Clarifying the Privileged Imagination

In assessing Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, by Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, Jennifer McBride offered the following comments clarifying the manner in which white American Christians envision their situation within the wider culture and how they ought to do so.

It is disingenuous for white Protestants to deem ourselves alien to a culture and society we benefit from and have created. Certainly, the call to think of ourselves as resident aliens is normative: we should be resident aliens in that we should not participate in the destructive forces of American society even if, at present, we foster and maintain them. But their use of the term is also descriptive—as Christians, we are resident aliens—and this description is profoundly self-deceptive.

Given the dominance of white Protestantism in our liberal-capitalist-democratic culture and given the privilege that naturally follows, the first step toward a more faithful existence is not to deem ourselves alien to this society but to name our complicity as residents in its sin and repent in concrete ways: by becoming allies in our everyday lives or joining coalitions working to undo racist structures like prisons.

See the rest of McBride’s comments.

2 thoughts on “Clarifying the Privileged Imagination

  1. Robert Moore

    As a Christian, if I do not see myself as a “stranger”, even IF I may be white, then I need to re-examine my profession of faith. A disciple of Christ, imbued with the Spirit, should be acutely aware that the approval of this world is a sure sign of a faith compromised. What it DOESN’T mean, though, is that we must hew to some self flagellating, navel gazing, self loathing that the author seems to put on North American believers. I believe that she is looking through her OWN glass darkly, a mirror that is flawed to begin with, reproducing an imperfect image.

    It further seems that this view is a thinly veiled political statement rather than a theological one.

  2. Dan Jr.

    I agreed with some parts of this article but it exposes some issues of hermeneutics.

    The article mainly uses modern social categories to interpret “aliens”. I do think we should discern our social engagement as well as where we are situated socially with the help of current studies in social science. Yet the author is doing some back fill from a 21st Century social politic that distorts interpretation. She then conveniently makes her preferred social categories the litmus. It seems the interpretation birthed in the socio-historical sciences are now the filter for defining “aliens”.

    anyhow just my thoughts.

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