Purtek’s recent post at The Hathor Legacy got me thinking about something I’ve wanted to say for a while, but wasn’t sure how.
I’m about to talk about a particularly hurtful privilege many Christians in my culture choose to engage in. Let me be clear: many Christians do not engage in this privilege (and instead do a very nice job following the example of a man who tried to think past privilege). And I’m sure many people other than Christians engage in something like this. I’m just sticking to what I know.
The privilege of which I’m speaking is telling others that if something bad happens to them, it’s because their faith is inadequate (or non-existent, as the case may be). This rationale gets applied to fellow Christians as well as people outside that religion. It is nothing short of victim-blaming. Got hit by a lunatic driver? You must’ve forgotten to pray. Tornado ripped your house’s roof off? God’s trying to tell you something about your wicked ways.
And then it gets extended to: is someone cheating you, abusing you, abusing your loved ones? Clearly, you need to pray much, much harder.
Like all victim blaming, it’s denial. It can’t be the system of privilege (which benefits me) that’s hurting you; it must be something you’re doing wrong.
But when you put this common privilege argument into a religious context, something especially ugly happens: it no longer needs to make sense, because it’s about faith. It’s the ultimate excuse for privileged people to rationalize away anything. And I do mean anything: wives have been advised to “pray harder” when domestic abuse lands them in the hospital, for one example. Because if the church acknowledges how often men abuse the power it gives them over their wives, it has to admit it’s time to go back to the Bible and see if we misinterpreted something, ’cause that dog don’t hunt.
There’s another added wrinkle religion brings to this privilege: when the religious people are the privileged abusers, it’s insane what they get away with. Ministers tearfully admit on TV, that yes, they had affairs/embezzled all the funds/etc., but Jesus has forgiven them, and so should you. And collectively, my society does forgive them because they’re a member of the right club. Meanwhile, the rest of us are responsible not only for our own actions, but for those committed against us.
Anytime I hear someone saying that some event or disaster is God’s way of punishing folks, I like to agree with them and add that yes, God really must share bin Laden’s disgust with the US because the way they hit the twin towers just right with nothing but a well-researched theory – that’s got miracle written all over it. (Yes, I’m being facetious to make a point.)