There is one word that has been batted around lately that I would like to see being used less. That word is “privilege.”
Actually, what I want to see used less is a more specific application of privilege. It has been used in issues dealing with race to talk about the invisible ways that whites tend to be privileged because of their race. It is important to talk about privilege and devise ways to lessen it in our lives.
But lately, I’ve started to see people abuse the word. Instead of talking about privilege as a way to help us become a more authentically diverse society, the word is being used to attack anything that people don’t like when it is told by the “oppressor” meaning mostly white males.
As I’ve said, privilege is something that happens in race relations, issues involving gender and other areas. We all have an inherent bias, something that needs to be addressed and corrected. As Christians we should be able to do that lovingly. The person showing privilege is most of the time not an evil or hateful person, they just need to be made aware of their bias.
But more and more, the use of the word has become a weapon to shut people up. Instead of restoring a fellow child of God, it is used to shame them. It is being used in ways that divide more than heal.
A fellow pastor recently told me that he couldn’t speak on a topic because he would be criticized as being privileged. So, this man could not share his viewpoint because he would be dismissed as an unenlightened white male.
The problem with attacking others as privilege is that it also exposes the arrogance of the one calling others privilege. They see themselves as having made it. They are enlightened. They love everybody (except Republicans and evangelicals). They don’t see that they too are flawed, that they might have biases of their own. They are so busy shaming those with specks of wood in their eyes to ignore the tree in their own eyes.
As I’ve said, I think privilege is real. But I think as Christians we have to use it to help us as a church and a world, not as a way to dismiss or disrespect others. If you don’t like someone, fine, just don’t hide behind the rhetoric of privilege.