Privilege is a blessing that Christians have in abundance. Praise God!
When the Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Health Equity (all of that is her actual title) sent out the January edition of her monthly newsletter, Diversity Digest, she obviously didn’t anticipate the backlash she would receive. It was swift. Dr. Sherita Hill Golden, likely drawing from her continuing education seminars, helped the entire staff of Johns Hopkins Medicine define privilege. Privilege was her “Diversity Word of the Month” which after defining, she identified groups of people who benefit from privilege.
Before I share Dr. Golden’s definition of privilege, I think it may be interesting to note that according to Golden’s Wikipedia page, she is married to Dr. Christopher Golden, Director of the Newborn Nursery and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. They have one son. Ordinarily, none of this should matter except for Dr. Sherita Hill Golden’s definition of privilege:
Privilege is a set of unearned benefits given to people who are in a specific social group. Privilege operates on personal, interpersonal, cultural and institutional levels, and it provides advantages and favors to members of dominant groups at the expense of members of other groups.
In the United States, privilege is granted to people who have memberships in one or more of these social identity groups:
Middle or owning class people
Of the nine groups Dr. Golden listed, she and her husband are firmly nestled into seven. I can’t say whether they are Christians and according to their online photos, they don’t appear to be white. Of course, I’m ready to be corrected should it be discovered that they identify as white Christians. To be sure, many Americans are tired of forced guilt and presumed privilege, but I was frankly surprised at the pushback this newsletter received. Once it was widely circulated on X and viewed by millions of people, Dr. Golden was forced to issue a retraction. She described her definition of privilege as “overly simplistic and poorly worded.
In what seemed to be an act of contrition, Dr. Golden wrote, “I retract and disavow the definition I shared, and I am sorry. I will work to ensure that future messages better reflect our organizational values.” But isn’t this what DEI is all about? When one adds an office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Health Equity, isn’t one asserting a position, namely that there are inequities? Isn’t Hopkins, by housing and staffing this type of office, making the claim that there is privilege and special attention must be given to those who lack it?
At any rate, I’m not offended, at least not by some of Dr. Golden’s definition of privilege. And I’m certainly not offended that she rightly recognized that we Christians have privilege. I would clarify that Christians have what the Addisons call, Christ Privilege and that we have it in abundance. Consider Dr. Golden’s definition when biblically understood:
1. Privilege is a set of unearned benefits given to people who are in a specific social group. Yes!! According to Ephesians 1:3, God, “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,” chief among the privileges we’ve received, is the appropriation of Christ’s righteousness (Phil. 3:9). We are God’s chosen and redeemed. We did not and could not earn this position, it is applied to us because of faith in the finished work of Christ.
Christians have an inheritance. As much as our culture now despises the discipline of leaving an inheritance, we instead champion the belief that every generation should struggle as a sign of virtue, Christians have received an inheritance. We didn’t work for it. We didn’t build it or struggle to obtain it. And frankly, I make my boast in this fact. Ephesians 1:11-12, “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” Our inheritance far surpasses anything this world has to offer.
The doctor is right, Christians have privilege.
2. Privilege operates on personal, interpersonal, cultural and institutional levels.
Right again! Personally, Christians have the privilege of newness of life. It doesn’t matter who we were, or what we’d done, the Christ Privilege we enjoy affords us a guilt-free life – forever (1 Cor. 6:9-11). To be sure, this clean slate is one of the reasons we should reject collective guilt as if it were some sort of virtue.
Interpersonally and culturally, Christians have the privilege of treating one another with the same grace and mercy we have received. Additionally, because it’s no secret that we were scoundrels who deserved death, we are privileged to operate with humility toward one another (Eph. 2:3-5). The Christian “group” values kindness and extending and receiving forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13). This is something our languishing, majority culture knows nothing of, evidenced by the constant demand to feel guilty. Christians celebrate a new culture that unites us under one banner, Christ. The predominant feature of our cultural privilege is holiness (1 Pe. 1:14-16).
3. Privilege provides advantages and favors to members of dominant groups. Yes and no. While Christ privilege provides advantages and favors, these advantages and favors are provided for the least of these. The doctor doesn’t understand that Bible-believing Christians are not the dominant group in America or the world for that matter. With a focus on America, (as discussions of privilege are the privilege of a privileged nation) while George Barna’s most recent research, indicates that most Americans (68%) still consider themselves Christians, only 6% have a biblical worldview. And if worldview doesn’t matter so much, what about belief? According to Dr. Barna, only 33% of American adults say they are born-again believers. This is hardly the majority of Americans. God’s Word tells us unequivocally that followers of Christ are on a narrow path that not many find (Matt. 7:13-14). But for those who do find it, there is abundant privilege, full of advantages and favors!
The advantage of peace is afforded to those who trust the sufficiency of the Cross. We don’t have to worry now or about the future. When we face struggles and tragedies, we can trust that God is at work even when we don’t see or understand it. His Word teaches us that, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,” Romans 8:29. I’ve heard a lot of people claim that comfort even while rejecting Christ. Unfortunately for them, that advantage is a privilege that only Christians can claim. Thank you, Jesus!
The doctor is right, Christians have privilege, certainly more than is listed above. Not only should we embrace the privilege Christ has afforded us, but we must be eternally grateful for it! Do you understand the extent of the privilege you’ve received? God has revealed the mystery of His grace in Christ, He has preserved His Word that we may search it out, and He has filled every Believer with His Spirit that we may live and walk in holy distinction. Praise God for His glorious privilege!