This may be an unpopular opinion but I’m going to share it anyway. That is the topic of privilege in western Christianity. I don’t feel like we talk about it enough in America today. It’s so easy for us to talk about “the Church” in our services and yet, the Church as a whole throughout the world does not look like American Churches.
People today are very quick to throw the phrase, “white privilege’” around. Or just privilege in general. We are privileged to not have to fear cops, we’re privileged to have enough money to live in the suburbs, we are privileged to enough that we can say that we don’t care about the election, whatever it might be. There are many ways that we are told that we are privileged.
I’m not here to debate white privilege, though. I’m not really here to debate at all. Just share what I’ve noticed about the western Church and how people practice Christianity in western culture today.
Being on social media lately has been exhausting, to say the least. Because of the obsession with the internet and social media, there are so many ways to interact with each other. These interactions can be extremely negative, without you ever having to face the person you’re “speaking” with. This causes issues with cyberbullying toward our youth, and I would argue that there is bullying toward adults as well. Especially Christians.
I’m not saying that social media has to be all bad, but I think we’ve distorted it to a place where maybe the good doesn’t outweigh the bad. I know when I am on social media my energy is affected without ever having to engage with anything at all. That could be part of my personality because I feel emotions so deeply. I just can’t read all of the hateful or gut-wrenching emotional posts by my friends (or even the people I’m “friends” with on social media but barely in real life) without feeling depressed and exhausted. I’m not generally a pessimist, I know you can’t tell that so far from this post but I promise! I’m just sick of it like I’m sure you are as well.
I have observed in my time on the internet (and my personal life) that there is a problem with western Christianity. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, or at least I hope you have been made aware of it. Because we’ve gotten so lazy in our Christianity. The same Christians who are taking up the fight against other kinds of privilege are blind to the privilege that I see. Whether this blindness is purposeful or not it doesn’t matter. This privilege is the fact that we have it easy here in America and the west. We have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and besides the fact that we could lose friends or family because we choose to follow Jesus, there are no real repercussions to being a Christian. I suppose if you have a business and choose to live by a standard of truth, it better be the truth of the “woke” world, otherwise, you could lose everything. But beyond that, honestly, we have it pretty good. Usually, the worst thing we go through is a few uncomfortable feelings or interactions with others.
We have the privilege to leave a local church and find another one we like better. People leave churches all the time for various reasons. The children’s ministry isn’t big enough, there aren’t enough young single people, the song choices aren’t what I like, etc. You wouldn’t ever have to become a “member” of any church, heck just cycle between your favorites if you can’t choose!
We have the privilege to watch church online if we want! I would argue that church is more about the fellowship than just hearing a message, but many would disagree with me, especially because of the fear surrounding the COVID-19 virus that has sent many into hibernation for the sake of “loving one’s neighbor.” Again, I’m not here to debate it, maybe another time.
We have the privilege to own Bibles! Yep, you heard me, “Bibles” plural. How many do you have? I have 8-10 in my house that are mine, not counting my husband! That’s just off the top of my head. I could be missing a couple. And that’s not counting the one that I lost somewhere and can’t find. A minor inconvenience that has bothered me for a long time but it’s not a huge deal. Plus, I have an app on my phone that gives me whatever version I want. I have the privilege to read whichever version I prefer. Don’t understand the KJV? That’s okay! Try ESV or NASB. Try the NLT if you want it to read in a very modern way. You might not be getting the exact words God intended, but meh. At least you can understand it without having to study it or do research! (I hope you can understand my sarcasm here, I’m not trying to bash the NLT, just show how ridiculous we are in how available all of these things are to us in Western culture.)
I have the privilege to sing worship songs whenever I want. The Christian music industry is booming! With modern technology, I could pretty easily and inexpensively record a song and publish it on several different sites online. No one wants to hear that, but I could!
Now, I’m sure you know where you’re going with all of this. At least I hope so. All of the things I listed are very common in the western world. But what about the rest of the world? There are places we think of immediately like countries in Africa, where they are poorer than us, but still love missionaries and are open to hearing the Gospel and receiving Christ. You can hear stories about the hundreds of children who come to children’s ministry events to hear the Gospel. Praise the Lord!
But there are other countries that we know of where it is truly dangerous to be a Christian. Here in America, you can call yourself a Christian and only go to church on Easter (and that’s only for the amazing potluck breakfast) or Christmas (so you can get the children’s toys they give out). But in some countries around the world, you could get killed or imprisoned just for knowing someone who is a Christian. If you try to get a piece of paper with a single Bible verse on it, your family is in danger. It makes me think about the Bibles that I own and don’t read and feel as though it’s a waste. I misplaced a Bible and it had almost no effect on me besides the fact that I’d been using that one for years. I don’t have to memorize every passage I read because I can bookmark it and go right back to it when I want to.
Consider the way you treat your Christian faith. Is it a hobby? Something you pay attention to once in a while on Sunday? Is it dusty Bibles taking up space on the shelf? Maybe you have a beautiful Bible you use for decoration in your Instagram pictures or on the coffee table? (Probably not if you have kids but you know) Why is that do you think? Why do we treat our faith so flippantly? I know that there are probably thousands or tens of thousands of people who say they are Christians who don’t know what that really means, but there are also many people who are born-again Christians, who are living with this privilege that they are choosing to be blind to it and pretend that the biggest problems we face today are about the left and right, and whether or not we are woke enough to the issues being presented to us by the mainstream media.
The biggest problems we have are against the enemy. Satan is working to destroy us. Divided we fall. Christianity is under attack and we are so focused on making sure all of our Facebook friends agree with the truth we have decided to believe.
I don’t know how well I’m articulating what I’m feeling. Honestly, I’m a little confused myself. I am just having a hard time watching friends and family who say they are Christians (and I believe they are) taking up all of the “woke” causes that are in the mainstream media today. They are choosing to condemn “white privilege” and condemn all conservatives, and yet ignore the fact that they are privileged to even be able to have a public opinion. Are some of these social causes important? Yes, of course. But I believe that Satan is trying to distract us. And remember, every lie has enough truth in it to get us to consider it. Believing and taking up every social justice cause may not be the best thing to do, we need to always test things against the Bible and find out if they are true and just causes.
I’ve been called a terrible Christian who gives all the other Christians a bad name because I wrote a comment on Facebook saying that both sides of the political coin of America have been acting foolish. I’ve been called a white supremacist for supporting a party that fights for my values as a Christian. I’ve argued with family and close friends.
I hope you see the point I am trying to make. That we are so focused on ourselves and the petty arguments on Facebook that we are distracted and don’t see the bigger issues with Christianity becoming watered down in America! I am worried about where we are going as a nation, but more so the path that Christians are choosing to go down. One that is lukewarm and does nothing to spread the Gospel or grow their own relationship with Christ.
As I think about all the privileges I have as a Christian in America, I’m imagining meeting a Christian from China who is part of the underground church. I think the embarrassment and shame would cripple me. I take advantage of the many ways that I am blessed in my faith. It’s easy to do, getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.
I want to live my life making the most out of everything I have, and striving to help as many people as possible. And I don’t want to be silent anymore. I will continue to share the truth, God’s truth, not mine.