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Archive for July, 2015

You may have seen the new BuzzFeed video, “What is Privilege?” – it’s been making the rounds on Facebook and YouTube the past few weeks . If you haven’t, it’s worth 4 minutes of your life. While privilege isn’t really a difficult concept to understand, accepting it would seem to challenge one of our most cherished American ideals – that everyone has the opportunity to succeed in life. The shorthand we use for this notion is that any American child can grow up to be president. Yet while this is technically true, we all know it isn’t totally true.

So in the video, ten participants start out hand in hand, stretched across the room in a line. We hear a voice ask a question, and people “answer” by taking a step forward or backward. If you were born in the U.S., take a step forward; if your parents worked nights or weekends, take a step back. There are questions about mental and physical disability, race, gender, religion, and socio-economic class. There are other questions about language, access to health care, education, physical safety, and the stability of your family system. There are questions to cover just about all our advantages and disadvantages, more than could possibly apply to any single individual’s circumstance. And in the end, there is a real, visible gap between those in front and those in the rear, a gap resulting from factors none of those individuals controlled.

My religious tradition is pragmatic about the world – there are many powers which will try to exploit differences between us, hoping to gain advantage. But my faith also harbors a great hope – that ultimately, none of our differences matter before God. St. Paul told the Christian women and men who made up the church in Colossae, “In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” Sentiment and wishful thinking will not move the world closer to this hope, but perhaps positive, concrete action to live up to the standards of our faith will.

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