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Privilege

I love the dedication of Walter Brueggemann’s Prayers for a Privileged People:

I am glad to dedicate this book to my new grandson, Peter William Brueggemann, who, like many of us, is born into some privilege and invited to a life of reflection, yielding, and glad obedience.

I think that is one of the most profound blessings I have ever encountered.

My son, Sam, is born into some privilege and I pray that he, too, will live into such an invitation as a divine calling of who and how to be. I don’t mean to put words into Brueggemann’s mouth, but here’s what the invitation means to me.

  • Reflection is an awareness of privilege and also the willingness to push against it. This second part is key: I have a dear friend and respected colleague who claims that he doesn’t like feminism, not because he is against women having rights, but because he’s against losing any power for himself!
  • The yielding aspect, then, is the desire to promote justice and equality, even to the point of self-sacrifice. Reflection as self-awareness is not enough. It seems to me that true yielding, however, would not be burdensome because of the understanding that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This quote is from MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in which he sought to convince privileged people that justice for all is the very definition of this word.
  • This is glad obedience as a higher calling, a more noble and virtuous way of life, which considers the whole, rather than just the individual. As a Christian, I would distinquish, with Paul, an obedience to the Lord of Creation rather than to the creation, including the created structures of power and privilege (Romans 1:25). Such action may well entail sacrifice; yet can result in joy. In our culture, which is still marked by white male privilege, we don’t often associate obedience with joy, much less gladness. But maybe the next generation can help us renew our minds and be transformed (Romans 12:2).

Sam, that is one of my many prayers for you . . . and, dear reader, perhaps it could be meaningful for you as well.

 

About Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I am a pastor and a preacher, a writer, a husband and a father. My professional and personal lives are deeply involved with story-telling: stories that are silly and poignant or profound and commonplace. Stories that are tear-jerkers and belly-shakers. Stories about my son, Sam, and the congregation I serve, New Dublin Presbyterian Church. Each in its own way, these personal narratives shed light on the great story that God is writing with humankind and all of creation.

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