May 31, 2017

Perceived Privilege: Myths Polarizing Christian College Students

At the dawn of my first semester of college, I discovered that I am a statistical anomaly. Being a Christian, conservative, female college student in the midst of a Millennial resurgence of the Evangelical Left (not an oxymoron, I’ve learned) has revealed a growing problem in the consortium of private, Christian, liberal arts colleges: the divisiveness of perceived privilege.

I assumed attending a school with a little over 1,200 people and mandatory three chapels per week would only attract other students like myself: fellow religious intellectuals who fall neatly in line with mainstream Evangelicals. I was wrong.

This epiphany came one Tuesday afternoon in the student-led newspaper that landed on my dorm-step every week. It greeted me with a full two-page special feature on various morally reprehensible genres of “privilege”. The list included a few classics: white privilege and male privilege. But a few I’d never even considered were included in the litany of offences: straight privilege, able-bodied privilege, and (my personal favorite*) Christian privilege.

The piece essentially reiterated generic progressive narratives that arbitrary qualities from the moral point of view (one’s race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion, for example) contribute to/define the limitations of one’s success in life. But based on my own experience and research, I cannot believe that any of these characteristics are inherently oppressive at all. In fact, I find the mere notion that males and Christians implicitly oppress others just by the fact of their existence so deeply unsettling that this narrative needs to be addressed immediately.

Male privilege is a farce. I am not a victim. It is more than a little patronizing to be told that I am at a social disadvantage for merely being a woman. The only opposition I’ve encountered on account of my gender has been from the Left, some of whom told me that if I don’t acknowledge my own patriarchal oppression then I’ve internalized and normalized it. In other words, progressives told me that I’m too brainwashed to know any better than my victimhood.

How could a woman ever claim to be a victim in the United States? In Saudi Arabia, I would not be allowed to drive a car. In Yemen, I cannot leave the house unaccompanied by a man. In Iran, my testimony in court only counts as half a witness. It is good to be a woman in America.

In the United States, more women pursue degrees in higher education than men. Women are more likely to get custody of their children in divorce cases and less likely to receive the death penalty. There are far more incarcerated men than women, and men receive harsher sentencing than their female counterparts. More men die every year in work-related accidents than women. On average, women live five years longer than men. Men in college are twice as likely to be the victims of violent crimes than women in college. Shifting economies have driven male-dominated industries like manufacturing to downsize workers while women, who dominate the service industry, were far less affected in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Where is the male privilege?

Any conversation on male privilege would be incomplete without mention of the “wage gap”. The oft-circulated statistic is that women make 33 percent less than men. By simply comparing the average man’s earnings and the average woman’s earnings does not account for education, occupation, job tenure, hours worked per week, or areas of emphasis. The statistics used to create this number are misleading at best.

In the words of Christina Hoff Sommers, “When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing.” Women are more liberated now than any other generation in human history. These falsehoods foster victim mentality in 21st-century Western women.

An even more confusing myth than male privilege is the illusion of “Christian privilege” in America. I chose my college specifically for the fact that it still boldly wears the badge of “Private Christian, Liberal Arts College”. I wanted to be surrounded by people who shared my general worldview while allowing room for debate and differing beliefs. It goes without saying that there is an advantage to being a Christian at a Christian college, but mine is one of the last remaining places where freedom of religious speech is exercised without fear of censorship. More than 400 schools nationwide have some degree of speech censorship that limits the discussion of religion on campus. This publication would not be circulated in many state and Ivy League schools.

It is hard to ignore the fact that traditional Christian presence in society is on the decline given the last 50 years of judicial rulings on abortion, the inability to deny service on the basis of a religious objection, and the Millennial gravitation away from formal religious affiliation.

It is extremely dangerous for Christians to travel to various parts of the world. According to Open Doors USA, every month 322 Christians are killed, 214 churches/Christian properties are destroyed, and 772 are the victims of physical or sexual violence. According to Christianity Today, more than 65 countries persecute Christians on account of their faith. In 35 of the most-persecuted 50 countries, oppression is at the hands of Muslims. Persecution in the remaining 15 countries results from a corrupt government.

It is counterintuitive to tell other Christians not to openly practice their faith on a campus specifically geared towards edifying Christians for fear that someone on campus might feel mildly uncomfortable in that moment.

The problem with “privilege” is that it assumes too much and empathizes too little. The word insinuates that some people do not endure hardship or overcome obstacles. Even the phrase, “check your privilege” divides people against each other and belittles those arbitrarily deemed privileged. But what is gained in scorning someone else’s struggles simply because they do not exactly parallel our own? By comparing our own obstacles with others’ we will inevitably find that we are the “victims” of inequality because no life is exactly the same. As the philosopher Edmund Burke once said, “[A]ll men have equal rights, but not to equal things.” If every man is allowed the same opportunity, each is solely responsible for his own outcome.

I have been profoundly blessed by my friends in the Evangelical Left. They have pushed me to reevaluate my assumptions and refine my argumentation. I love them, but they’re still wrong.

10 Responses to Perceived Privilege: Myths Polarizing Christian College Students

  1. Tom Crowell says:

    Superb. Facts have weight. Continue to challenge so-called progressivism.

  2. Chris Cooley says:

    Hey Savannah. This is Chris Cooley. What a great article! Loved it

  3. I husmmann says:

    Very good
    Really enjoyed reading this.
    So well written and in this age of texting!

    Yes we are your grandparents but this is very eriudite.
    Well done!
    G&G Husmann

  4. Earl H. Foote says:

    Excellent points. How shocking that a Christian college would be ashamed of talking about Christianity! I’ve been lectured by a few progressives about “privilege,” but I’d love to see one of the “sensitive” White liberals face a Black conservative!

  5. Apriluser says:

    As a woman who is partially Caucasian and partly Native American/tribal, would I be guilty of oppressing myself? What a farce this has all become. Lord, save us from ourselves!

  6. John McAdams says:

    According to Twitter, she is from Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA.

    A place definitely to be avoided.

  7. David Boger says:

    A wonderful article. Thanks for bringing truth to public light. We need your voice in this world. God bless you, keep the faith.

  8. Jim says:

    Your essay reminded me of something I realized a few years ago. Without calling out this group or that, there are people who hold out truths that are not true because they think they ought to be true. i.e. since truth is fluid, ‘truth’ can be put to work for political ends.

    I distinguish between small-p privilege and large-P Privilege. Having grown up in the Jim Crow south, I can attest that I was privileged (e.g) when it came to schooling. However, to be told that I am Privileged today is not simply about reminding me about whatever benefits I may enjoy that others don’t, it is about silencing me. After all, as a white male (etc), what can I ever say that will excuse the FACT that I am a white male? The trick is to demonstrate that I am not privileged by ranting against privilege. That shows that I’m on the good side in spite of being a white male. (virtue signaling) i.e. bearing the load of my guilt publicly gets me a pass-for-now. “Yeah, he’s a white male and he’s on our side until we need to pull the white male card again.” i.e. Virtue signaling works as long as it works. The truth is I cannot really escape it and thus I am forever condemned to silence no matter how much virtue signaling I do.

  9. Scott Gardner says:

    A well written article. It’s good to know that there are still some young adults that hold views like yours. I’m glad that you are able to speak your mind at your school. That’s not the case at most liberal arts colleges any more; christian or not.

  10. Cy says:

    Nicely done. Thank you for stating the facts and laying out a very convincing case.

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