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:
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.