Right-Handed Privilege

Right-Handed Privilege

family photo focus 2I bought a new camera earlier this year. The body of the camera fits my hand so that I can hold it and click the shutter with one hand: my right hand. When I ordered the camera, I did not specify that I am right-handed nor did I seek out a right-handed camera. It never even occurred to me that the camera I ordered would not be easy to handle and use.

I am the beneficiary of right-hand privilege. I didn’t see it when shopping for my camera. I didn’t even think about it because as one of the 70% to 90% of human beings who are right-handed, I can take for granted that my handedness is considered. My value as a right-handed American has never been questioned. As a child, no one tried to change me and make me left-handed.

My right-handed privilege allows me to assume that services and products are designed for me. The intrinsic message is simple: right-handed people are the right kind of people. Left-handed people are, well, not quite right.


Privilege identifies a particular set of characteristics in human beings and systematically (and often invisibly) favors people with those characteristics.

As a person who was born with and into a family with many of the characteristics of the unspoken ideal (e.g.; male, light skin, hetero, American of pre-Revolution British descent, currently-able, thin, Christian, etc.), my identity has been affirmed by images and culture throughout my five-plus decades on this planet.

Confronting personal bigotry is about identifying in ourselves our own biases toward others and choosing to act differently. Confronting our privilege is about accepting that though we did not choose it, we benefit from having any of the unspoken, “right” characteristics.

Confronting our privilege is listening to our kindred who do not possess as many of the characteristics as we possess. It is to believe the stories of our human kindred who suffer the flip side of our privilege. When we earnestly confront our privilege, we will taste the pain of our earthly peers. To confront our privilege is not easy but it is the loving thing to do.

For those of us who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus, to listen, believe, and work for systemic change is to give our faith healing arms and legs. When we confront our privilege, we journey with Jesus to the margins of our society.



Condon & Ferguson: A Response

Following Jesus Requires Opposing Economic Injustice

Following Jesus Requires Opposing Economic Injustice
A banner at Occupy Portland the evening before eviction. November 12, 2011. Photo by Tim Graves
A banner at Occupy Portland the evening before eviction. November 12, 2011. Photo by Tim Graves

Community capitalism, in which people make a fair profit while providing a service or product needed by the community, builds up community. In its concern for community, it is consistent with the teachings of Jesus.

Community capitalism, however, is a very different economic system than the radical, corporatism that dominates us today.  The radical capitalism of the twenty-first century demands extreme profits while convincing people wants are needs and corporations are people. We each become, not a neighbor with needs that another can provide, but someone to manipulate to increase someone else’s power and wealth.

Radical capitalism (corporatism) diminishes the value of human community. In its disregard for communities and the people who live in them, it is inconsistent with Christianity. Community living and the Imago Dei (image of God) within every person, are core values taught and lived by Jesus.

Just as the early church struggled to practice and maintain these values in the face of external pressure, particularly from the powerful, the twenty-first century church faces pressures from a contrary culture. When we allow the values of radical capitalism and endless acquisition to ooze into the church we have lost our way.

We too often fail to call-out the sins of the economics that diminish our kindred in our own communities and communities across the globe. We have feared alienating members who rely on an unjust system for a living and have kept our mouths shut. We have compromised ourselves into irrelevance.

The only economics followers of Jesus should be committed to are those that build up the unfolding realm of God (sometimes called the Kingdom of God). Radical corporatism does not build up the realm of God. Responding to others in love and grace with all of ourselves including the sharing of financial resources is consistent with the biblical witness, especially as reflected in the early church (see Acts of the Apostles).

Though not easy in a contrary culture that idolizes things and power, we must focus on the teachings of the one we claim to follow and be open to the voice of the Spirit who continues to speak. Doing so, requires us to give up sacred cows and think in ways that feel uncomfortable. It means taking social risks when we stand with the oppressed, with the poor, and with the powerless.

The church is not a building. It is a people, a community, concerned about striving to be God’s extravagant love in every moment. It is a humble love that calls out and actively opposes injustices within and outside itself. I pray for a resurrection in myself and the church that we might be a part of the unfolding realm of God, that we might speak and act in love and justice, whatever the risk may be.

He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you:
to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 CEB

“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8b CEB

Related Posts:

Capitalism & Christianity

Ignoring Jesus & Injustice

Service of Scripture & Prayer (In Empathy & Solidarity with the People of Boston)

Service of Scripture & Prayer (In Empathy & Solidarity with the People of Boston)

Service of Scripture & Prayer

In Empathy & Solidarity with the People of Boston

Condon United Church of Christ

April 19, 2013

The stained glass window at Condon (Oregon) United Church of Christ. Photo by Tim Graves
The stained glass window at Condon (Oregon) United Church of Christ. Photo by Tim Graves

The People Gather

Prelude When Night Becomes Dark (Taize Community)

Call to Worship (Please say responsively)

L: We gather this evening to express our anguish and horror at what our sisters and brothers are experiencing in Boston. Connected as one human family, we feel their fear, their anxiety, and share the urge to hold our children and one another tightly.

P: We are speechless and horrified by what has become of our world and our nation. 

L: Our Lord and Savior, too, experienced grief in our human condition saying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who were sent to you! How often I have wanted to gather your people just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you didn’t want that. Luke 13:34 CEB

We gather in the presence of friends and neighbors to console one another and to reach across the continent in prayer and solidarity with your people in Boston.

Invocation (Please say together.)

Make yourself known in Massachusetts, in Texas and Florida, in Oregon and every place in between. Heighten our senses that we might focus on your love that transcends evil in this world. Remind us tonight that we are one human family across the globe. Amen.

The People Express their Woe to God

Music In Our Darkest Hour (Taize Community)

Ancient Words of Terror

My whole body is completely terrified! But you, LORD! How long will this last? Come back to me, LORD! Deliver me! Save me for the sake of your faithful love! I’m worn out from groaning. Every night, I drench my bed with tears; I soak my couch all the way through. My vision fails because of my grief; it’s weak because of all my distress. Get away from me, all you evildoers, Psalm 6:3-4, 6-8a CEB

Silent Prayer

Response (Please say together.)

   Lord have mercy upon us.

   Christ have mercy upon us. 

   Lord have mercy upon us.

Today’s Words of Terror

L: We stare at the television, yearning to know what is going on in the East. Our anxiety grows and we wonder, “could it happen here?” We empathize with our those in Boston. while the announcers speculate and chatter.

P: The announcers seek to explain but it is inexplicable how one of our fellow citizens could blow up children and runners. We don’t understand; we’re afraid. We hear the words and see the pictures from our homes. 

L: We went about our daily routines while our kindred were confined to their homes for fear of a young man’s anger. We’re afraid. We feel the terror of a world filled with anger and hatred. Hear these words from Facebook, from a daughter talking about her mother in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

“My mother, who is 81, lives in Cambridge, just a few blocks from Memorial Drive. Some of last night’s events happened near her home. She’s at home, with food and water and is “fine”. But on the phone with her this afternoon, she started rambling about cars that have come down her street sounding funny (one of which she reported to the police), about how it feels like during WWII when there was a neighborhood air raid warden who would come around to check if your black out curtains were letting any light out, about how many suspects there are and where they are (not agreeing with the news coverage). And alot more.

It brings home to me how HUGE a shock it is to have this attack happen. Mum can ramble some, but it was much worse this afternoon – a sign of how this is really affecting her, even though she is safe. Feels a little like the canary in the mine – we are all affected, but it just shows in different ways. Let us all be extra kind to each other, reach out to our Boston friends and family, and remember our elders – who may be having flashbacks to another time of war..…”

P: The safety, the security, and all that we thought was possible within the borders of our great country have once again been shattered by hatred and violence. We weep as children and runners are victims of gun violence and bombs.

Silent Prayer

Response (Please say together.)

   Lord have mercy upon us.

   Christ have mercy upon us. 

   Lord have mercy upon us.

The People Plead for Help

Ancient Words of Pleading

LORD, hear my prayer! Let my cry reach you! Don’t hide your face from me in my time of trouble! Listen to me! Answer me quickly as I cry out! Because my days disappear like smoke, my bones are burned up as if in an oven; my heart is smashed like dried-up grass. I even forget to eat my food because of my intense groans.  My bones are protruding from my skin. I’m like some wild owl— like some screech owl in the desert. I lie awake all night. I’m all alone like a bird on a roof. All day long my enemies make fun of me; those who mock me curse using my name! I’ve been eating ashes instead of bread. I’ve been mixing tears into my drinks because of your anger and wrath, because you picked me up and threw me away. Psalm 102: 1-10 CEB

Silent Prayer

Response (Please say together.)

   Lord have mercy upon us.

   Christ have mercy upon us. 

   Lord have mercy upon us.

Today’s Words of Pleading (Please say responsively.)

L: Enough! Put an end to this now we beg you, God. Enough is enough. We endured 9/11 and said, “no more.”

P: And yet there have been more.

L: Enough! Put an end to this now we beg you, God. Enough is enough. We endured the separation from our sisters and brothers as they fought for ten years in Iraq. We continue to endure separation from our sons and daughters as they fight in Afghanistan. We say “no more.” Put an end to this now we beg you, God.

P: And yet evil continues. Evil is still in our midst. 

L: Children are killed in their schools and at the Boston marathon. Our countryfolk huddle in their homes afraid to venture out. Our children are traumatized.

ALL: We don’t understand.

Silent Prayer

Response (Please say together.)

   Lord have mercy upon us.

   Christ have mercy upon us. 

   Lord have mercy upon us.

God Reassures the People

Words of Assurance

L: Though we live in a world in which it too often seems like evil has the upper hand, our holy texts remind us that this existence is temporary. Our Savior who roamed the countryside, the villages, and Jerusalem teaching and healing was rejected. He was killed on the cross by our ancient kindred.

P: All seemed lost.

L: Ah, but on the third day, when the women went to the tomb they found it empty. Our Lord and Savior lives! The extravagant love of our God is not contained by terror, by fears, or by hatred. The unimaginable and undeserved love of the One overcomes even death.

The apostle Paul writing to the Romans reminds us,

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;

we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39 NRSV

P: Praise be to God!

Hymn Amazing Grace #547

Scripture Psalm 23 NRSV (Please say together.)

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.


Postlude Make Me a Channel of Your Peace

Talk Love, Not War

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.”

The language we use frames our worldview. We choose the language we use. We can frame fog as a bad thing that obscures our view or as a thing of beauty as the clouds gently kiss the earth. Photo by Tim Graves

Contrary to this childhood chant, language matters. Words break more than bones, which are relatively easy to heal. Words can critically maim a person’s spirit and emotional health. Words define and interpret what is happening around us.

The language we use frames our worldview. We choose the language we use. We can describe fog as a bad thing that obscures our view or as a thing of beauty as the clouds gently kiss the earth.

Likewise, when faced with the ups and downs of life, we can describe low points as attacks or as challenges. If we consistently refer to them as attacks we begin to perceive the world as a hostile place. However, if we describe them as challenges we are less likely to feel overwhelmed. If we describe ourselves as “a train wreck” when we make a mistake, we begin to think of ourselves as flawed in some fundamental way. Talking about our struggles instead of demeaning ourselves, however, helps us to maintain our integrity as people created in the image of God.

And, so, when followers of Jesus use militaristic language to describe sharing the Good News, we begin to think of other human beings as objects to be conquered. For example, in a recent Facebook post the death of a church member was noted this way: The “Church is saddened to report the passing from the church militant to the church triumphant of our brother.” Likewise, I grew up hearing the old hymn “Onward Christian Soldiers” sung with vigor. Even some contemporary Christian music spends a little too much time using bloody or militaristic metaphors.

The language we use frames our worldview. We choose the language we use. We can frame fog as a bad thing that obscures our view or as a thing of beauty as the clouds gently kiss the earth. Photo by Tim Graves

The problem is this is not a war. The militaristic metaphors of the past created the colonial church, the inquisition, and many other sins. We are called not to kill and conquer but to love others, to seek justice, and be Christ’s loving arms and hands in the world (Micah 6:8)

It is time to renounce militaristic and aggressive language of the past, so that we can more fully love. Jesus did not come riding in on a white horse leading an army. The upside down savior came into an imperfect world as a baby, grew up in that world, but still breathed in the divine and breathed out love.

It’s time that our actions and language reflect the One who loves extravagantly. It’s time for followers of Jesus to follow Jesus. Perhaps then others will see Christians not as hypocrites but as people who love with abandon.

At the Risk of Another Male Voice

Rape is about power and control of one person over another. It is a violation. To use the law, personal coercion, or any other means to force a woman to carry a child conceived in rape is a second violation. It is violence compounded upon violence. It is immoral and inconsistent with the values of following Jesus.


I have spent my adult life working with, working among, and advocating for children. I risked breaking state regulations to enroll an infant living in a crack house, in an early childhood center of which I was the director. I cared for a sick preschooler that would’ve been better off at home, to save her mother’s job. I lied by omission to a father to prevent a two-year-old from being beaten for wetting herself during nap time. I snapped ferociously at my own children out of fatigue and stress more times than I’d like to admit because I was overworked.

Contemporary life is complicated. The most loving response is often veiled between two or more imperfect and confusing choices. In the end we each do the best that we can. Photo from Fast Signs.

There was no easy, simple solution in any of these situations. Each of these is a case in which, in my human frailty, I tried to respond to others lovingly. I doubt that my children had warm fuzzy feelings when I screamed at them so loudly that I gave myself a sore throat.

Contemporary life is complicated. The most loving response is often veiled between two or more imperfect and confusing choices. In the end we each do the best that we can. This is why I am begrudgingly pro-choice despite my passion for children and children’s rights.

I would like to live in a world in which women only became pregnant when they yearned for a baby. I wish we did everything possible to support mothers and fathers before and after the birth of a child. I’d be happier if men spent less time thinking it was our responsibility to tell women how to lead their lives.

Let’s face it, if patriarchy was dead, if misogyny was a distant ancestral memory, positions of power would be more evenly distributed between women and men. Western culture — and Christianity — still has anti-women elements that are far from gone.

Jesus, on the other hand, pushed those boundaries according to the gospels. He worried less about being touched by an unclean woman than about healing her (Mark 5: 25-34). He opposed men haphazardly divorcing their wives to protect women. In the culture of the time, being thrown out to fend for herself would mean poverty or worse (Matthew 19: 1-12). Jesus challenged the social conventions of his time to expand the rights of women.

Despite the patriarchy that chose what was included in our Bible, the broad strokes of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) includes many examples of powerful women as well as limits on male domination. God created male and female equally and simultaneously in the first creation story (Genesis 1:26-28). Though a marriage arranged by men, Rebekah had the final word on whether she would marry Isaac (Genesis 24). The prophet Deborah led men into battle (Judges 4). Esther herself is the heroine of an entire book of the Bible.

The biblical writers’ implication is clear: God trusts both women and men to respond lovingly to the Divine coaxing.

God of Wisdom and love, The world in which we live is confusing and filled with many sadnesses and evils. Open our ears as you whisper to us. Encourage us to hear and trust your still, small voice so that we might be a part of your unfolding realm. Remind us that you whisper in the ears of every man and every woman pushing us to respond with love.  In the name of the One who breathed you into his very lungs and breathed out your love and respect for both women and men. Amen.

I Like Sex, Birth Control, & Kids

The air conditioning broken, the windows of our townhouse were open, fans were blowing, and I was stripped down to my blue running shorts. I lay on the floor nearly comatose from the humid midwestern heat, smiling as I looked at my baby son. He smiled, I smiled. I talked, he cooed. 
The oppressive heat that kept me from moving, didn’t thwart the deep joy I felt as I stared into the eyes of my 2-month-old son. There is nothing – NOTHING – as wonderful as fatherhood. 
Despite the joys of daddy-ing, a few weeks later I visited the Planned Parenthood office near our home. I made arrangements for, and several weeks afterward had, a vasectomy. I did this because I like sex. I did this because my wife and I chose not to have more children. Oh, yeah, I am and was Christian. Since that time we have both responded to Calls to the ministry.
To summarize, 
  • Fatherhood and children are amazing.
  • I like having sex.
  • I practiced birth control so we could have sex and no more children.
  • I am an ordained minister, as is my wife.

Good people disagree with one another. Equally moral people arrive at different conclusions about what is right and what is wrong. Though we all seek to follow Jesus, Christians are not a monolithic group. Despite the impression given by some, there are many different understandings of what following Jesus means.

My theology and understanding of the science of reproduction, lead me to conclude that contraception is consistent with the faith. In many cases, such as my own, I believe it to be the most moral decision. I understand and respect the Catholic theology that is unsupportive of many forms of contraception. There is a strong faith that undergirds the official position. I simply do not agree.

Americans are free to hold personal beliefs about the morality of contraception based upon their religious (or nonreligious) worldview. As designed, American government must cast a wider range of what is morally acceptable than any particular belief system or religion.  This is the nature of a pluralistic, open society. 

This is the nature of a people who built respect of differing views into their constitution. Freedom of expression and religious practice are an essential part of what it means to be American. 

Many do not come to the same conclusions about birth control as I do. They are free to persuasively argue for their position. They are not free, however, to impose their religious teachings upon the whole. To do so has a name. That name is theocracy.