A Theology of Privilege

From the first, I don’t see anything inherently wrong in privilege. But I do – as Jesus – see something inherently dangerous.

And I think we white, western protestant types are particular susceptible. Take some case studies:

  1. Relativism – A symptom of not having Assad’s bombs hovering over your head every morning and evening. Relativism is a cute idea when it is closeted into cloistered rooms for folks with a PhD in philosophy. But it simply isn’t workable when life isn’t moldable at the touch of an app. Relativism is a product of privilege (for more, see liberal reactions insisting on truth-telling now that a rogue conservative is in office).
  2. Limp-Wristed-Ness – What else do you call this? We are offended at a God of justice, a God of wrath, a God of hell. Why? Because we are privileged. Justice is assumed, for us. Of course we receive justice from our world – more than justice, privilege. So we are naturally offended at a God who dishes it out. But most of the world needs justice; a God of justice is in fact attractive to a normal person. A limp-wristed god is, too, a luxury of the privileged.
  3. Health and Wealth – It doesn’t matter how much faith you have, or how hard you work – if you live in a society with no upward mobility (most of the world), your faith simply doesn’t equate to wealth. In a privileged society of easy whiteward, upward mobility, we naturally equate blessings and faith with wealth – then we dangerously export it to the underprivileged. This, too, is less a product of thought than of circumstance.

There are hosts of other ways – equating spirituality with knowledge (a product of having access to education), scoffing at a miraculous God (a product of having all the medical resources we need), or measuring church quality by flavor (a product of having everything we do auto-customized to our whim).

The important thing is not that we eschew privilege – we have it. It won’t change.

The important thing is to engage theologically with a worldwide and historical church that doesn’t, and let them check our privilege at the door.

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Posted in Theology.


Nicholas McDonald is a blogger, pastor, and author of the book "Faker: How to Be Real When You're Tempted to Fake it." He studied creative writing and communication at Oxford University and Olivet Nazerene University, and received his M.Div from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He currently resides in Lexington, NC, with his wife and two boys, Caleb and Owen.


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