Comments 3

  1. Dreher lost me when he began with the assumption that Christianity as a cultural power is roughly equivalent to retaining traditional sexual mores and expectations about gender.

    It’s disappointing but not surprising that he could so easily confuse the two.

  2. A few thoughts. First, can we retire the epithet “privilege”? My experience suggests that “privilege” often functions as an ad hominem to shut off certain criticisms. Social scientists of a post-structuralist bent can define the set of conditions that describe privilege, and proponents of identity politics make much of privilege, but in this piece it seems to function as a synonym for economic wealth. Money is a BIG DEAL, especially in a market economy, but let’s talk about it directly rather than through the lens of privilege.

    Wealth comes in many forms and economic wealth is only one. Household and community relations and relationships are also a form of wealth (or poverty) and they do not correlate perfectly with economic wealth. I believe that Dreher is telling Christians to spend more of their efforts cultivating relational wealth than economic wealth, something to which I suspect anyone in social work would assent.

    Focusing on relational wealth creation raises its own set of questions. First, how can healthy (wealthy) relationships be created in the absence of economic wealth? This is an especially vexing problem in a market economy on hyper-drive. At least one short answer is: get the economically wealthy to support the economically poor. Easier said than done since it’s unlikely a call to Bruderhof-style community of possessions will gain much traction. Yet, foregrounding diaconal ministry (and giving) in the life of Christian congregations and creating local inter-church, community-based diaconal service organizations is a viable approach to providing the economic floor for enhancing relational wealth.

    Second, will a renewed focus on relational wealth creation among the well-off work to the detriment of the economically poor? Seems unlikely. After all, it’s never wrong to do right.

    Finally, I believe it is incumbent on those who see the gaps in Dreher’s approach to come alongside him to fill those gaps. Those content only to criticize (and I am NOT suggesting Professor Olson is one of them) will share the blame when, ultimately, nothing is done. Declining relational wealth characterizes many poor, whether Black or White, urban, rural, or (increasingly) suburban. It also increasingly represents the condition of the lower- and mid-middle class in America. Increasing relational wealth (community, koinonia) SHOULD characterize the Church and churches. Let us all strive to that end.

    1. Privilege is most definitely not just about wealth.

      The criticism being lodged is, I think, helpfully illustrated with an example like the following. Imagine a BenOp community of white Evangelicals forming out of some Chicago churches. Off they go to the north woods or upper peninsula. Or maybe they find some cheap land in the mountains of Idaho, or an old plantation in the deep south. Now suppose you are black person in this same congregation of the same socioeconomic class with about the same politics. You are sympathetic to the BO cause. You’d like to go along too. Kind of. But you sense there are special risks and losses, costs you are likely to incur the others will not experience or understand. Think about what those might be.

      The US, where Sunday is the most segregated hour, has been resegregating over the past four decades. For those Christians who see the early church and Pauline Christianity as definitive of their evangelical ideal, this is more alarming than than the things that alarm Dreher.

What are your thoughts about this topic?
We welcome your ideas and questions about the topics considered here. If you would like to receive others' comments and respond by email, please check the box below the comment form when you submit your own comments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.