Tag Archives: Privilege

Self-Identified Privilege

 

Scripture Reading: Judges 4:1-7

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him, ‘The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you, “Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.” ’—Judges 4:4-7

I named this web address after Deborah because I value her as a person of action. If you read her whole story in judges, the violence may overwhelm you. It does me, and I do not condone it. What I am impressed with is Deborah’s seeing injustice and doing something about it. Our country seems to have self-righteously lost its moral center.  What do I mean by that? I hear a lot of pontificating about what is wrong with our country from people who are caught up in sex scandals, business corruption, greed, and misuse of power. They seem to be under the impression, if they do something, it is right. Only what others do are subject to judgment and punishment. The sin described here is self-identified privilege, and it is epidemic in our land.

What shocks me most is the support given to the purveyors of such behavior by the people their actions probably hurt the most. The people who identify as privileged seem to be saying if you become like us all will be well as their supporters fall further and further into despair. We seem to be suffering from a collective case of being out of touch with reality. I keep remembering the children’s book, The Emperor’s New Clothing. We all need to read or re-read it.

How do we discern what is right, what is just? Jesus taught us that the most important guidance for righteousness is to love God and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. If loving oneself is the measure by which we must love others there is no place for privilege in our world.

Prayer: Lord, open our heart to your reality. Help us to see how what we do impacts others. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Privileged or Persecuted

Living in the Spirit
October 19, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, –1 Thessalonians 1:2-6

Having chosen to follow Christ, we enlisted in letting God choose us for whatever mission is needed. Opening ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit to discern our calling is a challenging prospect. I love Gideon’s* experience in hearing his call to leave his regular job and lead the army. He asked for a sign and got it and then asked for a reversal of that sign as further proof and got that too. He was a very successful general even though he doubted his skills at carrying out the assignment. Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century monk, was called to do the dishes in his monastery. From that experience, we were gifted with his book The Practice of the Presence of God teaching us the importance of remaining in communion with God in all we do.,

History tells us that the Thessalonians faced serious persecution because of their faith and they remained steadfast in following the example of Christ. In our attempts to follow the path of the early Christians, I am concerned today that we may view the loss of privilege as persecution. The two are not related. Our call is to lift the persecuted from oppression not work to maintain our privilege that enables oppression. Loving God and loving one another requires us to want the very best for all, which includes both equity of opportunity and equality of participation in society.

Prayer: Lord, open our hearts to your call to do justice for all not just for a few. Amen.

*See Judges 6-8

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Privilege Debunked

Living in the Spirit
October 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14

Even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. 

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. —Philippians 3:4b-11

White privilege is a term tossed about today as we try to deal with racial unrest and injustice in our land. It makes most of us uncomfortable eliciting a “Not me” response internally, if not externally expressed, from those of us who meet the criteria. In our scripture today, Paul is describing something similar. We might call it Pharisee privilege. Privilege is defined as a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor:  special enjoyment of a good or exemption from an evil or burden. * It is not something one earns; it is more a bequeathed status. It is so much of one’s way of existing; it is taken for granted or not recognized at all.

How do we deal with that, if we truly believe that all people are children of God and thus are siblings and need to be treated with equality of respect and equity of opportunity? Paul perhaps suggests a solution in dealing with his status of Pharisee privilege. He regarded everything as a loss as he found something of surpassing value–Christ Jesus. Those of us of privilege fear we lose something if we must relinquish that which is not real in the first place. Paul insists that there is something of greater value on the other side of privilege that awaits in the love of Christ. Perhaps Jesus’ parable of the pearl of great price** has more meaning for our times than we may have thought.

Prayer:  Lord, help me realize the greater value of your love for all compared to any short-sighted privilege I may experience. Forgive me when I am ignorant of wrongs in our society. Help me be a conduit of your healing love and justice. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/privilege
**See Matthew 13:45-46

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Wearing Blinders

Living in the Spirit
July 25, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 29:15-28

Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me for another seven years.’ Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.
–Genesis 29:21-28

Did Jacob inherit his con-artistry from his Uncle Laban? Remember Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright that is why Jacob was on the run in the first place. Laban tricked Jacob into seven more years of work by fooling him into marriage with Leah before he could marry the one he chose, Rachel. When we read further, we see the trickery continues. Of course, polygamy is a cultural taboo in most of our society today but was common place in ancient times. It had more to do with the economy than with love. It is hard to imagine living in such a world.

I wonder, what common place activities in our culture today will cause consternation among our descendants in the future. Perhaps we would benefit from examining such “norms” we take for granted and determining if they are in fact beneficial to our way of being. It might be time to clean our cultural filters and remove the sludge that makes us treat others less than God created them to be. What of our behaviors has more to do with the economy than with loving God and loving our neighbors?

Two things come to my mind:

  1. Filling jobs with undocumented immigrants at lower than minimum wages with no benefits while making it seem impossible to create laws that would allow immigrants easy entry to fill jobs that pay well with benefits, for which there are not enough citizens to do the work.
  2. Keeping the minimum wage so low that persons working at that level must rely on food stamps, Medicaid, and child care subsidies to survive. Our society denigrates people receiving such assistance which in many cases is no assistance at all but wage supplements for big businesses.

Privilege comes with blinders. Blinders are part of the rigging used on horses that protrude from the horses’ faces to keep them from being distracted from plowing a straight row or running a straight course. The blinders of privilege are not visible to those of us who wear them, but they keep us from seeing injustices that support our way of life.

Jesus envisioned a world where everyone had enough. When everyone has enough everyone contributes to the well-being of all, and that is good.

Prayer: Lord, remove our blinders. Help us to see the injustices that support our ways of life. Help us seek ways of overcoming injustice and live your way of love. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Blindfold of Privilege

Living in the Spirit
July 23, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
                                                                                                                                    –Matthew 13:36-43

*Eschatology is a branch of philosophy or theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind*. I must confess studying the end of time is not my favorite subject primarily because I do not know what difference it makes figuring out when and how the end will come. The fact that the type of end we experience results from how we live today and every day makes a difference to me. I can do something about how I live. Growing up doing nuclear bomb drills sitting under our school desks with or hands over our heads helped me understand fearing the end of the world as a self-inflicted reality in my lifetime.

Jesus came to show us the way to live into the Kingdom of God, a kingdom ruled by love. He described an interdependent world where all are responsible for the well-being of each. The weeds of the word work toward the opposite idea. Greed and individual or “my group” power drive our lives.

The problem is the weeds are subtle. They creep into our lives as norms. In 1984, Oklahoma experienced a county commissioner scandal that reached almost every county. The older commissioners trained the new ones in how to cheat and get away with it. The magnitude of the corruption was stunning. Graft had become the norm so much so that some of the commissioners involved did not understand the outrage of their constituents. For some, it was the way they had always worked.

The privileged because of their perceived status have more trouble seeing the weeds in their life. Weeds become their status symbols in some instances. Wheelers and dealers gain the awe of those who want what the wheelers and dealers have.

How do we find wholeness in such a fragmented world? How do we understand the nature of being a child of God establishes our worth from our birth? How do we learn to love as Jesus loved? We do that by humbly accepting the love of God and allow it to permeate our beings until we see others as God’s children without the blindfold of privilege.

Prayer: God, forgive us when we let the weeds of privilege choak out our ability to love like Jesus.  Make us whole; make us one. Amen.

*http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/unabridged/Eschatology

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

 

Oneness Not Oppression

Living in the Spirit
July 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 45:10-17

Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear;
   forget your people and your father’s house,
   and the king will desire your beauty.
Since he is your lord, bow to him;
   the people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts,
   the richest of the people with all kinds of wealth. –Psalm 45:10-13

My first inclination was to skip this scripture. It reeks of centuries of oppression of women worthy only regarding how they enhance their husband. In this case, the future husband is also the king. Heady stuff for a beautiful young woman, the right woman with the right cunning can and has taken full advantage of the role. The legendary Queen of Sheba stands as a positive role model. On the negative side, we have Delilah and Jezzabel. How does one rise above oppression? How does one avoid letting oppression cultivate evil?

Michelle Obama said it well, “When they go low; we go high.” Of course, that responds not only applies to women’s issues but all our actions as followers of Christ. Therein lies the solution. Paul said it this way; There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)

Of course, that is a lot easier said than done. Generations of cultural norms intertwine with our rapidly changing world. What do we keep and cherish? What do we kick to the curb? More difficult, how do we find the oneness to which Christ calls us in dealing with such issues?

My fall back always seems to be from another Psalm.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me. (Psalm 51:10-11)

We need to allow God’s grace to cleanse our hearts and minds and rid us of the clutter that keeps us from being one with each other and with God.

Prayer:
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
   and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
   and do not take your holy spirit from me.  Amen

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Change to Do Justice

Epiphany
February 5, 2017

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:13-20

‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 5:17-20

Remember your mother saying, “How many times do I have to say this to you?” Children test everything as they learn and grow. Adults do too. It is amazing how often the prophets over hundreds of years, said the same thing repeatedly because it was not what the audience wanted to hear. Jesus is saying that in the scripture above. His message was not new and people do not change readily.

What is right? What is just? I remember in classes being presented with moral problems and debating things like who do you save from a burning building or sinking ship. Upper class women and children were the first saved when the Titanic went down. More people in the third-class section were lost. Perhaps these deaths were the result of where they were located on the ship but does having enough money to afford a better placement equal justice?

Think of a time when you realized that something you had believed was just wrong and you stopped believing it and changed your behavior accordingly. How hard was it to change? What helped you to develop new habits and what hindered your changing? What do you do now that you know deep in your heart is wrong? Are you willing to take a chance and change?

Prayer: God of Justice and Mercy enable me to see your justice and to do it. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Privilege and Prejudice

father-forgive-themLiving in the Spirit
November 19, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 23:33-43

When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [[Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’]] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’ –Luke 23:33-38

I started to begin this thought with the phrase “Professional women over the centuries dealt and deal today with people who do not know what they are doing.” I then realized that the phrase “Professional women” bears a totally different connotation than I intend. Many might think of purveyors of the euphemistically called “oldest profession.” The state of women remains a step behind in many jobs and many places. They still are treated by some as objects of personal pleasure. In the USA women receive 80% of the salaries men receive for the same work. In Oklahoma, they receive 73%*.

When I read the scripture above, I remember working for or with men with much less experience and education promoted over me who did not have a clue about doing the actual work required. My women coworkers and I would joke about the guys earning the salary and our doing the work. It wasn’t funny.

Jesus’ death on that cross frees us to be fully the people God created us to be as we work to fulfill his call for a just world. It also liberates us from hiding behind the ignorance of privilege and prejudice. We can no longer claim we know not what we do.

Prayer: Lord, turn us around, open our eyes, write your message on our hearts, free us once again from allowing greed, lust for power, and self-righteousness drive our lives. Makes us doers of justice. Amen.

*http://www.aauw.org/files/2016/09/the-simple-truth-figure-2-v2.jpg

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

God’s Privilege

health-careLiving in the Spirit
October 9, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 17:11-19

Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’ –Luke 17:15-19

What do we take for granted? Much, I fear. The availability of health care is one thing we probably should not be taking for granted. In rural Oklahoma, the actual accessibility of health care is threatened. Three major rural hospitals have closed in the last year because of lack of funding. The debate of whether health care is a right or a privilege ends at the doors of a closed hospital forcing families to travels many more miles to have a baby or an appendectomy. Whether people can afford the health care they need is another issue to consider.

There are good, selfish reasons for assuring health care for all. Preventing people from dying in the streets of communicable disease would be one. Jesus modeled a different vision. The model includes wholeness for all of God’s children. Such wholeness is a necessity to the attainment of the kingdom Jesus champions.

Our scripture today illustrates the wisdom of seeing the world through objective eyes. A Samaritan was the one leper who knew his healing was a privilege and returned to give thanks for it. What we must understand is that God’s privileges are for everyone and we are not to take them for granted for ourselves at the expense of others.

Prayer: God of Justice, we confess it is very hard to see the world from your vantage. Help us to understand our role in making your model of life our reality. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Living in the Spirit
October 2, 2016

Scripture Reading: Luke 17:5-10

‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!”’ –Luke 17:7-10

Harsh words attributed to Jesus make me uncomfortable, particularly when read in a world trying to deal with the concept of privilege. Albeit, these are true words reported by an astute student of human interactions. While slavery still exists in some forms in our world today as in the sex trade phenomena, slavery is illegal in our country, and we are 150+ years from its being legal. Today classism is indirect in most cases, which makes it a different kind of insidious—gradually harmful, destructive.

I sometimes wonder how people see the world so very differently than I do. Working for 35+ years in human services systems leaves its impact. The US government essentially eliminated welfare with a check sent every month in the 1990’s. It morphed to thousands of people forced to work at one or more low-paying jobs with few if any benefits. Many of these workers receive SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and child care subsidies, which are supplements to the low wages not charity or a handout. The people caught in this system are very much the same as those described in our scripture today worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done. The people paying for these supplements are the poor through fees and finds and sales taxes, and the middle class who are not able to take advantage of the same tax deductions as the wealthy.

We are called to do justice by Jesus, called to create a world where all have3 the opportunity to have enough. For a start, we might try to see the people working in these low-wage jobs as our brothers and sisters in Christ held equal in God’s love.

Prayer: God of Justice, help us work to create a world of “haves” where no one is designated as worthless. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.