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Published Date: November 10, 2015

Published Date: November 10, 2015

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Privilege Is An Opportunity, Not A Threat

Christian egalitarians in developed Western countries engage a wide range of issues related to gender equality. We stand up for women’s ordination. We support mutual submission in marriage. We fight sexual objectification in the media. We stamp out insulting gender stereotypes. And we celebrate women who break glass ceilings in male-dominated careers. This is just to name a few of our battles. 

It would seem that our plates are full in the fight for equality—and all of these endeavors are good things. Yet, as we wade neck-deep through the struggles of our own culture, let’s not forget the millions of women around the world who face problems we can’t imagine.

In many different regions, particularly in developing countries, women have few rights and an overabundance of threats. It seems that for every problem faced by egalitarians in developed countries, one can find a corresponding but worse problem somewhere else.

In many parts of the world, domestic violence against wives is legal. Rape is rarely prosecuted. Girls are married young with no choice in the matter. They may die in childbirth due to birthing too young or having no access to basic medical care. Mothers have few legal rights over their children. Sons will be educated ahead of daughters. In some cases, daughters won’t be born in the first place, because families want sons and obtain ultrasounds to “weed out” female babies via abortion.

To egalitarians like myself, firmly ensconced in the familiar battles of our own landscape and context, these realities seem shocking, sobering, and overwhelming. They brings up a word we hear a lot about in the media these days: privilege.

To be privileged means to have unearned advantages that make life easier to navigate. We are privileged to live in a country where child marriage is illegal, where police must respond to domestic battery, where gynecological care exists in most communities, and where educating girls is a cultural norm. These advantages don’t free us from all gender inequality, but they do protect us from some of the life-threatening problems faced by others.

People get nervous about the word “privilege,” because of what they fear it means. If I’m privileged, does that mean I should feel guilty? Does it mean that my own problems are petty in comparison to others, or that I should quit thinking about the struggles in my immediate area?

I don’t believe these fears are valid. Recognizing our privilege doesn’t negate the injustices we face here at home. God still cares about those things, and it’s not wrong to fight for them. Just don’t fail to move beyond your own problems and help others, too.

Scripture tells us, in no uncertain terms, that we should pay attention to the needs of others, particularly if we are in a position to help. Philippians 2:4 says, “And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own.” Galatian 6:2 asks us to “help carry one another’s burdens” and calls this a fulfillment of Christ’s law. I John 3:17 says it even more strongly: “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” And don’t forget the story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. Jesus says that those who help “the least of these” are helping Christ himself.

These verses tell us that recognizing another’s burden, and recognizing our own capacity to help, is a God-honoring response to life’s injustices.

So even though the battles we’re fighting in our own culture are indeed important, we mustn’t stop there. We should remember our sisters fighting other battles in other places. And this concept of privilege extends to injustice within our own communities as well. 

I believe the number one question Christians should ask about privilege is not the fearful “Do I still get to care about my own problems?” but rather the other-centered “Can I leverage my privilege to help others?”

If you’re reading this article, you already have access to a fantastic resource in helping underprivileged women: the internet. In addition to the resources and opportunities you can find at CBE, you can also check out sites like, which gives information on women’s issues around the globe. Visit or, which take small investments and distribute them to impoverished women who want to start their own businesses. Pick up resources like Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn for an impressive list of ways to get involved and help women’s crises around the globe. For a uniquely Christian perspective on the global problems of womanhood, read Carolyn Custis James’ Half the Church.

Remember that sometimes, the sisters who need our solidarity are closer than we think. Listen to the women in your life who may come from a different background—a different denomination, a different socioeconomic class, a different racial or ethnic background. Find out whether they feel supported by their egalitarian sisters, or if they have needs and perspectives that have been overlooked. Commit to a posture of listening. Ask for God’s guidance in working with humility among women of all denominational, class, and racial backgrounds.

I don’t know what this involvement will look like for you. You might get involved in the world of microfinance to help women start businesses. You might feel called to research countries with high mother and infant mortality rates. You might find yourself raising awareness on egalitarian blogs and forums that you already frequent for other reasons. You might end up listening to and working with women just a few neighborhoods away. Just remember that acknowledging privilege is not a threat, but rather an opportunity to fight in solidarity against the injustices experienced by others.