Living in the Shadow of the Cross: Understanding and Resisting the Power and Privilege of Christian Hegemony
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Over the centuries, Christianity has accomplished much which is deserving of praise. Its institutions have fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, and advocated for the poor. Christian faith has sustained people through crisis and inspired many to work for social justice.
Yet although the word "Christian" connotes the epitome of goodness, the actual story is much more complex. Over the last two millennia, ruling elites have used Christian institutions and values to control those less privileged throughout the world. The doctrine of Christianity has been interpreted to justify the killing of millions, and its leaders have used their faith to sanction participation in colonialism, slavery, and genocide. In the Western world, Christian influence has inspired legislators to continue to limit women's reproductive rights and has kept lesbians and gays on the margins of society.
As our triple crises of war, financial meltdown, and environmental destruction intensify, it is imperative that we dig beneath the surface of Christianity's benign reputation to examine its contribution to our social problems. Living in the Shadow of the Cross reveals the ongoing, everyday impact of Christian power and privilege on our beliefs, behaviors, and public policy, and emphasizes the potential for people to come together to resist domination and build and sustain communities of justice and peace.
Paul Kivel is the award-winning author of Uprooting Racism and the director of the Christian Hegemony Project. He is a social justice activist and educator who has focused on the issues of violence prevention, oppression, and social justice for over forty-five years.
Pita, 142 Nandy, Ashis, 182 Native Americans, and colonization, 18–20, 32–34, 48–49, 78, 103–104, 180–181. See also captivity narrative; Homestead Act of 1862; missionary effort; and by name. natural law, 92 natural versus unnatural, 98–99 nature, role in cultures, 57–59 Nazism, 100–101, 138. See also Hitler, Adolf; Holocaust. New England Primer, 95 New Year’s Eve/Day, 29 Niemoller, Martin, 179 9/11, 6, 72, 156 non-Christian religious institutions, and domestic policy, 144–145, 150,
organize knowledge to understand the world. When we hear about the discipline of the market, the achievements of science or technological progress, we might take these concepts to be universal. Yet there are multiple ways to organize economic interactions, practice science and focus technology. We need to demystify the concepts behind accepted ways of thinking and seek alternatives. What kinds of economies, sciences and technologies will serve all of us without destroying our livelihoods or
we have created a punitive society with millions locked in prisons, jails and other detention centers—and with a constant stream of self-judgment in our own psyches. Salvation Modernity became a “secular theory of salvation.”5 After the Papal Reformation of the 12th century when the promise of salvation was reinterpreted as something to be fulfilled not on Earth but in the afterlife, there was a complete philosophical reorientation within Christianity. For the first time in its 1,100-year
than in anything else outside their families and jobs, and non-Christian bases for public involvement are strong for only a small proportion of Americans.”27 I am not critiquing Christians’ participation in abolition, suffrage, anti-Indian removal, anti-poverty and other efforts. However, I would contend that because they did not understand how their values shaped such efforts, despite their intentions, much of these activists’ work remained steeped in attitudes of benevolence that ultimately
spiritualities to which men and women are supposed to aspire.79 Most Western art, music, architecture and literature consist of stories about these and other bodies and their struggle for salvation. Usually good bodies—physically perfect, white, glowing with light and healthy—represent good people. Bad people are dark, misshaped and associated with evil. The Inquisitions were based on the torture of the body and the search for signs on it of immorality and evil. Christian men were the standard