Christian Privileges in American Society

The concept of “nonconscious ideology” was created to describe those ideologies whose implicit, unreflective, and uncritical acceptance help maintain their dominance in society. Sexism and racism are nonconscious ideologies in which the inferiority of one group is reinforced through a multitude of assumptions and interactions that occur outside our conscious consideration. The same is true with Christian Privilege: Christians are continuously told that they are special and deserve privileges.

Christian Privileges for Holidays and Holy Days

  • Many stores take the Christian sabbath into account
  • Most Christians don’t have to work on their holiest days
  • Christians can assume they will see TV specials and hear music related to their holidays
  • Christians can erect Christian holiday displays without fearing vandalism
  • Christians expect to be greeted with references to their holidays (Merry Christmas)
  • Christians can ignore and be ignorant of other religions’ holidays
  • School events will probably address Christian holidays

Christian Privileges in American Culture

  • When traveling, Christians can assume they'll find churches of their denomination
  • It’s easy for Christians to find a religious site to marry
  • Christians easily find Christian movies, radio programs, and TV shows
  • When someone talks about or thanks God, Christians can assume it’s their god
  • Christians will find Bibles in their hotel rooms
  • Christians have many Christian charities to donate to or get assistance from
  • Christians needn’t worry about finding foods to meet religious dietary requirements

Christian Privileges Against Discrimination and Bigotry

  • Christians can assume that they won’t be discriminated against because of their religion
  • Christians can assume that their opinion won’t be ignored because of their religion
  • Christians need not worry about moving to a place where Christians aren’t welcome
  • Christians rarely encounter groups that exclude Christians
  • Christians don’t worry about revealing their religion to parents, friends
  • Christians can discriminate in ways not otherwise allowed & avoid members of other religions

Christian Privileges in Schools

  • Christian children will see other Christians in lessons about history
  • Christian children will participate in events relating to Christian holy days
  • Christian children will find or easily start school clubs dedicated to Christianity
  • Christian athletes are encouraged by Christian coaches
  • Christian children might avoid being exposed to foreign religions
  • Public school space is often shared with Christian churches
  • Christians can easily find private schools that cater to their religion

Christian Privilege, Fear, and Security

  • Christians can wear Christian clothing or jewelry without fear
  • Christians can promote their religion on cars or houses without fear of vandalism
  • Christians don’t have to educate their kids about persecution for their own protection
  • Christians can ignore the language and customs of other religions without censure
  • Christians need not worry if their religion will hinder their professional ambitions
  • Christians don’t have to worry about hate groups dedicated to wiping out Christianity

Christian Privileges in the Community

  • Many communities have names with Christian origins
  • Christians can assume that most neighbors & coworkers are Christian
  • Christians have directories of Christian-owned businesses
  • Christian businesses can hire all Christians without trying
  • Christians can criticize Christianity & Christian Privilege with more authority than non-Christians and without their motives being questioned
  • Christians can assume that almost anywhere they go and anything they do, they’ll feel normal

Christian Privileges with Christianity

  • Christians aren’t expected to speak for all Christians or everyone in a denomination
  • Whatever Christians do, they need not worry that it will reflect poorly on Christianity
  • Christians easily shop for items related to Christianity, even in specialty Christian stores
  • Successful Christians aren’t told that they are greedy because of their religion
  • The word “Christian” is treated as a label representing the best human attributes

Christian Privileges in the Law

  • Where relevant, laws take the Christian sabbath (Sunday) into account
  • Laws & regulations come with built-in exemptions for Christians & Christian beliefs.
  • Christians can assume that most politicians are Christians who represent Christian interests
  • Christians can criticize the government or society without being labeled cultural outsiders
  • Christians can assume that politicians won’t attack their religion
  • Christians assume that government prayers will be Christian in nature (they usually are)

Culture Wars Over Male Privilege, White Privilege, and Christian Privilege

A nonconscious ideology is analogous to the water fish swim in: fish don’t think of the water as wet because this environment is all they know — it structures their experience of life itself. Water simply is. Members of privileged groups don’t have to think about their environment because, for them, that environment simply is. They don’t have to be concerned about others’ opinions because it’s safe to assume that most think like them.

Those who don’t benefit from such an environment do have to think about it all the time because they are so susceptible to being harmed by it. For members of less privileged groups, what others think matters a great deal because their opinions and actions control access to the larger benefits of society.

Fish don’t have to think about the water; mammals must remain conscious of it at all times lest they drown.

In most of the examples here, we can replace Christian/religion with male/gender or white/race and come up with the same results: examples of how our social, political, and cultural environment reinforce the dominance of one group over others. Male privilege and white privilege are closely related to Christian privilege because they have all been undermined by modernity and have all become part of America’s Culture Wars.

Christians realize that many of the above privileges are in decline. They interpret this as persecution because privilege is all they have ever known. The same is true when men complain about the decline of male privilege and whites complain about the decline of white privilege. The defense of privilege is a defense of dominance and discrimination, but for those who benefit it’s a defense of their traditional way of life. They need to become conscious of their privileges and realize that in a free society, such privileges are inappropriate.

Sources: Ampersand, Peggy McIntosh, L. Z. Schlosser (Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo).