26 September, 2009

Christian Privilege

Before you read this post, please note that I present here my vast lack of knowledge with regards to world religions. As a result I'm almost certain I have misrepresented something. Please let me know if I have offended you in the process.

I was reading this post at Shakesville about referring to Christians who are conservative/fundamental as "Christians" or Not Real Christians, as well as discussing issues of Christian Privilege. It got me thinking about Christian privilege; something which I haven't really considered before (which in itself is a form of privilege). I have no doubt that Christian privilege exists, especially in America, but also very much prevalent in Australia.

The idea was brought up in the thread that in Australia, religion is a very private thing, and you often don't know the religion of friends and colleges. While this is true to an extent1, I still think that Christians still have a huge amount of privilege in this country.
Some points;
  • Our entire legal system and judicial system is based on the Christian Church
  • Abortion is illegal in some states, and hard to obtain in others
  • Same-sex marriage is Constitutionally denied
  • Senator-fucking-Fielding too often has the deciding cards in the political sphere!

LM's father once said, on the eve of the last Federal Election, that we had two choices: "A left-wing religious nut or a right-wing religious nut".

I'd like to quote part of a comment of Lauredhel's from that same thread, which addresses some points better than I could hope to:
"The Liberal Party is heavily influenced by highly conservative Christian sects, which has been a major issue for reproductive rights in Australia. The Victorian abortion law reform _barely_ scraped through, with Catholics getting a large amount of press on the subject. Abortion law elsewhere is in the doldrums; we have a woman in Queensland right now facing up to seven years in jail for taking abortion pills, and the status of RU486 is still a mess. Women seeking abortions need to be warned about protestors before turning up to their appointment. Fake "crisis pregnancy care" hotlines are funded by government to scare women off abortion. People are talking up Tony Fucking Abbott as the next Lib leader. Balance of power problems are recurrent, with douchetrumpets like Harradine and Fielding holding cards way too often

Attempts to establish Islamic schools meet with resistance all the way along the line. The government gives enormous handouts to already highly privileged Christian schools for rich kids while public schools for underprivileged kids languish. Virtually all rich schools are Christian. Our mission history is hideous and shameful, and deeply affects Indigenous people today.

The six most populous religious affiliations in the Census are Christian sects.

Public holidays occur at Christmas and Easter. Public Christmas decorations include Santa and stars, but also nativity displays.

We still have no same-sex marriage.

Christian religious education occurs by default in public schools in some states (including mine) unless a parent/guardian opts out in writing; even then, Christian dogma can weave into other parts of the curriculum. I've encountered this at least three times just in the past year with only one child - Jesus Christmas carols in music class and in the Carols event at the end of the year; Bible stories and colouring-in in class time at Easter; the teacher replying "we try to instil Biblical values in the children" when talking about the nominally-secular Values Program. Institutions like Hillsong Church are being given access to public school children."

I would like to give you a small example of the most basic of Christian privileges: not having to explain every aspect of your religion to people who don't follow it. Let me tell you something. I was raised by a fundamentalist Church of Christ minister. I attended a Catholic high school for two years. I was Confirmed as an Anglican, and still self-identify as Anglican. Here is the (horribly little) that I know about religions other than Christian.

I want everyone to know that I put the various religions in the order they are in for a reason. I noticed when I started this exercise that as I got further away from Christianity, I knew less and less about the specific religion.

I know about Passover, because it is celebrated by Christians too. I don't know any of the customs or rituals surrounding it.
I know Hanukkah is celebrated around the same time as Christmas, but I don't know the exact date. I know a candle of the Menorah is lit every night for... some nights, I don't know how many. I don't know why, and I don't know in what order they are lit.
I know that there a dietary restrictions, such as no shellfish, no pork (or any animal with... cloven hoof?), meat must be completely drained of blood, don't mix meat with dairy... It strikes me that I still think of these as restrictions in the Old Testament, as opposed to in the Torah.
Circumcision represents... connection to God? The Covenant?

Followers of Islam are called Muslims.
Some women wear a headscarf called a hijab, or full body covering called a burka.
Muslims also have dietary restrictions, similar (or same?) as the Jewish restrictions.
Muslims follow the Koran.
Jews and Christians are referred to as "People Of The Book".
Rammadan is 40 days of fasting during daylight hours, but I don't know when it is or why or anything else about it.

Um... There's a circle of reincarnation? Buddha gets reincarnated lots? Um??

... There are lots of gods and goddesses, and they have many arms. And Hindus don't eat beef.

Nothing at all. Something about ancestors... But yeah, nothing.

I haven't mentioned Pagan or Wiccan beliefs because I actually know a fair bit about that. Because, as well as being Anglican, I follow many of those beliefs, and have spent a great deal of time researching them. I feel it would be disingenuous to the post to "show off" what I know in this area.

Behold, my vast ignorance. But, ignorance can be rectified! I find religion, as a subject, to be incredibly fascinating. This has motivated me to study some religions I know very little about. Hopefully I'll be less ignorant in the future.


Anonymous said...

In Buddhism, abortion is technically "wrong", but as one of the aims of Buddhism is the elimination of suffering, people shouldn't be "punished" for it. The person who gets an abortion knows their khamma, just as the person who steals from his employer knows his khamma. They will be reborn and answer to themselves for their own khamma accordingly. There is no all-knowing deity in Buddhism who will judge and punish a woman for making a choice that she has to make, even if it means making bad khamma for herself. It's up to her.

Incidentally, Abortion is technically legal in every state in Australia, it's just that the circumstances differ between each state and territory. Search wikipedia for "abortion australia" for more detail.

Nisha said...

I stumbled upon this post while searching for posts about Christian privilege. You've made great points! As someone from the US, I had no idea of the dynamics involved with privilege and politics in Australia.

Just wanted to mention that though it's commonly misunderstood, Hinduism is actually a monotheistic religion, the various deities are avatars of a single divine force. This same force is believed to be inherent in everything present in the universe, including each of us. The idea of this divine force ties into the concepts of reincarnation and ahimsa, which you alluded to by mentioning that many Hindus do not eat beef. This vegetarianism stems from the idea that the divine force in us is the same as it in every living creature, and a desire to do no harm those beings (this is the definition of ahimsa). Different Hindus practice differently of course, some being fully vegan, or vegetarian, some eating only chicken, and some not restricting their diet at all. :)