My Privilege Was Given By God, and I Do Not Repent of It
I was raised in a nuclear family, with both a father and a mother in the home. To God be the glory, and praise Him.
I was raised in a middle-middle class, two-earner household. Our needs were met. To God be the glory, and praise Him.
I was never on food stamps or welfare as a child or as an adult. To God be the glory, and praise Him.
I was born an American, with the full rights of Citizenship under the U.S. Constitution. To God be the glory, and praise Him.
I was raised in a rural town, in a place people supported and loved one another rather than shoot and rape one another. To God be the glory, and praise Him.
I was afforded a good public education, and then college and graduate school. To God be the glory, and praise Him.
I have been healthy my entire life, and have had access to good medical care. To God be the glory, and praise Him.
I married a girl whose privileged upbringing mirrored mine. To God be the glory, and praise Him.
My life has been one of extreme, gratuitous, deep privilege. And from what I am seeing in the evangelical Marketplace of Ideas, I am supposed to repent for all that privilege. Repenting of that privilege will supposedly make me more righteous and will make others feel better about their lack of privilege.
When I was a kid, we ate squirrel, crawdads, and snapping turtles. We went to flea markets. Our shopping mall was Wal Mart. My parents were civil servants and government employees; my father worked for the military as a civilian bureaucrat and my mother was a school teacher. When they were first married their bathroom was an outhouse. When they retired, their position in life changed to the point they could retire to a lake house (hard work will do that for you). Before those careers, my dad worked in the grocery store produce department, as a phone company lineman, and at one point, dug holes. My grandparents homesteaded a small farm. We drank (and still drink) from mason jars.
Today, my kids enjoy about the same amount of privilege as I did. They have married parents, enjoy a nuclear family, are snuggled in comfortably in the middle class, have never tasted government cheese, and have – on occasion – eaten squirrel. They live in small-town America in a four bedroom, two bath home with a large, fenced backyard. They have a dog, a cat, and a turtle. They, like I, live the American dream. Other than being homeschooled, which some think is weird, my kids do not stand out as looking or acting differently than anyone else in our fairly homogenous community. They will not know overt racial bigotry or ethnic bias. They will not know class envy because they do not lack anything they need and because we teach our kids not to covet our neighbor’s belongings.
We are privileged. And, speaking for my family, we repent of absolutely none of it.
Let me give you the Biblical basics for how repentance works.
1. Repentance, or μετάνοια, means, “a change of mind.” Some lexicons might render it change your heart. However, in relationship to sin, that change of mind or heart should lead you to “turn” from your sin and cease doing it. The change wrought by repentance internally should lead to stepping back or away from sin externally.
2. Repentance, as we commonly think of it, is done in regards to sin. Sin, or rἁμαρτία, is defined as “missing the mark” or “failure.” In its plainest definition, however, it is explained in 1 John 3:4 in the phrase, “sin is lawlessness.” Sin is a violation of God’s laws, a moral infraction of his standards.
So then, we repent of sin.
Now, let me give you the Biblical basics for how “privilege” works.
1. Privilege is nothing short of a blessing. Privilege is defined as, “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” Driving, you’ve often heard it said, is a privilege. It is not a human right, and it can be taken away. Likewise, all privilege is a blessing that someone has, that is not a right and cannot be guaranteed. There is no human right to be born in a nuclear family with good parents or to be raised in a crime-free small town or to be blessed with braces and chiropractic care. It is a blessing.
2. Blessings are from God. Every good gift comes from God (James 1:17). Whenever our needs are met, it was God who met them (Philippians 4:19). Even if our children are blessed, God should receive the credit (Genesis 27:28-29). God dispenses his favor upon those whom he wants to give his favor (2 Corinthians 4:15). In fact, God gives compassion to those whom he wants to give compassion (Romans 9:18).
There are all kinds of different privileges. There’s class privilege, for those born of a higher economic class. There’s geographical privilege, for those not born in Chicago or some other third world nation where people murder each other at exponential rates. There’s aesthetic privilege, for those born with genetics that gives them superior-looking features like asymmetrical faces. There’s Christian privilege, for those born in Christian households and are catechized and evangelized from an early age. There’s health privilege, for those born without any debilitating physical ailment and remain healthy throughout the course of their life. None of these privileges are sinful, and therefore none of these privileges should be repented of.
You repent of sins. You do not repent of blessings. You thank God for blessings.
But what about white privilege?
Well, if you wanted to judge people solely by the color of their skin (that would be racist, but whatever) and you wanted to paint with a broad brush (which is awfully judgmental), you could argue with the right stack of statistics and studies that there is a privilege that accompanies a light melanin count. I reject the notion that my skin color is a privilege because I’m not a White Supremacist. I would acknowledge, however, that there is a corresponding connection (as opposed to a causal connection) between certain other kinds of privileges and skin color.
For example, being Caucasian makes me more likely to have a nuclear family than if I were of African descent. Being of African descent would make me more likely to suffer the geographic disadvantage of living in inner-city Chicago. If I were Asian, there would be a higher correlation with college graduation and I would be more privileged educationally than if I were Caucasian, and so on. However, to argue that merely by being white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Inuit, or First Nations, one is innately privileged or underprivileged is actually a denial of the Scripture’s ethos of the equality we have in the flesh and our mutual ancestry in Adam.
Furthermore, to claim that “melanin count equals privilege” overlooks people as individuals (which is the point of their Marxist, collectivist mindset). It is hard to argue that I have “white privilege” in any meaningful way when Kyle J Howard – who identifies as a black man – was raised in a far more affluent household and in every discernible way was more privileged. What does “white privilege” really mean if a black man is more privileged than a white man irrespective of his skin color? It means that skin color, when it comes to innate privilege, is meaningless.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s adopt the Critical Race Theorist’s perspective that melanin count equals privilege. If privilege is a gift of God (and it is) and if repentance is done on account of sin and not blessing, why would I repent of it? I would not. I would praise God for it.
So, I am not repenting for my privilege, and neither should you. Thank God for all the ways that he has made you better off than you deserve. Be appreciative. Pick up the Scripture’s commands to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ and give people a helping hand. Support one another (no matter their skin color). But when you run into someone who is more privileged than you, don’t demand they repent of it. They’ve done nothing wrong. Stop coveting thy neighbor’s stuff. Be thankful for their privilege, and praise God for blessing them.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus – Philippians 2:1-5
[Editor: JD Hall]