The Heart of Our Problems
I was four years old when I duly declared and accepted my call to ministry. The thirty or so years between that moment and today make the details hazy, but I remember being at the doctor’s office, turning to my parents and confidently saying that I was going to be a healer.
It’s important that I ground this essay in that memory because as long as I’ve understood that people could dedicate their lives to doing or being things, I’ve known that I wanted to cultivate space, tools, and methods for wellness and healing.
Time has led me to a place where I want to look at the connection between religious violence, spiritual trauma, and the sociopolitical manifestations and impact of Christian hegemony. It is my belief that the Christian faith cannot be a positive catalyst for social change if its adherents do not pause, consider how power has been wielded, and prioritize the work that healing, spiritual equity, and collective liberation demand.
We live in an age where there are growing numbers of Christian communities that find themselves committed to anti-oppression work. They are in the streets mourning with and serving those who fight to protect Black lives. They are using their bodies and belongings to block the xenophobic targeting of migrants by governmental agencies. They show up as familial surrogates for LGBTQ folx, act as escorts at reproductive health clinics, become links in human chains surrounding targeted houses of worship, and run programs for people experiencing homelessness. They are deeply vested in the work of social justice, because they’ve held tight to the example of Jesus and remembered messaging in scriptures like Micah 6:8. They truly do seek to do justice, act mercifully, and walk humbly with God.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t still work to do. The example these communities and individuals set proves that Christians do justice work and have the capacity to be mobilized to push for systemic change. That’s why it’s important they -- and those following their example -- be led into the reflective, interrogative, and confessional work that identifying, unpacking, and addressing Christian hegemony in our context requires.
Our current state of being is complex and Christian supremacy is at the heart of our problems. We have been drawn into a binaried conversation about religion and its influence on culture and politics, because of the function of the “religious right.” There is bias present in such a term, because this group’s values are that of Christian fundamentalists, thus creating (and supporting) a paradigm of religious supremacy in which Christianity is placed above other traditions. There is a relationship between this logic of dominance and others. These systems work together to create matrices that consolidate power for a select few and create oppressive conditions for others.
So if justice-seeking Christians continue to prioritize fighting for equality without considering how the religious supremacy of our tradition influences, informs, and works in tandem with things like white supremacy, cis-heteropatriarchy, ableism, or classism then is it possible for equity and liberation to every truly be won?
For me, the answer to this question is no, and my consideration of this is what has drawn me to Duke Divinity School to get a Masters in Theological Studies. While I already hold a Masters degree in Social Justice, I am intentionally taking the next two years to explore the ways in which Christian hegemony functions and manifests in the U.S. sociopolitical context.
My theory is that this is a fundamental but oft ignored element of toxic power that bears down on people, creating conditions in which virtually no one can avoid its violence or the spiritual trauma this hegemonic violence produces. I want to turn this around and look at this from different angles in my studies, because this isn’t just an issue in Christian fundamentalism, systemic and communal divestment from religious privilege are sorely needed for all who claim to follow Jesus.
My hope is that my study will help me produce multi-modal content that speaks about religious violence and spiritual trauma from a unique vantage point. This field is an emerging one and many of the tools that others are developing address the ways in which individual systems or institutions have used faith as a bludgeon instead of as a balm. I want to zoom out and examine Christianity in the U.S. on a macro level so I can see how harm has been done and is being done in its name socially and systemically.
From this position, I want to deepen my speaking, writing, and facilitation work on this subject and develop evaluative tools that help individuals and institutions conduct equity audits that push them to consider and address their complicity in upholding Christian supremacy in their contexts.
What could it mean if Christian already working for equity really challenged their faith privilege and pushed for more equitable treatment and representation of those holding other truths as revered and sacred? What if we did the gruelling work of thinking through, naming, and owning how our tradition has been used as a mechanism of control and dominance in ways that benefit us even if we object to what’s occurred? What if we considered how taking up space without truly maintaining consciousness of others reeks of Christocentrism and constricts the spiritual air of others?
In this moment, it’s not enough to ask how Christians can be more justice-minded, it is necessary to ask them to consider how their tradition and lived out faith practices are complicit in creating conditions for harm, regardless of what shapes their personal moral code. This is the healing and ministerial work I want to commit to. My studies and the work they influence are reflective of my heart to cultivate space for considering how we can engage, divest from, and consider things that make the world a more just and equitable space for all, not just those who bear a divine image with which we are most comfortable or familiar.
Alicia T. Crosby (pronouns: she/hers) is a justice educator, activist, consultant, and (sometimes reluctant) minister whose work addresses the spiritual, systemic, and interpersonal harm people experience. Through her teaching, writing, speaking, and space curation, Alicia helps individuals, communities, and institutions alike explore and unpack topics related to identity, inclusivity, journey, and intersectional equity. This native New Yorker channels her creativity into her work with her nonprofit Center for Inclusivity, as well as through her writing and speaking. You can follow Alicia’s work via aliciatcrosby.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram via @aliciatcrosby.