I've been reminded of this lately in two recent outings to restaurants. Mind you, I don't live in the Bible belt. I live in South Florida where "only" 78% of people describe themselves as Christian. I lead a weekly Bible study at a local Panera Bread. It's next to a Planned Parenthood and, until recently, a Starbucks. I'd say that qualifies the area as pretty liberal. In one night, we ran into two separate Bible study groups holding meetings in the same restaurant. We still see one of those groups on a regular basis. Then, just last night, I had my first trip to Chipotle with the agility coach at my gym. Next to us were two men discussing ministry and missions. I guarantee you that I've never seen this happen with any other religion. I feel much more accepted in the US for my faith, than I do for my skin color, and if that changes, so be it. I'll have to grow to another opportunity to "count it all joy".
I hate to say it, but I really think Christians in the US are spoiled, and that all the hand wringing isn't so much about a rejection of God, but more discomfort in the rejection of culture. In Googling that stat on Palm Beach County, I ran across this article, in which, they responded to the 78% with this...
What does this mean about your life as a Christian...? The obvious answer is that with such ungodliness around us, we must not let up.
Now...I'm a member of a minority that makes up about 12% of the population, so reading someone interpreting 78% as "only", leaves me scratching my head. I know privilege when I see it because I live in disadvantage too. I go to stores, restaurants, meetings, events (church too) frequently where I am simply the only Black person in the room. Rooms that ask me strange questions about my hair, assume I don't have a father present, that make jokes about the current President, that consider me a brunette...For me to see 12% of a room looking like me would be a cause for celebration! The teasing of Christians pales in comparison to insults I see against people of my race. I can do nothing but assume that people who find 78% to be a cause for alarm are simply used to being 100%, and that, in and of itself, is definitely privilege.
*Edit: To clarify, Christian persecution outside of the US is occurring at rising rates. I personally believe that part of that is because of the actual growth of Christianity into new areas."
I'm not saying that US is headed in a more Christian direction (I don't think it ever genuinely started on one). What I am saying, is that Christians of all races need to start embracing challenge for the blessing that it is. I firmly believe that the church suffers heavily because it has intentionally integrated culture and the traditions of men deeply into its walls, that it defends them now, and that some rejection is a good thing. I believe that is important, because I've come to be convinced that being willing to walk away from your culture is a sacrifice one must be willing to make to follow Christ...even if that culture does reference some vaguely Biblical ideas.
Oh! Those privileges...
- You can expect to have time off work to celebrate religious holidays.
- Music and television programs pertaining to your religion’s holidays are readily accessible.
- It is easy to find stores that carry items that enable you to practice your faith and celebrate religious holidays.
- You aren’t pressured to celebrate holidays from another faith that may conflict with your religious values.
- Holidays celebrating your faith are so widely supported you can often forget they are limited to your faith (e.g. wish someone a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter” without considering their faith).
- You can worship freely, without fear of violence or threats.
- A bumper sticker supporting your religion won’t likely lead to your car being vandalized.
- You can practice your religious customs without being questioned, mocked, or inhibited.
- If you are being tried in court, you can assume that the jury of “your peers” will share your faith and not hold that against you in weighing decisions.
- When swearing an oath, you will place your hand on a religious scripture pertaining to your faith.
- Positive references to your faith are seen dozens of times a day by everyone, regardless of their faith.
- Politicians responsible for your governance are probably members of your faith.
- Politicians can make decisions citing your faith without being labeled as heretics or extremists.
- It is easy for you to find your faith accurately depicted in television, movies, books, and other media.
- You can reasonably assume that anyone you encounter will have a decent understanding of your beliefs.
- You will not be penalized (socially or otherwise) for not knowing other people’s religious customs.
- Your faith is accepted/supported at your workplace.
- You can go into any career you want without it being associated with or explained by your faith.
- You can travel to any part of the country and know your religion will be accepted, safe, and you will have access to religious spaces to practice your faith.
- Your faith can be an aspect of your identity without being a defining aspect (e.g., people won’t think of you as their “Christian” friend)
- You can be polite, gentle, or peaceful, and not be considered an “exception” to those practicing your faith.
- Fundraising to support congregations of your faith will not be investigated as potentially threatening or terrorist behavior.
- Construction of spaces of worship will not likely be halted due to your faith.
- You are never asked to speak on behalf of all the members of your faith.
- You can go anywhere and assume you will be surrounded by members of your faith.
- Without special effort, your children will have a multitude of teachers who share your faith.
- Without special effort, your children will have a multitude of friends who share your faith.
- It is easily accessible for you or your children to be educated from kindergarten through post-grad at institutions of your faith.
- Disclosing your faith to an adoption agency will not likely prevent you from being able to adopt children.
- In the event of a divorce, the judge won’t immediately grant custody of your children to your ex because of your faith.
- Your faith is taught or offered as a course at most public institutions.
- You can complain about your religion being under attack without it being perceived as an attack on another religion.
- You can dismiss the idea that identifying with your faith bears certain privileges.
Edit: I'd like to add 34...kind of related to 15 but...if I tell someone I'm a Christian, they may form hyperbolic views, but those views are usually based on pretty accurate information, and they have a good idea of what I will and won't do (I don't get asked to things much on Sundays, people know I don't want to go to strip clubs or bars). I've seen people from other religions have to do endless explaining before people are even close to correct.