8.08.2009

Unpacking the Holy Knapsack

Inspired by Peggy McIntosh's seminal privilege list, "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack", and prodded by hearing quotes from several Christians yesterday who apparently feel that they are being prosecuted for their faith because the City Council of Lodi won't pray in Jesus' name anymore, I thought I would try my hand at creating a religious privilege list.

Unpacking the Holy Knapsack: Manifestations of Christian Privilege in America
As a Christian, you can be assured:
1. Nearly everyone you meet will have heard of your religion
2. You will not have to sit down and explain your religion every time the subject comes up
3. If you want to take the day off work to celebrate your religious holidays, your boss will likely understand A: which holiday, B: why you want to celebrate it, and C: will give it to you with little issue.
4. You can wear jewelry with your holy symbol on it and nobody will ask you what it means
4A. You can wear jewelry with your holy symbol on it, without fearing persecution or repercussions when people see it.  (h/t Michelle, in comments)
5. You are not generally asked to speak for all Christians
6. People understand that there are multiple denominations within Christianity, and will not assume that just because you and someone else are both Christian, you will automatically get along or have religious beliefs in common.
7. If you are young and Christian, people will not assure you that it's "just a phase".
8. When you tell people what your religion is, they will not ask you if you are actually worshiping a manifestation of Evil.
9. Few people will question you if you choose to raise your children to practice your faith.
10. You can assume that most people know the creation myths of your faith
11. Your religion is most often portrayed in media as a positive trait
11A. When your religion is portrayed negatively, it is clearly shown that such cases are the exception, not the rule.
12. If you appear clean-cut and mainstream, nobody will exclaim "But you don't look like a Christian!"
12A. If you "come out" to people who didn't know of your religious beliefs, they won't say "But you seemed so normal!"
13. If a public prayer is offered at some gathering or government event, you can be reasonably sure it will be offered to your particular Deity.
14. If you are pulled over while driving a car with bumper stickers pertaining to your religion, you don't wonder if the cop pulled you over because of them.
15. In a hospital or airport with a public worship space, if there are accoutrements of any particular religion in the space, they will be for your religion.
16. If you stay in a hotel, the holy book in the bedside table will be the book of your religion.
17. Public libraries carry copies of not only your main holy book, but inspirational works by other authors pertaining to your religion.
17A. When a public library chooses to carry books about your religion, they do not fear public outcry.
18. No school district or county library association has attempted to censor books about your religion.
19. If a person of your religion commits a violent crime, it will not be seen as reflecting on the entirety of your religion's validity.
20. If you are unsuccessful in some endeavor, it will not be seen as reflecting on the entirety of your religion's validity.
21. In discussions on the history of civilization, your religion will be shown to play a prominent positive role.
22. When you travel, you can be sure of finding a place of worship similar to your preferences at home.
23. It is easy to find grave markers in the shape of your holy symbol
23A. If you put up a grave marker with your holy symbol on it, people will understand what it means and nobody will look askance at it.
24. If you wish to get a tattoo of a symbol of your religion, you can be assured most tattoo artists will be willing to give you what you want.

Suggested Additions from Commenters:
25. A candidate for public office may profess your faith while maintaining a realistic hope of election.
25A. A candidate for national-level public office must profess some variant of your faith in order to be considered a viable candidate.
26. When there's a discussion of the role of religion in the public sphere/education, you can assume that your religion is the one being discussed.
27.  If an intoxicating substance is part of your central sacrament, you will not be accused of using your religion as a cover for drug abuse, nor will it render your spiritual experiences invalid in the eyes of others.
28.  Explicitly listing your religion in your social networking profiles is considered normal, not a "statement", and is unlikely to invite controversy from friends and/or family.

These are just the things that occurred to me in thinking about it this morning. Most of them, I have experienced personally, such as the tattoo artist who only did my triquetra tattoo for me because she thought it was a Christian trinity symbol; while I was there, I saw her turn away a girl asking for a zodiac symbol because "We don't do that devil-worship stuff here." Or the coworkers at a temporary job I took working for my mom, when they found out from her that I'm pagan (after I'd already quit), saying "But she's so...normal!"

What can anyone else think of to add? Let me know in comments!

14 comments:

N! said...

I remeber the first time I read Peggy McIntosh's article several years ago and it really pissed me off. Now that my brain has grown in some more, I see it differently. It's still difficult to read sometimes, but now I understand that it's uncomfortable cause it's true. Since then I've seen a number of different "Invisible Knapsacks" unpacked tho yours is one of the most thought provoking ones I've run into.

Thanks.

WitchWords said...

UTIK is definitely not a comfortable read, and I'm with you; my first impulse was to argue and get upset about it. Privilege has a seriously strong self-preservation streak.

Christian privilege isn't one I've seen done before, and living as a Pagan for almost half my life has given me a decent perspective on it. I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Nentuaby said...

Oh, I've got one. "A candidate for public office may (must) profess your faith while maintaining a realistic hope of election." Just look at the "secret moose limb" bullpucky about Obama and note how even among his defenders, it's all "no, guys, really, he's Christian" and never "... and?" God forbid a Pagan or Atheist come within 50 miles of office.

Anonymous said...

Also: When there's a discussion of the role of religion in the public sphere/education, you can assume that your religion is the one being discussed.

WitchWords said...

Ooh, I like these. Mind if I add them to the list?

Particularly as I remember during the campaign, the Fight The Smears website the Obama side had up? One of the "smears" they were debunking was "Obama is a Muslim!" I absolutely saw red that being Muslim was considered a "smear".

Nentuaby said...

--"Mind if I add them to the list?"

Nope!

Anonymous said...

I came here from Shakesville.

I have another one to add: Nobody looks at you askance if you want to profess your religion in a public sphere or wonders why you'd admit to that.

My sister and I are both atheists, and when my sister added that to her Facebook profile, a friend--who had a mention of her Christian religious affiliation on Facebook--asked, "Why would you post that? You're not proud to be an atheist, are you?"

cinnamon girl said...

Also here from Shakesville.

This is a beautifully thought out knapsack unpacking, one of the best I've read. Thank you.

Another: You can use an intoxicating substance as part of your central sacrament without being told that it invalidates your spiritual experiences and reduces your religion to a cover for recreational drug abuse.

Michelle said...

I'm sooo late but you might also add a 6A: you don't have to fear verbal or physical harassment from wearing your religious symbol(s) in public. (Spurred on by memories of "What are you oneathem DEVIL WORSHIPPERS?!" when I wore a pentacle...).

Hammondtrack said...

Arn't you people glad you can complain, fuss and bitch about these things in America. Try doing this in a Muslim country and see what happens. Every racial, ethnic, religion and corporation has its privileges so deal with it!

Susan Cactuswren said...

Again, weighing in a bit (a lot) late:  Back in 1995 my county did a midyear census, and I worked as an enumerator going door-to-door, asking people for their information.

Scene:  a team of enumerators sitting around the big horseshoe-shaped table in the diner, preparing for a day's project.  Among these, three of us in a row:

Me with my dime-sized pentacle on its fine silver chain.
A, with her ID badge hanging from a cord that's actually a shoelace with JESUS IS LORD - JESUS IS LORD - JESUS IS LORD on its entire length.
B, with two-inch-long cross-shaped earrings and (it being December) a button reading "Christ the Savior is Born!"

Guess which of us was asked to tuck her religious jewelry inside her shirt.

Jadelyn said...

...that's some *blatant* religious discrimination, right there.  That sucks.  :-/ Out of curiosity - not trying to imply what you should or shouldn't have done, or judge or anything - did you object?  Either to the person who made the request, or a supervisor or HR or anyone?  And if you did, what was the response? 

I'm mostly curious cause 1995 is rather before my time - I was all of 10 that year ;-) - and I wonder how instances like that were handled, if they were handled at all.

Maddox22 said...

Another privilege:
You don't have to worry that you will anger or lose friends if you post this privilege checklist to your Facebook page.

Maybe that doesn't make sense...or maybe it's not really a privilege. But I would love to post this; it's so perfect. But I'm worried that if I post it many of my friends will take offense. Maybe that's the point...

Jadelyn said...

No, it's definitely a manifestation of privilege - and I hear you on being worried.  I have friends who post explicitly Jesus-y religious stuff all the time, who check in at church on Sunday, and they never get shit from anyone for it.  But I'm very careful in what I post to FB, precisely *because* of those friends.  (Well, that, and my FB is under my legal name, and I like the privacy of my alternomen and don't want to link the two in any meaningful way.)

If you want to post it, go for it.  If you feel unsafe doing so, don't - your safety comes first, and I mean emotional and social safety as well as physical safety. 

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