Friday, April 22, 2011

Christian privilege

It's Good Friday out there in the real world and the first one to pass us by since leaving Christianity.  Actually I'm feeling pretty good about that and not even nostalgic for the ceremony and liturgy that goes on this time of year.  I surprise myself sometimes.

But it got me thinking about Christian privilege again and how the U.S. seems to revolve around Christianity in various ways.  My husband was telling me today about an employee who whined for years because Good Friday was such an important religious holiday and how the company should let Christians off to celebrate it.  When Tom told him to take a vacation day for that, the guy whined again that he shouldn't have to waste his vacation days on holidays that he should get off anyway.  Tom told him it must not be that important if he wasn't willing to give up a vacation day for it.

So many businesses are closed right now so their employees can attend Good Friday services.  Even though most churches don't have them in the afternoon.  But this being Catholic/Lutheran country here, I guess enough do that they feel they have to accommodate them.  It's not that I really care if businesses do that; it's the arrogance that some Christians feel they're owed that day off because they're Christians and their holidays take precedence over anyone else's.

I know because that's how I felt as a Christian.  Or rather how I felt as a fundie.  It's in the water we drank, the air we breathed, implied in every sermon, every Bible study, every "fellowship" gathering.  Entitlement because of Christian privilege.

I was arrogant enough to believe that "God" would reward me for not accepting a job that made me work on Sundays because that day was sacred to him.  Oddly employers don't see it that way.  There is money to be made on religious holidays, too, you know.  And "God" most certainly didn't reward me.  In fact, we suffered because I could have been working all along on the weekends with Tom to take care of Zach when he was little.  But I trusted that I was being told the TRUTH.  And TRUTH was always in capital letters in my mind because it was "God's" TRUTH.  And whatever people in spiritual authority told me was TRUTH.

Except it wasn't.  I remember a "testimony" given in church one day on tithing by a single mother who was struggling and going to college with minimal support from her ex.  She talked about all the miracles in her life where money mysteriously appeared when she needed it most.  All because she tithed.  Except I overheard her in the bathroom a few months later telling someone else she had been skipping church lately because she couldn't afford to tithe and pay her bills.  So because she had given such a moving testimonial about how God rewarded her for tithing, she couldn't be there and not tithe.

Ah, the way they manipulate you.

And that's what they do when they have these temper tantrums about people not being allowed to pray in school.  Of course they can pray.  They just can't take over the intercom and make everyone listen to their prayers to their god.  If they want to pray over their food, they're allowed in spite of all the hyperbole I get from my aging aunt who insists "God" isn't allowed in public schools.  What they really mean is they're not allowed to promote Christianity in public schools.

And then there are the hysterics at Christmas about keeping Christ in Christmas.  How they're not allowed to say "Merry Christmas" anymore.  More hyperbole.  Of course they can in their personal life.  They just can't use their employment to force their version of the holidays on other people.  Because, of course, there are other people who don't celebrate Christmas, contrary to what they might believe.  And that is what Christian privilege is all about.  Thinking that the world rises and sets on their beliefs, that their beliefs take precedence over anyone else's.  Or even that anyone else's religion even has any validity because, you know, anyone who doesn't worship Christ worships Satan  (I wanted to write Satin because for some reason some of the more fundie-types out there seem to have literacy problems and you see it written that way many, many times.)

So on Good Friday employers all over the country give their employees the afternoon off to go to church and mourn the death of their savior.  But they end up at Walmart.  Because I swear that place was as crowded as Christmas today. But you can't give just Christians the day off because that would be discrimination (although I have heard some bitching about non-Christians getting the day off, too, because what do they need it off for?Same bitching I hear about non-Christians celebrating Christmas, as if we've stolen something from them.)  So apparently Walmart was busier than the churches because I was at the old StuffMart at the time when most of the services were going on.

But yeah, I don't have a problem with them taking the day off because it's sacred to them.  I'm okay with employers shutting down (although the credit union shutting down at noon on a Friday used to be pretty darned inconvenient until we got direct-deposit) if they can afford it and are fair to the other employees.

But don't demand that the U.S. adopt your religious holidays as public holidays.  We've already got Christmas and Thanksgiving, even though both have been largely secularized.  We don't give equal time to other religions in that same way, like making Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days of the year for Jews, a national holiday.  Those poor guys have to actually take vacation time for their holy days in some places.  I'm not even asking for equal treatment for other religions, although it would be nice.  I just want them to realize that other religions exist out there and their adherents are entitled to some privilege as well.

So kwitcherbitchin and stop acting like the kid in grade school who boasts that their father is more important than anyone else's, demanding speshul snowflake privileges.  It no longer impresses anyone and just makes them look like brats.  Which they are.

I kind of think the world is changing for the better in spite of the tantrums out there.  Maybe if we just ignore the foot-stomping and breath-holding and screaming, they'll get the idea.

Or not.


  1. You are so right on all of this. Wal-mart here actually closed there auto department for 3 hours in honor of Good Friday. I mean really? Whatever... But you know they will still be going on and on how this country is a christian country...blah blah blah...and how everyone should adopt christianity as their religion. I would have to ask if those same people went to live in another country whose faith is different, would they adopt that religion since they lived there? I'm gonna guess...No.

  2. "So kwitcherbitchin and stop acting like the kid in grade school who boasts that their father is more important than anyone else's, demanding speshul snowflake privileges. It no longer impresses anyone and just makes them look like brats. Which they are."

    Yes oh yes oh yes oh yes!

    Here in Jersey a law was passed that students are allowed excused absences for all Religious holidays, including Pagan ones.

  3. DM, I doubt any such law exists here in my redneck of the woods, being Catholic and Lutheran/fundie country. But they do get the Wednesday off before Thanksgiving for deer hunting. I think that is one of the biggest religious festivals in Wisconsin.

    Ellie, I used to be one of the ones who thought we should get all Christian holidays off and even thought I shouldn't have to work on Sundays so I know how they think. I'm just chagrined that I ever was that arrogant. I think most reasonable people, once faced with their privilege would take a step back and admit they're not that special, but the fundies won't do that because they believe they're more special than thou and have entitlement to all the privileges that they think Christianity deserves. I've yet to see a town shut down for Yom Kippur.

    Debra, yep! I'll probably do another rant at Christmas after having deleted a million emails from my aunts about how they are taking Christ out of Christmas again.

  4. I can't speak for all establishments, but the state university I attended had a different way of dealing with the holiday issues: Nobody gets days off for anything. Spring Break was whenever it was and no one cares if you have to be in class on Good Friday or Ostara. Fall break was the same. Winter break was set to include as much of December as possible so that everyone was off because let's face it, NO ONE wants to work during the midwinter festivities. It was a good system. I'd like to see it more often. Just my opinion of course.