn back to God. Glenn Beck is wrong – America does not need to turn back to God. A country can’t turn back to whom it was never with. The country may have been founded on cultural religious principles, but it was hardly spiritual. Ain’t nothin spiritual about owning slaves or genocide.

Here’s the raw difference: there’s Christianity the culture and Christianity the faith. The white American Christian myth is cultural. The faith should not be. But the distinction is often lost.

Christians need to understand the power of cultural Christianity as a privilege and guard against it. White American Christians must understand the peculiar and potent mix of their privilege. The myth of a Christian nation is intoxicating…to white Christians. Because, it’s branded for us. How easy is it to entwine God and country when the American narrative is always about you? Why shouldn’t God be too?


It hurts me when I hear white Christians talk so easily of the “American church” as if it is a monolith – a body that sees, hears and experiences the same things. Or when my boss (of former years) sees my cross and assumes I’m Republican. It hurts when white Christians act as if they don’t need to try to understand another Christian’s perspective or leave their racism unchecked or their sexism becomes entwined with their Christian language. I am tired of Christian arguments with no historical context. I am so frustrated with a white Christian culture that has settled in a hotel penthouse in America, only to lumber out if threatened – but not when others feel threatened. I so tired of a (white) religion of charity without justice.

Life is complicated. The world is complicated. Being a Christian doesn’t make it less so. If anything, it highlights the need to understand how complicated it is. And unfortunately, the church as an institution is a part of that complication. America’s “christianity” (the one referred to in all the speeches) has been a religion allied with power – building up slavery and wealth, fighting against the rights of others, producing fear and prejudice.

The white American Christian myth draws its power from privilege. That’s not what Jesus does. His power is distinctly dis-privileged. And more powerful. His is the one that marched against dogs and hoses.

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!”  - Jesus =)

I look forward to the day when politicians no longer invoke God or use certain “christian” code words. I just don’t think we serve the same God.

God bless….?

I Am Woman: White Privilege and Feminism

July 7th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Picture this: Fellowship Hour at church with some good chili. Myself and three others get into a discussion about feminism. I ask the two guys: are you a feminist? Both are hesitant to simply say “yes.” Those pesky “extreme” feminists get in the way. And so proceeds an hour long conversation about feminism. I’m not sure I didn’t scare some grown folks – I get very passionate. ;)

But here were two examples of guys who were trying to understand, who were listening to me and I to them. It’s always wonderful to have those kinds of conversations. I want to work so hard at dispelling the myth that feminism is only for women. It is also for men. And it isn’t just about “women can do whatever men can do,” but understanding the standards and social constructs that privilege men. Often I respond angrily in situations because of how I am made to feel, as a woman, whether belittled or silenced or inadequate or objectified.

So I am feminist.

But I sometimes have trouble saying that. It’s loaded. It means so much to so many different people – many times unflattering perspectives. Not only that but it is just complicated. As we had this conversation, I was well aware that I was speaking to a black man and a white man. Gender is not the only factor at play in our experiences and relationships. Because, while I lack one privilege, I have another.

I hesitate to firmly announce “I am feminist, hear me roar,” when feminism historically has been a space for the voices of white women. White women have employed their white privilege, even as they demand men to relinquish theirs. And because of that, as you suggest, white women sacrifice their wholeness.

I think my hesitation in fully claiming the “feminist” title (no caveats) is a part of my own attempt at claiming wholeness. The idea of wholeness gives me shivers. The idea of claiming myself – no caveats – is miraculous. But as I strive, I will continue to add my asterisks: I am feminist.*

*Sort of. 

PS – I love blogging. This post went in a direction I didn’t intend and I love it – blogging as therapy indeed. 

The “Privileged” Poor

April 5th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Geeze Liz,

You’re right. This is deeeep and extremely layered.

When I first read this article and your post, the first questions that came to mind are: “What is really the problem here? Why is it considered controversial in the first place?”

Obviously, there is no simple answer to those questions, but I think that they are pretty good starting points when attempting to think through these issues.

One of the first things I reacted to when I initially read the article (on hipsters using food stamps at local farmers markets and organic stores), was that it was almost completely lacking in seriousness. Which to be honest, was extremely off-putting. The purpose seemed to be to highlight the irony of being young, college-educated, unemployed, BUT (….wait for it) still privileged—continuing to hold a wealth of cultural and social capital, while learning to maintain it on a budget. You are right. We are not given much background information for the individuals profiled in the article, but I think it is safe to say that they are used to certain lifestyles, which would not normally include financial assistance from the government; hence, the irony. At the same time, however, the article brought up several interesting points about the ways we think of the poor in this country.

There is a general “expectation” or assumption about those who are on government assistance. We don’t assume that one would use food stamps at a farmers market or an organic store (first of all, I really didn’t even know that you could until I read the article). We assume that if you are on food stamps, you can’t afford organic foods. We assume that if you can’t afford organic foods, you can’t afford to live in areas with organic grocery stores and locally grown fresh produce (which is a reality for many).

So there it is—privilege, stigma, and access.

How do stories of “hipsters” (and other individuals who do not “fit into our framework”) on food stamps change the way we think about the “poor?” What is the relationship here between cultural, social, and economic capital? How does this complicate our understanding of being “poor”…and “privileged?”

I agree with you—the stigma isn’t decreasing. “Hipsters” and other “middle-class” individuals on food stamps get a pass. If you’re young, college-educated, unemployed, and struggling—blame it on the recession (which is legit). BUT, if you’re uneducated, unemployed, and have always been poor—you have nobody to blame but yourself. (Hmmm…really though?)

Personally, I am pro-food stamps for those who need it. To be completely honest, after reading the articles, and reflecting on my own situation—living in a studio apartment with two other people in order to front all that I can of my meager salary toward bills, student loans, and sending funds home to help out my own family who have been hit hard by the recession in the past year—I checked to see if I was eligible. As it turns out, I’m not….but…I checked. And that’s real talk.

***shrugs*** Just sayin. :-|

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