Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo. (Articles)

Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo. (Articles)

Article excerpt

The author discusses the concept of privilege in terms of the benefits enjoyed by Whites and men (P. McIntosh, 1998). This article presents a new theoretical perspective focusing on religious privilege and includes a list of privileges that are enjoyed by members of the dominant religious group (i.e., Christians) in the United States.

Jesus blessed me with his future, and I'll protect it with fire.--Rage Against the Machine


Currently, diversity issues are prominent in the United States; however, when most people are talking about issues of diversity, they are really talking about racial issues. It is fairly rare to engage in a discussion of diversity issues in which other salient factors (e.g., religion, sexual orientation, age, ability status) are the focus. For example, the overwhelming focus of multicultural counseling theory (e.g., Helms, 1984, 1995; Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, & Alexander, 1995; Ponterotto, Fuertes, & Chen, 2000; Sue, Ivey, & Pedersen, 1996) and of empirical research (e.g., Hansen, 2000; Ruelas, Atkinson, & Ramos-Sanchez, 1998; Sodowsky, Kuo-Jackson, Richardson, & Corey, 1998) has been on working with clients from racial minority backgrounds (i.e., African American, Asian American, Hispanic/Latino[a], and Native American). Thus, although researchers have begun to deal with issues related to race, other aspects of living in a multicultural world, such as gender (Enns, 2000), sexual orientation (Fassinger, 2000), and religion (Langman, 1995; Worthington, 1989) remain largely unexamined.

The current U.S. society might be construed as being overly concerned with political correctness; this zeitgeist demands the recognition of all oppressed groups when discussing aspects of diversity. Given this current cultural norm, one often finds a disclaimer at the beginning of an article on multiculturalism. For example, in "Models of Multicultural Counseling," Ponterotto et al. (2000) essentially stated that although they recognized the influence and importance of many factors (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, ability status), they were choosing to focus on issues of race. This is not to deny the importance of race and racism in multicultural development. In fact, the various types of oppression often interact, producing additive effects; being a member of multiple minority groups increases the likelihood and frequency of experiencing oppression and discrimination. Thus, it is not enough to suggest that similar problems exist in other areas (e.g., gender, religion, sexual orientation) that are being or have been discussed solely in terms of race. Rather, it is necessary to articulate and discuss the specific issues related to minority group membership (i.e., defined more broadly than race) in greater depth; if not, several essential components of people's experiences become lost.

In her article on White privilege, McIntosh (1998) discussed the subtle, yet powerful, ways that White people silently enjoy advantages in the United States. She suggested that this type of privilege operated in any situation when one group was in power and dominant. McIntosh's articulation about White privilege suggests the importance of examining the ways in which all dominant groups are privileged. In an attempt to further the work she put forth into understanding power and privilege in today's society, this article focuses on the privileges and advantages of being a Christian in the United States.

For the purposes of this article, a religious group is considered Christian if the members believe in (a) Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and (b) the teachings of the Old and New Testaments (e.g., belief in the Holy Trinity and the resurrection of Christ). In addition, Christian groups take communion and celebrate holidays connected with their religious beliefs (e.g., Easter, Christmas). Several groups meet these criteria, including Catholics, Protestants (e. …

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