Confessions from a Privileged White Male Christian
Corey Miller, Ratio Christi CEO and President
I'm a white male Christian and am certainly privileged! But my privilege isn't what your paradigm might imagine.
As a child I was molested by a female babysitter. I was also forced by yet another female babysitter to remove my clothing and have one of my other young male relatives stare at me naked while I had to stare at him as she looked on with a twisted approval. I grew up in a tough neighborhood where I was shot at by someone who was black. Given these and other hard childhood experiences we moved. After that episode, I grew up living on welfare in a remade garage for most of my first 16 years of life. I had a 0.3 GPA at one point in middle school. I came to classes stoned instead of studying, having gravitated to the wrong crowd because my religious environment (Mormonism) made me feel ostracized. I was a son of a single parent smoker (not a good thing in Utah!), I was poor, and didn't have the ideal Mormon family. While I still embraced the theology at the time, I rejected the local social community that rejected me. I grew up fatherless and witnessed my mom being abused by men.
In spite of these experiences, I don't hate religion, women predators, drunk men, blacks, or rich people. Class division doesn't work with me! Why not? Because of Jesus Christ. He saved me and gave me a new perspective on life. He gave me a compassion for all people because every human life has dignity. He gave me a zeal for knowledge and virtue that I never had before. I said I'm privileged, but clearly it isn't because of my skin pigmentation, my private parts, or my bank account. My only "privilege" is Jesus. I'm now privileged to serve him with my life.
I had no money for college, so I pulled up my bootstraps and joined the army during war time to earn the GI Bill. I accepted no free government grants. This included free money that I certainly qualified for and was in fact awarded before I turned it down. I didn't want to mooch off the system that provided a way for me to earn a living. I worked my tail off and with the inspiration and grace of God earned three master’s degrees and a PhD from a world renowned, internationally recognized university. I am multi-authored and lead an international campus ministry from Rutgers to UCLA and from South Africa to Pakistan. But the pathway hasn’t been easy.
I was thrown out of class as an undergraduate having received an "F" on a project in which I shared my Christian faith. The reason? My professor notably disdained Christianity. I entered legal proceedings and won. As a professor, I was charged by a gay man with creating a suicidal classroom environment merely because I dared give both sides of a politically charged sexual issue (even while assigning an atheistic text). I entered legal proceedings again and won. I was forced to terminate my first attempt at a PhD in my fifth year after being mocked by peers for being a Christian and flagged by a professor for being delusional and schizophrenic as a believer. I was unable to finish that first PhD in philosophy because I was told I had "too much of a faith perspective.” I couldn’t acquire another dissertation adviser given the politics. So much for academic freedom and diversity of ideas! And this at the institutions where we are told it exists, having instead a superficial focus on the diversity of skin color and body parts. Although I’ve been persecuted for my faith, I don't hate gay people, hostile academics, or atheists. I love them because of how Jesus demonstrated His love to me. I want to engage them because I want others to know Jesus too.
When I originally crafted part of this as a Facebook post, one person responded with a challenge, “…the concept of white privilege does not negate your struggles but posits that if you lived the same life over again without being Caucasian, you'd likely have some added struggles related to your race.” Another added, “gender and sexual orientation,” among other categories.
I don’t deny that there are injustices or inequalities of different sorts. It’s real. But the rhetoric and overly generalized “privilege” by political and cultural elite standards is relative. Everyone can find someone else to compare their own privilege. It’s a sliding scale that is also context relative. Our cultural answers aren’t necessarily the best answers. To the charge that if I were to live my same life over again as a woman, a person of color, or gay, my life would have been even more difficult, I ask, “Really?” I think in today’s universities that would make my life much easier!
Dr. George Yancey is a secular university sociologist who researches these topics. He has faced many problems in life because he is black, but he says "inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”1 His recent national research reveals that if one wants to get a job, or keep a job, in academia, one had better not let on that one is an evangelical Christian. Asking faculty how various group identities would shape their hiring preferences, he shows that in over two dozen identity categories (gay, Muslim, NRA, Democrat, etc.) evangelical Christian is ranked almost dead last. It’s a career stopper. Being gay makes one far more likely to be hired. Astonishingly, one gets the impression from the research that if one wants a guaranteed job in academia, instead of submitting one’s CV or resume one need only say “I’m a Democrat” and you are a shoe in. “Privilege” in academia seems completely opposite in terms of who possesses it than what progressives lead us to believe.
There are 12 Democrats for every Republican among professors over the age of 652, and the disparity climbs to 23 to 1 among scholars under the age of 36. This ideological imbalance is about to skyrocket and our universities will become mere echo chambers of progressive ideology. So who is privileged?
Michael Bloomberg, former liberal mayor of NYC, spoke at Harvard’s 363rd commencement ceremony remarking that “conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species.” Pointing out that for a university to be great, rather than merely good, it needs to move beyond focus on “diversity of gender, ethnicity, and orientation…” admonishing the audience with the evidence that “when 96 percent of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama…. you have to wonder whether students are being exposed to the diversity of views that a great university should offer.”
Conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species."
In all of this, I recognize that disparities and injustices exist in our culture. But what is the ultimate answer to their seemingly perpetual existence and often rhetorical manipulation? I choose not to live in my relative lack of privilege when compared to others. I am a white Christian male. I confess that I am ultimately privileged by only one measure: the gift of Jesus, who changed my life. I recognize this privilege for what it is, and my desire is to help others experience it as well. What a privilege!
Corey Miller is the President and CEO of Ratio Christi. Corey is an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Religions at Indiana University-Kokomo. His educational background includes Masters degrees in philosophy, biblical studies, and in philosophy of religion and ethics. His PhD is in philosophical theology from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Corey can be reached at email@example.com.
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