Joanna Hoyt is a homeschooled Quaker who has spent the last 12 years tending goats, gardens, and guests at St. Francis Farm, a Catholic Worker community in upstate New York.
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Let's Get Beyond Arguments of Christian Privilege/Persecution
I cherish Christian friends and friends who practice other religions. With both groups I share the struggle to love God wholeheartedly, love my neighbors, hear and obey the Spirit’s promptings. In both groups I encounter some distrust of members of the other group. Some of my conservative Christian friends say non-Christians in the United States today are persecuting Christians. Some of my non-Christian friends say American Christians are privileged and are persecuting non-Christians. Both groups get outraged.
I don’t see American Christians being persecuted. American Muslims (and, to some extent, Sikhs) sometimes suffer surveillance, police harassment, and violence at the hands of angry and ignorant people. Some attackers may be Christians, though I think — and hope — that they’re motivated by fear and xenophobia more than religion. American Christians are in a majority. We can claim our faith publicly without risking surveillance, violence or imprisonment.
That doesn’t mean we always have it easy. According to the standard privilege checklist I’m privileged as a Christian, underprivileged as a woman, but I’ve encountered more hostility and dismissal for being Christian than for being female. People tell me Christians are ignorant irrational anti-Semitic homophobic misogynist bigots. People assume these things about me when I say I’m Christian. People tell me jokes based on those assumptions. I think this says less about our culture’s specific anti-Christianity than about its general tendency to polarization.
I fear that arguments over religious privilege and persecution may blind us to the real challenge our culture poses to our attempts to live in faithful community.
Screen-Free Week and the Still Small Voice
“Be still and know that I am God.” - Psalm 46:10a
From April 29 to May 5 individuals, households, and communities will celebrate Screen-Free Week by disconnecting from their screens — TV, computers, games, mobile devices — during their free time and reconnecting with relatives, neighbors, the natural world, and the quiet voices that may be drowned out by the constant barrage of electronic noise. My neighborhood celebrated early so we could offer a variety of cost-free and screen-free family activities during the school's spring break week. I organized the celebration, as I've done for the last six years. It was satisfying to see kids slow down and engage in gardening, carpentry, music making, nature exploration …
I also observed Screen-Free Week myself. Seven days of fasting from electronic media showed me how much time I spend using then mindlessly and forced me to confront my idolatries that are fed or masked by this mindless use. I'm using Michael Schut's definition of idolatry:
"An idol is anything we put before God, a partial truth mistaken for the whole Truth, a lesser good elevated to the ultimate good. … Idols [promise] what they cannot deliver."
And the Truth Shall Set You Free
Recent news, including the Oscar nomination of The Invisible War and the looming sequester, which threatens drastic cuts in defense spending, doesn’t sound good for military recruiters. But recruiters are still active at my local high school, offering freebies and making promises. For six years I’ve been visiting the high school to encourage students to stop and think about their choices.
I’m not a biblical literalist, but I take the commandments to love your enemies, not to kill and not to overcome evil with evil seriously. I don’t make this argument at the school; it would violate their rules about religious expression, and I think it might alienate our neighbors who believe simultaneously in Jesus, the right to bear arms, and the need to fight ‘terrorists.'
I also have a concern for the truth. Many young people enlist in the armed forces without understanding what they’re getting into. My county is rural and poor; jobs are scarce. Many students who lack money or grades to make college a viable option are attracted by the promise of steady work, sign-up bonuses, travel opportunities, money for education — and sometimes, it seems, by clearly false promises.