Christian Supremacy(?)

20Apr09

Throughout the whole Student Council debate one of the things I keep hearing from certain folks is this idea that religious groups on campus are “oppressed,” more “oppressed” perhaps than people of color. The folks referencing this are speaking specifically about Christian groups on campus.

hmm… about that.

I guess for me it is hard to imagine folks who identify with Christianity as being marginalized because of their religion. For a couple reasons…

  1. In the United States, Christianity, like whiteness, has been normalized in a way that can marginalize and silence folks who do not identify with Christian values.
  2. History, the U.S., was born as a “Christian nation;” Christian religious values pervade much of our government, collective values, and our societal history.  Biblical references are present in our textbooks, the literature we value, our money, it is pretty much omnipresent.
  3. Also, in terms of history, Christianity has been used to justify a lot fucked up colonization of communities of color.  Christianity also has deep and complicated roots with slavery

With all of that being said, I think that I have seen ways that Christianity acts as a vehicle for social justice, liberation, and serves marginalized communities in powerful ways.  And while I haven’t fully thought this out I think there is a place to say that Christians have to own the fact that they are benefitting from Christian supremacy that often comes at the expense of, marginalization of, tokenization and colonization of other religious, spiritual and cultural practices.

 

So.  To claim that Christian groups on campus are “oppressed,” to me, shows a general lack of understanding of the word oppressed, and a shortsightedness that ignores different community histories that inform our positions on campus and off.

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2 Responses to “Christian Supremacy(?)”

  1. 1 Yoel

    Uhh, sorry, C, but I’m not sure that you’re exactly seeing the point of what people on campus have been saying about Christian groups. No one is making the (admittedly foolish) claim that Christians in general are marginalized, like women or minorities are marginalized. At least in America, arguing that would be asinine. So, while your refutation is wholly accurate, it’s not actually responding to anything anyone has said.

    Instead, the feeling I’ve always gotten is that when people talk about the marginalization or “oppression” (I think the [over]use of that word is bullshit in just about any context, but if you want to drop it, have at it) what they actually mean is how groups like the Swarthmore Christian Fellowship are regarded on campus. Certainly, there’s a preponderance of Christian (or Christian-by-family-legacy) students here, but a very very small number of them are practicing, church-going Christians, much less members of the SCF or similar groups.

    More than that, though, the SCF seems to be looked down upon on campus, in much the same way that the College Republicans were, back when they still existed. They’re seen as a less than legitimate group, a second-class religious organization, and are thus, I’d argue, more “marginalized” or “oppressed” than groups like Ruach for the Jews, or any of the groups for queer students or students of color.

    And I’m still not totally clear on why you feel that it’s necessary to attack other groups that claim to be marginalized. It’s not like making the claim that the SCF is a marginal group on campus detracts from any of the stuff you write about so prolifically on your blog.

    • 2 cmarque1

      I’m thinking specifically about comments like: “religious groups are just as oppressed and marginalized, though perhaps less visibly so, as ethnic, cultural, sexual, or racial minorities” the rest of the discussion can be found here.

      And I’m also trying to say that I don’t think that we necessarily can draw lines so clearly between on campus treatment and off campus treatment. I don’t think that we can say that somehow on campus Christian groups are taken down off the pedestal that they are placed on in the broader society. I would agree that Conservatives on this campus probably experience pressure that doesn’t mirror the communities that they come from. But to argue that Christian groups or Conservative groups are “oppressed” just seems a bit extreme. I think that perhaps they are not held to the same esteem that they are in the wider world on campuses but I think are still highly privileged in many ways that transcend campus/real world distinctions.

      Maybe it is the word “oppressed” that just really rubs me the wrong way because I think of “oppression” as something that is rooted in histories and more widespread structures.

      So yeah, I think that the view that SCF being a marginal group doesn’t really effect anything I come to the table with but I think holding up Christian groups as “oppressed” groups and saying that it is equivalent to the experiences of people of color it seems like it takes the real world out of the conversation and the ways our identities are experienced outside of Swarthmore’s campus.

      Thoughts?


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