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I haven’t seen it yet.
And that means one of three things.
Either I spend less time on facebook than I used to.
please. stop laughing. i’m trying to do something here.
Or I have muted too many insufferable people to appreciate my social media time better. And yeah, that’s a thing that I have definitely done in the quantity that a child uses syrup to appreciate pancakes better.
Or, this one particular meme has simply slipped through the cracks this year.
But it’s Christmas, which means that it’s time for us to once again try and wind our way through the moral maze of lying to our children about Santa to embrace mystery, awe, and seasonal delight.
I’m not opposed to it.
But let’s not sugar coat what Santa, the tooth fairy, and the Easter bunny are. Little mystical fiblets.
Every year, when it’s time for Santa to start warming up his sleigh seat, I see someone who is all “Ima let you Christmas, but listen to this wet blanket in the snow post…” and then they tell you to stop telling your children that your wildly overpriced Christmas gift came from Santa because there are other kids whose Santas aren’t as affluent and it will make them feel like their life doesn’t deserve a rich Claus.
Like… maybe I grew up different, and maybe I was so stuff oriented as a child that I didn’t really focus on it. But I never told my friends which gifts came from Santa and which from my parents. We just geeked out over Super Mario Bros. 3, or Pilot Wings, or that sweet remote control hovercraft vehicle that made for a GREAT fan when i went to college.
The source never really came up among my friends.
So, before I get into what I actually opened up this browser to say, just let me say, we might be overthinking the woke scold on this one just a little.
But on the more serious side of this conversation, I think it’s time we stopped shaming people for their privilege.
Much has been made of privilege in the last decade, and the plurality, if not the majority, of that conversation has taken place this year. I have come to appreciate the reality of privilege better thanks to the pacing and historical events that have taken place. I wrote a little about waking up to it here.
I realize that I use the word “inert” a lot. I have come to the realization that much in the world is neither good nor evil until used with a heart that is ruled by one or the other.
So I offer today that it is perhaps time to consider privilege in the same light.
Privilege is not bad. It is not good. It is a reality that exists in the lives of people and if we consider it bad, we will inevitably bump into our own privilege and because it is considered a shameful thing either abuse it to the expense of others it or waste it to our own shame.
Before I continue, I will definitely define what I mean by privilege. It is an inherent advantage given in the light of gender, ethnicity, place of birth, year of birth, nationality, ability, sexual orientation, marital status of parents, education level and availability, and economic class of family.
I am a cisgender, white, college educated, heterosexual, protestant, male, raised by divorced and remarried middle class parents, born in the late 20th century in America. Each of those classifications are an advantage in many areas of the world. Because I am American, I am automatically part of the 1% richest humans on the planet. Although my life as an army brat placed me into corporative existence with other ethnicities, if I wanted to, I could find a place where only white people exist and never have to figure out how to richly abide with people who are different from me. Except for a few key moments in my life, I have never known persistent hunger due to lack of resources. My child was diagnosed with leukemia, which is conquerable at this time in history. And so on and so forth.
That is my life and I have advantages.
And I make no apologies.
The difficulty begins, when learning about privilege, is accepting shame for privilege. Now, most people when they accept the thesis that privilege is an idea, almost uniformly assign it negative qualities. We assume that because someone is privileged that they use that privilege to intentionally disinherit and disadvantage less privileged people.
The fault in the logic rests in the idea that privilege automatically creates a calloused, inhumane soul. It can create the environment from which is born the misconception that all people have the same advantages. But an environment and an inevitability are two different things.
We, as a society, have already explored the inverse. We have worked hard, to some efficacy, to dispel the idea that if someone is panhandling on the street that they are inherently dangerous. Again, some are. But it is not a foregone conclusion that if someone is panhandling that they are just as likely to knife you as to ask you for a downpayment on a cheeseburger.
We have the circumstances of our birth and current situations and not everyone has the same. Shaking our fists at the sky about the inequity of that reality is silly. Opening that fist and offering a hand to one another to investigate within about how we use our birth rights is more useful.
I believe that if a life is investigated and found wanting that the method for correction is found from our Creator. If we’re honest, the basis of the diagnostic is found there, as well.
Let’s consider, first, the parable that Jesus shared about the men and their talents. The parable is definitely analogous with a privileged life. Each man was given a different amount and asked to steward that amount. The two given five and three talents (an actual amount of money understood at the time, not like talent show talent) doubled their charges. The third man hid his away and did not risk it.
Had this happened today I propose the following situation would take place.
Not only would one talent guy still bury his talent, he would also start a cancel campaign against five talent guy. Three talent guy would either join one talent guy to not get all caught up in the middle of being told he was bad for having more or ignore both of them and work on his three talents. Five talent guy would eventually cave and split his five with one talent guy at two and a half a piece because the other one was buried. Five talent guy would then double his two and a half to his original five, one talent guy would bury his two and a half with the previous one and then go hard after three talent guy who now has six.
Not the point of the parable, I know.
But this is the ridiculous nature our culture has taken regarding people of privilege.
Consider Job, on the other hand. There is a question of privilege when it comes to this friends who came to sit with him after he lost everything. The privilege here is that people occasionally have the opportunity to sit with people who experience tragedy and loss. We all want to be utilized to the betterment of people’s lives and most of us would say “yes” to being called in to help. Many of us would condition it with “as long as I can help.” No one else was invited to mourn for the great losses of Job’s life. He lost material possessions, his children, his own health, and his self-respect.
He sat in ashes and misery.
The solemn duty of his friends in that moment was to sit with him. That was it.
But like a three talent guy acting like he had five, a chevy driver like he owns a BMW, and like a guy with a master’s in engineering speaking empirically on behalf of biological, chemical, and astronomical sciences (I’m looking at you Bill Nye) they thought that maybe they needed to do more than their circumstances called them to do.
And it was famously bad.
So there’s a limit, is what I’m saying, to what we can do and what we’re called on to do. Our privileges are somewhat set and sometimes something we over and under estimate. On the one hand, we do not want to bury the talent to keep it unruined. On the other hand, we don’t want to overplay our hands.
What spoils the entire situation and makes the environment worse for discerning right and wrong is offering someone a hot plate of shame for even having the opportunity to begin with.
It’s time to celebrate that some people have much and to offer them the opportunity to do the good things we can see. It’s time to be people to investigate the advantages we have and put them to work for good purposes. It’s time to ask God “what would you have me do with the good things you have given me?” And then obey. It’s time to respect people who have little and champion the work they do with what they have. It’s time to respect people who have much and hold them accountable for right and wrong with the same equity we would offer everyone.
It’s time to stop assuming that kids who got different gifts for Christmas are making each other feel bad about the largesse of the Santa who visits their home. It’s also time to open up our hearts to people who are bereft of the warmth of affection and good cheer at this time of year. This is the essence of the command forbidding coveting. A life that has left covetousness behind is a life that embraces its reality and puts its advantages, as few or as many as exist, to work for the joy, healing, affection, and betterment of the community as a whole.