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Christian Hegemony

Christian hegemony refers to the normalization of Christian values, beliefs and practices, as well as the positive and privileged platform individuals of Christian faith are afforded through institutional discourse and design (Kivel, 2009).  It includes “the conscious and unconscious advantages afforded to the Christian faith” (Seifert, 2007, p. 11) that manifests ideologically, individually, and institutionally (Clark, Vargas, Schlosser, & Alimo, 2002; Schlosser, 2003; Seifert, 2007). The historical dominance of Christianity (and particularly Catholicism) in Canada is contentious as it interweaves settler conflicts between the French and English and more impactfully, was wielded as justification for the cultural genocide of Indigenous nations who were viewed through a distorted lens of Christian purity and piety. Present day violence and xenophobia toward non-Christian groups continue in Canada where 35% of reported hate crimes are motivated by religion (Statistics Canada, 2018).  

Ideologically, the continued oppression of non-Christian faith groups is perpetuated through message such as, “non-Christian faiths are inferior, or dangerous, or that … non- believers are immoral, sinful, or misguided” (Blumenfeld, 2006, p. 205).  In fact, the Ontario Education Act (1990) outlines the duty of a teacher under section 264, “to inculcate by precept… the principles of Judeo-Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, loyalty, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues” (Ontario Ministry of Education, n.d.).  The continued centering of Christianity in law, institutional practices, curriculum and cultural norms brings into question the presence and impact of religious oppression in a seemingly multicultural and secularized society.

In critiquing the logics of Christian Hegemony, we consider the following:

1. Dominance of Christianity: In obvious ways, Christian privilege can be observed when considering the integration of Christian celebrations and days of worship into calendars as well as the secularization of Christian holidays that are assumed to be celebrated by all.  In more insidious ways, Christian hegemony operates through the erasure and distortion of other versions of spirituality and faiths, and the ongoing, ahistorical portrayal of Christian institutions as benevolent, virtuous, and innocent (Blumenfeld, 2006; Kumashiro, 2015; Seifert, 2007).  

2. Assumptions of benevolence: The equation of innocence, justice and goodness with Christian values, assuming that these values are unique to Christianity.  This contributes to the mistrust and dismissal of alternative belief systems or (non-belief systems) that in contrast become of lesser value and virtue.

3. Secularism as oppression: The Ontario Human Rights Commission explains that efforts to promote assimilation and social cohesion through secularization disproportionately harm non-Christian faith groups by disguising the, “persistence of Christian privilege in Ontarian public culture and institutional life” in what they refer to as “systemic faithism” (Ontario Human Rights Commission, 2013). Individuals with intersectional identities of race, ethnicity, and place of birth, in addition to non-Christian beliefs, are at further risk of being excluded and oppressed under an ideology of secularism. 

In considering the harmful impacts of Christian hegemony on leadership, we consider the following questions:

  • What would it mean to challenge the false neutrality that we are a secular system and instead speak to the ways in which spirituality, faith and religions inform leadership?
  • How do notions of benevolence and care promote an assumption that leadership and institutions are unquestioningly good and trustworthy?
  • How might a more open dialogue about faith, spirituality and leadership support our connection and care for students, communities, and ourselves?  

References

Blumenfeld, W. (2006). Christian Privilege and the Promotion of “Secular” and Not-So “Secular” Mainline Christianity in Public Schooling and in the Larger Society. Equity & Excellence in Education, 39(3), 195–210.

Clark, C., Brimhall-Vargas, M., Schlosser, L., & Alimo, C. (2002). Diversity initiatives in higher education: It’s not just “secret Santa” in December: Addressing educational and workplace climate issues linked to Christian privilege. Multicultural Education, 10(2), 52–57.

Ontario Ministry of Education. (n.d.) Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2, s. 264 (3). https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90e02

Human rights and creed research and consultation report. (2013). Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Kivel, P. (2009). About Christian Hegemony.  Challenging Christian Hegemony.  http://christianhegemony.org/

Kumashiro, K. (2015). Against common sense: teaching and learning toward social justice (3rd edition.). Routledge.

Schlosser, L. (2003). Christian Privilege: Breaking a Sacred Taboo. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development31(1), 44–51.

Seifert, T. (2007). Understanding Christian Privilege: Managing the Tensions of Spiritual Plurality. About Campus, 12(2), 10–17.

Statistics Canada (2018). Table 35-10-0066-01 Police-reported hate crime, by type of motivation, Canada (selected police services). https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=3510006601.