"Understanding and Resisting the Power and Privilege of Christian Hegemony"

Dec 13, 2013

On our show today, a discussion with Paul Kivel, who is the author of "Uprooting Racism" and the director of the Christian Hegemony Project. Kivel is also a social-justice activist and educator whose new book, just out, is "Living in the Shadow of the Cross: Understanding and Resisting the Power and Privilege of Christian Hegemony." It is, to be sure, a work that makes several debatable points, and that takes as "given" several contentious assertions --- and so Kivel defends (and elaborates on) many of these points and assertions on this edition of ST. For openers, what do we mean, exactly, by the phrase "Christian hegemony"? Here are the first few lines from this book's first chapter: "I define Christian hegemony as the everyday, systematic set of Christian values, individuals, and institutions that dominate all aspects of US society. Nothing is unaffected. Christian dominance is a complex and shifting system that benefits all Christians, those raised Christian, and those passing as Christian. However, the concentration of power and wealth accumulates to a predominantly Christian power elite. All others experience exploitation and constant vulnerability to violence. This dominance operates on several levels. First is the subtle internalization of Christian beliefs by individuals. The behavior and voting patterns of millions of people in the United States are influenced by concepts such as original sin, Manifest Destiny, the existence of 'the one truth' contained within Christianity, and the notion that humans were given dominion over the Earth. The social, political, and economic (as opposed to spiritual) power that individual clergy exert on people's lives is another level of impact. Many clergy condone US expansionism, missionary activity towards non-Christians, and exclusion of groups deemed sinful or dangerous. Some denominations wield very significant power in the US. For example, the Mormon, Catholic, and other churches, along with many individual religious leaders, raised millions of dollars and mobilized constituents to vote for Proposition 8 on the California ballot --- a 2008 measure that made same-sex marriage illegal...."