I've been hearing a lot lately about privilege. About how certain groups have more power than others purely as a result of their sex, race, sexuality etc. And this often goes un-noticed by, for example, white people, because we're used to this privilege, its only when we start to look closely that we see that things are often easier for us than they are for black people, because society is geared towards us. And I am very willing to accept that as a middle class white person I have an amount of privilege that means I have to fight my own tendancies to racicism and classism, and to confront other people when they exhibit such behaviour.
So far, so clear, but I read something on a blog the other day that was talking about christian privilege, and I had to stop and think about this one a bit more. I've very much in two minds over whether or not such a thing exists. Obviously I'm talking about the UK here not the whole world, it wouldn't take much searching to find out that being a christian doesn't bring much privilege in North Korea or Iran or Pakistan (at least not in this world).
On a societal level, I can see the privilege to some degree. Christianity is the dominant religion in our culture, so our holidays are celebrated both by government and the commercial sector much more than Eid or Diwali are. In England the Church of England has bishops automatically in the House of Lords, and all across the UK the church has a relatively powerful voice in politics (although given that every major denomination in Scotland oppposes Trident, perhaps not so powerful as some believe!)
Its on an indvidual level that I most struggle with this idea of privilege. I have put up with very little bullying in my life compared to many people I know, but pretty much all the bullying I have experienced has been about my faith. Many, perhaps even most of my christians friends would say the same. Certianly in high school, christians are an easy and often an obvious target. Surely the abuse most of us went through is not a privilege?
Perhaps it is the institution of the church which gets the privilege not the individuals. Certainly the ideas of the bible are not privileged in our society, in a capitalist society a God who called his disciples to give up everything they owned so they could follow him more effectively does not go down well. In a culture based on hierachy, Jesus' tendancy to treat everyone equally would be ridiculed. In a culture based on 'getting what you deserve', grace is a foreign concept.
So Jesus is not privileged and christians have not in my experience been privileged, but the Church in many ways has been. Maybe this is a lesson for us, we have let the Church (with a capital C) become something more than just the body of Christ, made up of individuals who form a community. Perhaps in order to really live out the terrifying message of Jesus, the institution has to be slowly pulled to pieces. Because real change doesn't come from institution power, it comes from radicals on the edges of society. Exactly where the church should be.