Often a touchy topic for people of color. Recently I posted a meme on social media about religion often being used to reinforce oppression and the comments I got on said post were bag of mixed proportions, to say the least.
Some of the comments I got on said post included, "true.....", while others posted that they totally disagreed with said post. This got me to thinking about my own experience with religion and how often folks who are dedicated to religion sometimes don't grasp the full grip of why someone might associate pain to religious beliefs.
For those of you who may or may not know, I left the Jehovah's Witness organization back in 2004. I often talk very openly about the pain I experienced in the religion because I know that so many people I know are still coming to terms with their own experiences with religion and the pain it may have caused them in certain aspects/areas of their life.
One of the most painful memories I have from the religion is connected to how I was treated when I started talking to my family about being a part of the LGBTQ community. I was told everything from, "It is a choice, you can stop it" to "when you die and lose your opportunity to live in eternal paradise, don't say I didn't warn you." The hardest part was that many of these comments came from people I thought loved me unconditionally. The hardest part of recounting these memories are that many of them still follow me, even 12 years later.
So what's my point in talking about this? Is this an article shaming folks who identify as JW or Christian?
Heck No! Some of the most amazing people I know are devout Christians and have been instrumental in my growth, development and success. What calls me to write this article is to begin conversations around why being a Christian is a privilege in itself and why it is important to be cautious about when and where that shows up.
So what is Christian Privilege?
I could speak for days on this, but to save some time, I have provided a link here. In short, Christian privilege is the ability to know that your religion will always be recognized as the "right" religion no matter what you do or say. After election results, I had a somewhat deep conversation with a family/friend about this and how we need to be cautious about using "God is going to take care of us all" when others don't have the freedom to say the same.
In all, my point in writing this is somewhat selfish, but also informative. As a queer Black man, I don't get the option to say I am a part of a religion that accepts me and see's me in my full identity.
There is a privilege in being straight & cis-gender while being christian. The reality is that your "sins" will not be seen at the same level as mine-being a queer individual. So when you say that you love me unconditionally, I get that and respect that, but the truth is from a historical context, religion has not.
For folks who identify as queer+, this can be quite painful. Being Christian or religious in any context, no matter how you slice it, is a privilege when you are not affected by heterosexism because your fear of judgment will always be lesser than someone who may have been told for years that they have "issues".
So the next time you begin conversations around religion and why someone who is queer may not be a "believer" or may not want your prayers in times of bad situations, ask yourself how you privilege has afforded you an opportunity to be firm in your beliefs without fear of rejection or fear of judgement.
To learn more about Christian privilege and ways it shows up in our everyday walks, click here.