Christian Privilege and Flying

I recently got into a disagreement with someone who insisted that Christians are treated badly in the US and that non-Christians pretty much always have it better. So, I did some looking and found that there is a Christian Privilege List out there, much like the white privilege or male privilege or think privilege lists. Overall, it’s a pretty good list. The one flaw I saw (and that others pointed out) is that a lot of the items are only accurate if you’re on whichever side of the Catholic/Protestant divide is favored in your local area or social group, because a lot of the privileges don’t fully apply to Catholics who are surrounded by Protestants, at least from the experiences of Catholics I know, and from my experience around Evangelical Christians who tend to say dumb stuff about Catholicism. (Presumably, vice versa too, but I don’t have the experience of being a Protestant somewhere with a Catholic majority, so I couldn’t say from personal experience.)

The privilege at the very bottom of the list, “I can openly display my religious symbol(s) on my person or property without fear of disapproval, violence, and/or vandalism,” struck me today, because I’m flying for work. And like I always do when I walk into situations where I expect (reasonably or unreasonably) to be treated crappily, I use clothing as armor. I dress nice, I put on make-up, I wear jewelry. And it occurred to me that wearing one of the pretty cross necklaces that I own would probably be useful in creating the impression I want to create, and might make it less likely for me to get pulled for the dreaded extra pat-down or get bumped off a flight. It seemed crass, and borderline blasphemous, to callously use a sacred symbol that way, though, so I didn’t. But it occurred to me how unpleasant it must be to know that your religious symbols mark you as an other, as someone to watch and be suspicious of. And I imagine that there are people getting ready for their own flights, wondering if they should try to “pass” so they don’t miss their flight. And I think about the Saudi kid at the Boston Marathon, just another victim doing what the other victims were doing, and getting tackled solely because of his “suspicious” appearance.

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3 thoughts on “Christian Privilege and Flying

  1. John Grebe says:

    Very interesting insights. Personally I would say if you normally wear a cross then wearing a cross in a situation where doing so would be less likely to draw unwanted attention would not be considered blasphemy as it is part of who you are as a person who is a Christian.

    Although personally I would dispute number Christian privilege #37 (My religious holidays are so completely “normal” that, in many ways, they may appear to no longer have any religious significance at all.) as being more of a curse than a blessing as it is eroding the spiritual significance. Thus in America I’d say it is a lot easier for a Christian to celebrate Lent than Christmas because Christianity still gets to fully define what Lent means and how it is celebrated unlike Christmas which has long since fallen to the cult of materialistic consumerism. Then again it is likely an area that “more religious Christians” are likely on an equal playing field, if not lower, than people of other faiths that do not celebrate Christmas but another holiday like Hanukkah during the same time of the year.

    • KellyK says:

      Yeah, I agree with that first paragraph. If I had been in the habit of wearing a cross every day, I would have still worn it. It was the fact that it occurred to me to deliberately wear it in order to be treated better that made me decide against it.

      As far as 37, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a curse. Mixed blessing might be closer. I agree with you that the over-commercialization of Christmas is crass and awful, and it detracts from the sacredness of the holiday.

      But, there are still advantages to having your holidays be the ones that are commonly celebrated. Even if I wanted to celebrate Christmas in a purely religious manner (no gifts, no tree, no Santa), the fact that it’s a mainstream holiday makes that easier. I get the day off as a paid holiday, no vacation time needed. No one will find it the least bit odd if I put a nativity in my yard or candles in my windows. There are tons of Christian churches close to me where I could attend Christmas eve and Christmas morning services. I can easily find CDs of sacred Christmas music, and books or movies about the Christmas story. Compare that with someone who might live an hour’s drive or more from their house of worship, if they even have one at all, who may have trouble getting their holidays off, and who will probably be hearing non-stop Christmas music and having people wish them a Merry Christmas all December long. And as a kid, I never had to worry that I would be expected to attend holiday celebrations that were against my religion at school, or sing songs about someone else’s beliefs in music class.

  2. Hi Kelly, My name is Ang and I’m taking over Notes from the Fatosphere admin from Bri King. Could you drop me a line at fatosphere at gmail dot com. There are some changes I need to notify you about. Sorry to hijack your comment – no other contact details I could see. 🙂

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