Christian Zionism

I recently viewed With God on Our Side [1], a new documentary made by Christians, for Christians about Christian Zionism. I was reminded once again about how influential a force Christian Zionism continues to be in supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestine and justifying billions of dollars of U.S. aid to Israel. One of the results of this movement has been to de-legitimize and make invisible the presence of Palestinian, Lebanese, and Egyptian Arab-Christians. The movie holds up their voices and critiques Christian Zionism from their on-the-ground perspective. By juxtaposing the perspectives of everyday West Bank Palestinian Christian farmers, teachers, and other residents to the Biblical certitudes of Christian Zionists in the U.S., With God On Our Side offers us insight into just how destructive the impact of the latter has been.

There are many forces that influence U.S. foreign policy regarding Israel/Palestine such as the U.S. military, the U.S. arms industry, multinational oil companies and the U.S. strategy to try to control access to oil, the U.S. government’s desire for a proxy military force to carry out U.S. foreign policy goals in the area, and the often-noted Jewish pro-Israel lobby. Although generally acknowledged to be influential, the Jewish lobby’s power is likely to be seriously overestimated, especially when compared to the powerful pro-Israel Christian Zionist movement.

Continue reading

Christian Place Names

The following is excerpted from Living in the Shadow of the Cross: Understanding and Resisting the Power and Privilege of Christian Hegemony, by Paul Kivel.

One indicator of dominance is the ability of an institution to rename the people and the geography that they control. Many people around the world were given anglicized names when they were baptized to affirm their existence as a believer in the eyes of God. Many others had their names anglicized by immigration officials or other bureaucrats because their names were “barbaric”—they sounded strange, they were judged to be difficult to pronounce, or they were too long and just didn’t sound Christian or civilized enough.

The European conquest of Africa, the Americas, the Pacific Islands and much of Asia led to the renaming of many landmarks, natural features, and population sites in the European languages of the conquerors.

Often Christian colonizers would build cities on top of indigenous villages and, in particular, they would build churches on indigenous spiritual sites, including cemeteries. This practice continues today. There are recently completed or currently under construction shopping malls, convention centers, sports stadiums and other projects built on recognized Native American grave sites across the United States.

Continue reading

Christian Influence Permeates our Healthcare System

Christian influence permeates our health system. Religiously affiliated hospitals—there are hundreds–accounted for 13% of all hospitals and 18% of all hospital beds in the U.S. in 2002. Nearly three quarters were Roman Catholic. Aside for a handful which were Jewish or Muslim affiliated, the rest were associated with other Christian denominations such as the Seventh Day Adventists, Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians.

There is nothing inherently wrong with religiously affiliated institutions providing medical services (although a comprehensive national health care plan would eliminate most of the need for those services). Problems arise, however, when those institutions dictate the terms and conditions of medical service based on religious beliefs.

According to a recent report there are 624 Catholic hospitals, 373 other Catholic health-care institutions including 11 of the 40 largest in the country, and hundreds of nursing homes. Two million people are enrolled in the 48 Catholic managed-care plans. In many states, 30 to 40 percent of people who need emergency care visit a Catholic hospital. In 2008, more than 90 million patients were treated at Catholic health-care facilities in the U.S. Many of these hospitals do not offer birth control, sterilizations, abortions, infertility services, comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention information (such as “safer sex” counseling about use of condoms) and some limit patients’ end-of-life choices. Continue reading

The Phoenix Affirmation

When I bring up the subject of Christian hegemony some people think I am attacking Christianity; and some individual Christians become defensive because they assume I am attacking their personal faith. Neither is true. Christian hegemony is the institutionalization of Christian dominance throughout society. Individual Christians have a wide range of relationships to this system, from complete acceptance of it to radical resistance. Many Christians experience ambivalence, gaining a great deal personally from their Christian faith, while being uncomfortable with some of the dominant values and the concentration of Christian political, economic, and cultural power.

The Phoenix Affirmations, listed below, were put together by Eric Elnes and other devout Christians in Phoenix, AZ (the phoenix was also an early Christian symbol).[1] Recommending frequent prayer and a thoughtful understanding of the scriptures, they focus on Jesus’ naming of the two greatest commandments –To love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Continue reading

Christian Hegemony and Language

The following is excerpted from Living in the Shadow of the Cross: Understanding and Resisting the Power and Privilege of Christian Hegemony, by Paul Kivel. 

The language we use is an indication of the deep structures of the way we think. The vocabulary, phrasings, and both explicit and implicit meaning of English words and concepts reflect our long history and the influence of many cultures, religions, and ideas of both dominant and resistant groups.

One of the longest-standing systems of institutionalized power in the United States is the dominant western form of Christianity that came to power when the Romans made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century. Christian hegemony—the everyday, pervasive, deep-seated, and institutionalized dominance of Christian institutions, Christian leaders, and Christians as a group—has profoundly shaped our lives. Some of that influence is very visible in our laws, customs, beliefs, and practices. Other parts of that influence have become nearly invisible, secularized, “common-sense” forms of knowing and being in the world. One way to identify both levels is to examine our language and the ways it represents, reflects, and reproduces Christian dominance.

When presented with Antonio de Nebrija’s Spanish Gramatica, the first-ever grammar of any modern European language in 1492, Queen Isabella reportedly asked the scholar, “What is it for?” Nebrija reportedly answered, “Language is the perfect instrument of empire.”[1]

Continue reading

What is Christian Hegemony?

The seal of the Spanish Inquisition depicts the cross, the branch and the sword. From Enciclopedia Española 1571.

The seal of the Spanish Inquisition depicts the cross, the branch and the sword. From Enciclopedia Española 1571.

I define Christian hegemony as the everyday, pervasive, and systematic set of Christian values and beliefs, individuals and institutions that dominate all aspects of our society through the social, political, economic, and cultural power they wield. Nothing is unaffected by Christian hegemony (whether we are Christian or not) including our personal beliefs and values, our relationships to other people and to the natural environment, and our economic, political, education, health care, criminal/legal, housing, and other social systems.

Christian hegemony as a system of domination is complex, shifting, and operates through the agency of individuals, families, church communities, denominations, parachurch organizations, civil institutions, and through decisions made by members of the ruling class and power elite.

Christian hegemony benefits all Christians, all those raised Christian, and those passing as Christian. However the concentration of power, wealth, and privilege under Christian hegemony accumulates to the ruling class and the predominantly white male Christian power elite that serve its interests. All people who are not Christian, as well as most people who are, experience social, political, and economic exploitation, violence, cultural appropriation, marginalization, alienation and constant vulnerability from the dominance of Christian power and values in our society. Continue reading