Last year I did an interview with Alex Doherty of the New Left Project. This week I will run the interview as a serial, each day posting one of the six questions he asked. The link to their website is at the bottom of this post.
1. Your journey seems to have been one of increasing politicization but without moving away from religion – can you describe that journey for us?
To me, religion is a fancy word for how we build our frame of meaning and politics is just a fancy word for how we treat each other. As a child I learned an apolitical version of Christianity and was duly offended if a preacher ever brought up social issues in a sermon. Religion, I was taught, was a personal relationship with Jesus. So I could sing “Jesus loves the little children, but did not feel any need to confront the possibility that my nation might be dropping napalm on them.
Nor did I consider myself political in college or seminary. Of course, I was political, I just didn’t know it because the religious worldview I had been taught was so in line with the dominant culture that my own politics were invisible to me. In my mind, I was just a white Christian male who happened to worship a white male version of Christ.
I wasn’t selling out consciously, but it was in my interest not to notice the power system that left me in a place of privilege. By viewing religion as politically neutral, I could disguise the unfair advantages that came from being a white Christian heterosexual male, My complicity with various oppressions was unconscious, but I knew enough not to explore other ways of thinking, so, I some level, I knew what I was doing.
When I began to work with survivors of rape I could feel the role my male privilege played in their trauma. Later, that insight grew to include what my heterosexual privilege meant to gay and lesbian persons. Finally, I came to understand that justice has to include the whole human family. I realize that most leftists have a well deserved contempt for religion, but I personally came to hear the gospel as a call to justice for all people, which is how many oppressed people have heard it from the beginning.
If you want to skip ahead of this series and read the whole article can be found here.