University Combats Christian Privilege With Diversity Training
Published : April 10, 2018
George Washington University hosted a workshop on Thursday, April 5 in an attempt to combat Christian privilege. The 90-minute diversity training, entitled “Christian Privilege: But Our Founding Fathers Were All Christian, Right?!” was hosted by the Multicultural Student Services Center (MSSC). The seminar intended to teach participants how Christians “receive unmerited perks from institutions and systems all across our country.” According to the training, if you are a Christian, your life is automatically easier than those who are non-Christian.
The facilitator of the training attended by many Christians and non-Christians said that as a “white, Christian male, he had to acknowledge his privilege and keep it in mind throughout the conversation,” according to Emma Shindell, a sophomore political communication major who attended the training.
Like others in attendance, Shindell said she wanted to understand the purpose of the seminar and how the MSSC defined Christian privilege. During the presentation she was told that three privileges Christians receive are related to safety, assumption of Christian majority, and access to spiritual spaces. (See: Statistics disputing safety around the world)
In addition to discussion specifically to Christian privilege, Abigail Marone, a junior political science major, said the facilitator often made references to white privilege. When Marone raised objections, the seminar moved forward without her receiving any answers.
“I suggested that even if everything he said about white privilege was true, it wouldn't apply to Christianity since you choose to be Christian, but you don't choose to be white,” Marone said. “I asked how the two totally different concepts of religion and skin tone were comparable.”
This revealed a not-so-hidden agenda. The MSSC hosts a multitude of these privilege workshops under the guise that the Center is open to diverse opinions and is meant to help students and faculty understand differing viewpoints. These workshops have included “cisgender privilege,” “heterosexual privilege,” socioeconomic privilege, and “abled-body privilege.” Since making national headlines leading up to the Christian privilege training, the MSSC wiped its website of the descriptions of future trainings and the specific details of the Christian privilege training.
Shindell and Marone noted the number of conservative Christians who came to listen to the presentation, along with there being non-believers in attendance. Marone viewed the trainings offered as presenting one side that most students either already agree with already or simply choose to ignore.
Shindell viewed no ill intention from the MSSC, but she did not believe the presentation accurately represented the so-called Christian privilege, particularly on the George Washington University campus, where she has not seen Christianity practiced by many.
“In my experience, openly being a student of Christian faith is something students scoff at and write off as mythology,” Shindell said. “There was a tremendous lack of nuance (for example, the centuries of blatant discrimination against Catholics in America) that only caused confusion among the attendees and media. The overgeneralization of the topic, tying it into white privilege, a completely unrelated topic, and the divisive nature of the content of the seminar did more harm than good.”
Shindell, Marone, and any other person paying attention sees this story played out on campuses across the country. Just as this seminar did, most of the trainings across the country are doing more harm than good.