Paul Kivel's Newsletter 
On Christian Hegemony

A Note from Paul         Winter 2021
Dear People,

This issue addresses one root cause of the concentration of power, wealth and cultural dominance in our society--heterosexual, white male-controlled Christian hegemony. Christian hegemony is 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. 74 million people voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 elections. They were overwhelmingly white Christians who identify at least loosely as Christian Nationalists. (They believe that "the United States is and ought to be a Christian nation governed under a reactionary understanding of Christian values.") Trump voters weren't only Christian nationalists. In 2020 a large number of white mainline Protestants (52%) also voted for him. They understood that Trump and Vice President Pence, a Christian fundamentalist, spent the last four years supporting policies that directly benefited White Christians. Some of these "accomplishments" included:  
  • The appointment of over 234 federal judges, including three to the Supreme Court who  will affirm a white male Christian agenda in their decisions. Six of the nine Supreme Court justices are currently conservative Christians (and four are explicitly Christian Nationalists)
  • Passing legislation that enormously benefits Christian churches and denominations 
  • Passing legislation that targets LGBTQ+ communities
  • Making it virtually impossible in many places to get an abortion, aiming at the complete elimination of the reproductive rights of women in our society
  • Targeting Muslims with a travel ban, immigration restrictions, war on predominantly Muslim countries and heightened Islamophobia domestically
  • Using ICE and other federal programs to target immigrants and refugees of color for discrimination, incarceration, family separation and violence
  • Supporting and encouraging white male Christian Nationalist militia groups to commit acts of terrorism against marginalized groups in the US including the targeting of Black, Indigenous and people of color, women, Muslims, Jews, immigrants of color, people who are queer and trans, and anyone who is defending their community against corporate exploitation, police violence, land theft, or attacks on civil and human rights. 
As one report states, "Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the bulk of negative legislation sought by Christian nationalists, such as those behind Project Blitz, targets schools and youth.  Protection of youth from religion-based harm are areas of particular concern in 2021. Child marriage; female genital mutilation; sex education; medical neglect due to beliefs prescribing faith healing only; anti-LGBTQ+ conversion therapy; promotion of Christianity in public schools; and the lack of sensible regulation of homeschooling which allows physical and sexual abuse of children to proliferate along with educational neglect
should all singled out for attention."  
Perhaps most visibly, the Trump-led attempted coup d'etat on January 6th consisted of rioters who "flew flags with Christian Nationalist slogans, shared apocalyptic and explicitly religious messages, and were egged on by prominent figures from the Religious Right and state elected officials who have repeatedly attacked the separation of religion from government." (Atheist News newsletter1-8-21.) 
But the problem is much bigger and deeper than that. Dominant Christian values constitute a worldview which influences our thinking, behavior, relationship to our bodies, our relationship to the natural environment, our institutional policies and practices (think health care, education, criminal/legal systems) and our domestic and foreign policy. Without understanding how dominant Christianity is woven into every aspect of our lives and culture we cannot hope to stem the oppression, discrimination, marginalization and violence that is endemic to our society and destroying our lives and every living being on the planet. 
Just as we know that to understand White Supremacy we cannot just look at white extremists and various white militia groups but have to analyze how white supremacy operates in our economy, public institutions and mainstream culture. Equally, we have to understand Christian Hegemony as a system of oppression involving ruling elites, institutions and individuals of power and wealth and a legitimating worldview which underpins our culture. We also have to know about our histories of resistance by Christians and those of us not Christian. 
This newsletter, my book Living in the Shadow of the Cross, and my website provide a toolkit of information, history, educational tools, articles, interviews, exercises, links, action guidelines, and stories of resistance. I welcome comments and feedback, other resources and support for this Christian Hegemony Project. I am also available for talks, conversation, advice, resources and mentoring on these issues. 

In This Issue

Part I: What is Christian Hegemony?
About Christian Hegemony
...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.

Read the full introduction to Christian Hegemony on Paul Kivel's site, Challenging Christian Hegemony.
Preface from Living in the Shadows
Living in the Shadow of the Cross book cover
For over 50 years, I have been doing violence prevention and social justice education, activism and writing. Still, it took me years to begin to sort out the role Christian dominance plays in our society. 
Like most people, I was vaguely aware of the Crusades, inquisitions, witch hunts and the colonization of the Americas. Historically, my family was affected by Christian Anti-Semitism that produced Russian pogroms, the Nazi Holocaust and hate crimes in the US. On a more personal level, I regularly had to explain why I took Jewish holidays off at school and work and put up with missionaries at my front door. The fourth-grade public school teacher of our oldest son gave out pocket Bibles to reward her students, whether they were Christian or not. It should not have been so hard to see the bigger picture. Yet it was....
Read the entire preface here.
Key Dominant Christian Concepts
In this section, I define and elaborate on the following key concepts
  • dualism
  • the cosmic battle: good and evil
  • love within hierarchy
  • sinners need salvation
  • one truth, one way to God
  • temporal focus
  • relationship with nature
Dominant Christianity's core concepts have shaped Western culture, uniting large numbers of Christians and defining who was vulnerable to persecution for heresy. These concepts continue to have a major impact on Christians and non-Christians alike...
Read the full excerpt here.
The Language of Dominant Christianity
The language we use is an indication of the deep structures of the way we think. The vocabulary, phrasings, and both explicit and implicit meanings of English words and concepts reflect our long history and the influence of many cultures, religions, and ideas of both dominant and resistant groups.
Paul Kivel's "The Language of Dominant Christianity" is an 84-page booklet on the pervasiveness of Christian thought and values in the English language. The majority of the booklet is comprised of an extensive glossary discussing the origin and Christian connotations of specific words.

Boundary area on the edge of Christian civilization surrounded by wilderness and savages (e.g. Indigenous peoples). Also refers to an area not yet civilized and Christianized or not yet known by the civilized world.

Graham Crackers/ Kellog's Corn Flakes
The graham cracker was invented in 1829 by Presbyterian minister Sylvester Grahm as part of the Graham Diet, a regimen to suppress what he considered sinful and unhealthy carnal urges, (self-abuse or masturbation) He thought that one could curb one's sexual appetite by eating bland foods. Another man who held this belief was. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who invented corn flakes for the same purpose.

Originally a foot soldier. Often used to describe the first Christian settlers on indigenous land such as in South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the U.S.

From the Latin word "pretzola", meaning little reward. Around 610 an Italian or French monk made a flour and water treat for his young students in the shape of their arms praying, with the holes to represent the Trinity. Associated with Lent and Easter because they can be eaten during Lent and at times were hidden on Easter morning.
This derogatory word, originally referring only to female dogs, began to be applied to women shortly after the church authorized the Inquisition to investigate witchcraft.

Suffering is believed to be a sign of sinfulness and a source of redemption based on the suffering of Jesus on the cross.

Tough Love
Approach to parenting, teaching, or marriage based on the Christian belief that those one loves and has authority over may need harsh discipline to get them on the right path and save them from damnation.

See the full glossary in Paul Kivel's downloadable The Language of Dominant Christian Hegemony or order your own hard copy here.

Part Two: Resources
Interviews and Materials from Paul Kivel
Living in the Shadow of the Cross book cover Living in the Shadow of the Cross: Understanding and Resisting the Power and Privilege of Christian Hegemony
This book exposes how Christian hegemony punishes the poor, criminalizes sexuality, rationalizes destruction of the environment, and contributes to our seemingly endless "war on terror." It emphasizes the power of people to build strong movements of resistance.  You can purchase a copy here for a winter discount (nearly 50% off original price) of $9.95.

Videos and Podcasts

Last month, Paul Kivel spoke with KPFA Talk It Out podcast host, Marlena Willis, about his book Living in the Shadow of the Cross. You can listen to the interview here.

Paul Kivel speaks with MindShift podcast host, Clint Heacock on
September 11, 2020 about how to recognize Christian hegemony, why it is harmful and how to resist it. Listen at the MindShift Podcast website 
Photo by Thomas Kinto on Unsplash 
Listen to Paul's interview by
Pastor Lyvonne Proberbs on a June 2019 episode of Courageous Currents about how dominant Christianity impacts our beliefs, behaviors, domestic and foreign policy and how Christians can participate in challenging this institution of power, wealth and deep-seated culture dominance.

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash 
Paul is interviewed by Cass and Dr. Bob on the December 16th, 2015 episode of Everyone's Agnostic podcast. Paul starts talking at 12:15. You can also download the entire interview from Challenging Christian Hegemony. 
Recent Books on Christian Hegemony
The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism by Katherine Stewart For too long the Religious Right has masqueraded as a social movement preoccupied with a number of cultural issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage. In her deeply reported investigation, Katherine Stewart reveals a disturbing truth: this is a political movement that seeks to gain power and to impose its vision on all of society. America's religious nationalists aren't just fighting a culture war, they are waging a political war on the norms and institutions of American democracy...

Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump by Sarah Posner Why did so many evangelicals turn out to vote for Donald Trump, a serial philanderer with questionable conservative credentials who seems to defy Christian values with his every utterance? To a reporter like Sarah Posner, who has been covering the religious right for decades, the answer turns out to be far more intuitive than one might think...

Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation by by Kristin Kobes Du Mez How did a libertine who lacks even the most basic knowledge of the Christian faith win 81 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2016? And why have white evangelicals become a presidential reprobate's staunchest supporters? These are among the questions acclaimed historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez asks in Jesus and John Wayne, which delves beyond facile headlines to explain how white evangelicals have brought us to our fractured political moment. Challenging the commonly held assumption that the "moral majority" backed Donald Trump for purely pragmatic reasons, Du Mez reveals that Donald Trump in fact represents the fulfillment, rather than the betrayal, of white evangelicals' most deeply held values...

White Christian Privilege: The Illusion of Religious Equality in America by Khyati Y. Joshi The United States is recognized as the most religiously diverse country in the world, and yet its laws and customs, which many have come to see as normal features of American life, actually keep the Constitutional ideal of "religious freedom for all" from becoming a reality. Christian beliefs, norms, and practices infuse our society; they are embedded in our institutions, creating the structures and expectations that define the idea of "Americanness." Religious minorities still struggle for recognition and for the opportunity to be treated as fully and equally legitimate members of American society. From the courtroom to the classroom, their scriptures and practices are viewed with suspicion, and bias embedded in centuries of Supreme Court rulings create structural disadvantages that endure today. 
Stories of Resistance
Resistance can be understood as the many ways people oppose the dominance of those in authority and undermine their ability to carry out their agenda. It can take many forms. When the intent is genocide, survival itself is a form of resistance. Resistance is always present; hegemony is never total. 

There are a multitude of ways individuals, organizations, and peoples have been resisting Christian hegemony for the last 1700 years.

Since resistance is a collective process, sharing stories of resistance should be as well. I encourage you to send me current and historical resistance stories so I can post them on my webpage to inspire others. 

 Organizations Resisting Christian Hegemony

Below are some organizations that exemplify this type of resistance:

Soulforce is a 20-year-old LGBTQI-focused organization that "works to sabotage Christian Supremacy and end the political and religious oppression of all marginalized people." They utilize the precepts of nonviolent resistance to challenge Christian hegemony through research, education, creative campaigns, direct action, and "spiritual reclamation and community healing."
Since 1984, Earth Island Institute's Sacred Land Film Project has produced a variety of media and educational materials - films, videos, DVDs, articles, photographs, reports, school curricula materials and Web content - to deepen public understanding of sacred places, indigenous cultures and environmental justice.

Their mission is to use film, journalism and education to rekindle reverence for land, increase respect for cultural diversity, stimulate dialogue about connections between nature and culture, and help protect sacred lands and diverse spiritual practices.

Since 1963, American Atheists has been the premier organization fighting for the civil liberties of atheists and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. American Atheists was born out of a court case begun in 1959 by the Murray family which challenged prayer recitation in the public schools.
For Christian Allies
Sign This Statement  
There is a growing movement of Christians organizing against Christian nationalism through actions like the Statement Against Christian Nationalism. (Interested Christians should sign the statement!)  
Guidelines for Christian Allies
If you are Christian or were raised Christian there are many concrete things you can do to counter Christian hegemony: 
  • Learn the history of Christianity, its impact on other peoples and the history of the denomination you belong to and/or grew up in.
  • Notice the operation of Christian dominance in your everyday life. Consider how Christian concepts affect the way you think.
  • Examine how you may have internalized judgments about yourself based on Christian teachings. Have you cut yourself off from your body, from natural expressions of your sexuality or spirituality or from connections to the natural world. 
  • Examine how you may have internalized feelings of superiority or negative judgment...
Read the full list of guidelines here [PDF].
Video Resources
From The Sacred Land Film Project

Indigenous Reflections on Christianity
Indigenous Reflections on Christianity

From Soulforce
What is Christian Supremacy?
What is Christian Supremacy?

Denzel Washington as Malcolm X

Malcolm X (1992) - Malcolm X about Jesus Christ
Malcolm X (1992) - Malcolm X about Jesus Christ

Family News

We welcomed, Ayla, into the world last Spring.
Our newest grandchild is Anahi's younger sister. 

Our daughter SAM Luckey was ordained as a rabbi last June.