The Battle for Privilege

I was tempted to write something about the dismissal of Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran, who was relieved of his duties as my hometown’s top fire fighter due to (ironically) incendiary comments he made in a self-published book. Here in the South, religion and politics make for combustible bedfellows, and it’s easy to rattle off a knee-jerk reaction to stories similar to this one.

Many Christians are up in arms over Cochran’s firing. They’re calling it persecution, a violation of the First Amendment, a violation of his civil rights (which, here in the home of the Civil Rights movement, is a big deal).

Other folks are up in arms over Cochran’s statements. They’re saying his words created a hostile work environment, were effectively creating a religious power structure, were diminishing to the homosexual community (which, here in the “excellent epicenter of the LGBT South, is a big deal).

I can see both sides of the issue. And what’s at stake is neither free speech nor religious liberty nor LGBT rights nor a safe work place.

What’s at stake is privilege. Namely, who gets it.

Christians want to be able to say what they want without fear of reprisal, even when how they say things invites angry response.

The community of tolerance wants to be accepted without demonization, though they often caricature people who don’t buy into their view of tolerance.

Both groups are fighting for the same thing, and it’s not just principle: it’s the privilege to exercise their principle with relative impunity. Our society loves underdogs, but it gives power to the overlords. Right now it’s an all-out battle to decide just which group gets to hold power.

It’s sad, really. Both sides are screaming at one another to be accepted, to be heard, to be understood. Both sides say they want to live at peace. But neither side is willing to give up the press for privilege, because it delivers too many benefits, too much power, too much ease. To live at peace with one another would require struggle, sacrifice, a persistent willingness to work through issues as they arise. It requires walking with one another.

But too many folks want to walk over one another.

So the Battle for Privilege rages on…

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