If a dispute is to be just, then no involved party can be allowed to have an unfair advantage. All parties entering the fray must do so with equal benefits, if not an unjust outcome is certain. This insistence on a level playing field is nothing new; back when dueling was a gentleman’s diversion the rules required that both men bear the same weapons. There’s no sport in fielding a spoon when your opponent is wielding a cleaver.
But modern sensibilities insist that fairness is only served when every advantage is scrutinized and addressed. The dueler with a height advantage, keener eyesight, or extensive training is most likely to win. He entered the fight with a distinct advantage. This, we are told, isn’t fair. What needs to happen is that these benefits must be blunted to equalize the field. Excellent combatants must be handicapped to ensure that they are no more able than their opponent.
It is no longer fashionable for angry men to use pointy swords to resolve their disputes, but no one is foolish enough to think we have arrived at peace. Whether it is about the content of curriculum, the norms governing sexuality, the role of the church in society, or any other one of countless issues, there is no end to conflict. Armed with words, legislation, education, and media, our society is overflowing with dueling parties, and these are the modern conflicts that the fairness doctrine seeks to moderate. Those considered to have an unfair advantage are told to voluntarily handicap themselves in order to equalize the contest. The advantaged must ‘check their privilege’ before weighing in on an issue.
Like the apostle Paul I am seeking to fight the good fight. My weapons are love and truth and my enemies are principalities and powers. I don’t count people as my enemies. However, my faith convictions do occasionally draw me into a confrontation with others. According to the fairness doctrine I must ‘check my privilege’ before I enter the fray because I am unusually advantaged. I am a white, heterosexual, Christian, college-educated, male. When it comes to privilege I have just about every advantage (I’m even 6.2”). I don’t dispute it. Nor do I apologize for these advantages or choose to discount them. I am not going to ‘check my privilege’. I will use every benefit available to me because it would be irrational, even wicked, to limit my effectiveness in seeking to do good.
Even more than I, the apostle Paul was endowed with amazing privileges. He was a Hebrew of impeccable lineage (Phil 3:5), a student of the most celebrated scholar (Acts 22:3), and a citizen of Rome by birth (Acts 22:26). In addition to these, he was converted by Christ himself (Acts 9:10). As we read through the book of Acts we discover that Paul used all his privilege to further his work. To suggest that he handicapped himself in some way is foolishness. If he had ‘checked his privilege’ it would have cramped the progress of the gospel. If Paul was to be obedient to his calling, he was obligated to make the most of every advantage.
I am an advocate of Amendment One here in the great State of Tennessee. In 2000, the state Supreme Court decided that the state constitution secured a fundamental right to abortion and all protections for the unborn were lost. The amendment seeks to empower the citizens, through elected representatives, to reenact those protections by limiting and regulating the abortion industry. The amendment will not outlaw abortion (how I wish it did), but it will save the lives of many children. For this reason, I am urging others to vote yes on 1.
Ought I muffle my voice because I am privileged? Should my support be dulled on account of my many advantages? No. I have, and will continue to use every podium at my disposal to protect the lives of the innocent. Because in the end, the question I must answer is not “did you check your privilege”, but rather “did you steward your privilege”. How will you answer when that question is posed to you?
“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.” (Luke 12:48b, ESV)