Saturday, 17 March 2012

Royalty, Class, Racism & Christianity

This is something completely from my heart; you may agree entirely, you may disagree entirely; you may agree partially or you may disagree partially, but please hear me out.  The notion of superiority in race and class bulks large in Western culture especially Britain, certainly England, and the United States.  In England, there is a long cosily held notion that the Queen is at the top of the class system, the Royal Family just below her, the aristocracy just below them, the Upper Classes just below them, the Middle Classes below them and the Working Classes at the bottom in graded levels of hierarchy.  This system is, of course, wonderful if you are perceived to be at the top of it, or at least somewhere comfortably in the middle; not so good if you are at the bottom.  The prejudice and frankly bigotry of such seemingly deeply-held convictions about the superiority of some and the inferiority of many others, is what keeps all kinds of double-standards, unfairness and hypocrisy going.  This can, and does, impact unfairly on many people in English society.

Class, like racism, turns on issues of the perceived superiority of some and the inferiority of others; during the height of the British Empire both racism and class were seen as important markers of, and between, people.  In Britain, notions of class were accepted and widely believed to be vitally important in the way English people related to each other; in some ways, yes even in the 21st century, this is still important to some people.  Outside Britain, in the wider empire, notions of superior and inferior races helped justify the land grabbing and control of people and resources in India, Australia and Africa, and many other places besides, in which in some cases we are still living in the detritus of today.  Both notions of race and class were promulgated and strongly promoted to create vast pockets of wealth for some, and misery, penury and poverty for millions of others. 

In some instances certainly in Britain, issues of race and class are subtly played off against each other, with the effect of both issues being side-lined and marginalised.  The issue is also an economic one; whilst elites at the top of Britain live in wealth and splendour and have good jobs and careers, many people are out of work.  Instead of Black and Asian people and Working Class people dismissing each other’s rights as less important than their own rights, couldn’t we stand together instead of being divided? 

It seems that some people, not all certainly, will not discuss the issue of class at all, even those who pride themselves on believing in equality.  You have to understand that if you ignore the plight of one group, in effect you ignore the plight of everybody else.  To really tackle our own prejudices, and we all have them, takes a certain kind of courage and genuine self-examination.  If you set yourself up as someone who is interested in the rights of others, you should be even-handed in that endeavour and not selective.  My argument is that if someone in the class system benefits unfairly at the expense of someone else seen as lower down the scale, in the end you are part of the problem quite frankly.

For some reason nobody seems to want to talk about or debate the issue of class in England; people will talk about every other issue endlessly like racism, sexism, gender differences, religious differences and so on, but not it seems about class!  I do honestly wonder why.  I think as some people who are racist deftly and neatly ignore Black and Asian rights, certain people also deftly and neatly ignore the issues of Working Class people too.  In the same way, issues of Working Class people are again side-lined, marginalised and basically ignored.

Challenging the injustice of the class system is going to be the next big thing in England; believe me, it’s coming.

For a Christian who comes very much from a Working Class background, these issues about class have been a part of my life for a long time and I have written about and debated them many times.  It is good to remember that class, as well as many other similar issues, is a part of the world system and as such constitutes the world and all its sins and evils and injustices.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.  (John 15:19 NIV)  This is something else I looked at: “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.  (James 4:4 NIV)  I believe that all such unjust systems are not part of God and not part of His plan for the world, no matter how deeply-held such views may be.  It might be that those who benefit the most from such injustice might have a lot to answer for one day.  It is better for each individual to let go of their hatred and prejudices, each one of us, to find out what is the truth about these and many other related issues.

Many of us grow up in reduced circumstances of one kind or another, sometimes even in poverty, and then we have to deal with other people’s unfair assumptions and prejudices as well, so adding insult to injury, and justification to what can only be described as hypocrisy.  Often, it is the well-connected, the wealthy and the influential in some way who gets on, who is feted as being better than the rest, and who goes on to a wonderful life surrounded by wealth and privilege.  God, it seems, has different ideas: “Consider, brothers, how you were called; not many of you are wise by human standards, not many influential, not many from noble families.  No, God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise; he chose those who by human standards are weak to shame the strong, those who by human standards are common and contemptible-indeed those who count for nothing-to reduce to nothing all those who do count for something, so that no human being might be boastful before God.  (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 NJB)

Where does this leave the Christian, irrespective of their social class, ethnic affiliation or skin colour or gender?  I believe that if we serve God with a whole heart, and expect Him to act in our lives, we should not put obstacles in any other person’s way for any reason.  Quite simply we should refuse to be neither exploiter or exploited.


  1. That is an excellent post and I agree with you entirely!
    The very sad fact is, here in the South of England, there are many Christians who are not set free from this cultural malise. One very good example is that the majority of readers and followers of my blogs are American. There are enough Christians in my area who know me well, and are aware of by articles, but feel it is a waste of their time to read them. After all, according to them, as a working class person (even if I have my own business) - what could I possibly offer which they would learn, benefit and edify their faith? Going by the stats page, if these people took interest in my blogs and read them, the numbers would swell and on the map the UK would be dark green, almost black. The fruit of social class is often snobbery.
    Your quote on 1 Corinthians is absolutely right. It is what God says when he lifts up the humble and sends the rich away empty. It is also worth looking up on James chapter 2, where the apostle gives a direct rebuke against snobbery existing in his day.
    God bless,

  2. Hi Frank, thank you for reading and enjoying my post. As I wrote, this is something that comes completely from the heart and I can talk about it and debate it all day quite frankly. I think that sometimes, there is a kind of Christianity 'out there' that is more about a person's social class and social status than it really is about a personal walk with Jesus on a daily basis, sad to say but I think true.

    I think as you say that some people who consider themselves better than a Working Class person don't see anything relevant in Working Class culture or the experience of someone who is Working Class, which again is sad but true I think.

    The North of England is probably a little more Working Class oriented than the South of England, although class operates here as well.

    You wrote: "The fruit of social class is often snobbery." Yes, I couldn't agree more. There exists in England a real sense of snobbishness towards people who are seen as common and ordinary, for whatever reason, and it often means that people are dismissed and seen as not counting or not being worth anything because they are common and ordinary, in the eyes of some people anyway. It is sad but true.

    In reality, we all have so much to learn from each other, and this post is not to condemn Middle or Upper Class people at all, but to explain how social class can be toxic and destructive and unfair; I want to hear from people from different backgrounds, to reach out and accommodate other people's opinions, so that we can learn to live in peace and tolerate each other regardless of our social origins.

    Thanks for the comment; I look forward to your next post.

  3. Hi Tim,
    I have to say that I have never thought of a 'wonderful life' as 'one surrounded by wealth and priviledge'. I really can not imagine a life more fulfilling than one that is grounded in Jesus. I have found that all I need is found in Him, and if I had a choice now of having what the world calls a life surrounded by wealth and priviledge or the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in my life, it would be the latter. There is no comparison.
    I've found a hidden treasure
    more valuable than gold
    much brighter than a diamond
    a wonder to behold
    created by a jeweller
    who loved the world so much
    He sent this precious stone to Earth
    our hardened hearts to touch
    This treasure I discovered
    not on a velvet tray
    but in the rags of misery
    when I began to pray
    This shining jewel of beauty
    from sin and sickness frees us
    The jeweller is our Father God
    the precious stone is JESUS


    1. Hi Brenda, I really appreciate your thoughtful comment; what I always hope for my blog posts is that there is a degree of debate. I try not to think I have all the answers, in fact how could I!? Love the poem as well! I wish I could write like that.

      I agree with you completely, it is a privilege to serve Jesus; there is nothing in this world that could compensate for Jesus, nothing at all.

    2. What do you mean you wish you could write like that, you write beautifully. I believe we all have to be what we are there is purpose in individuality. I hope I can learn to set up my blog as beautifully as you have done yours.

    3. That's really kind of you Brenda, I really appreciate your comments! You have a knack of writing poetry that is a pleasure to read; that's not an easy thing to do. Yes I agree, individuality is a cornerstone of civilisation and who and what we are as human beings; we can celebrate this difference because it is as God made us.

      I really enjoy your blog a lot, and I always marvel how each of us, and I follow a few blogs faithfully, can present our work and posts so originally and differently. I took a little time to 'tweak' my blog and thought it important to advertise all the other blogs I follow.

      Thanks for the comment.

    4. I ahall have to learn how to do that, I'll get there.

    5. Hi Brenda; it's not that hard to 'tweak' your blog, or add things like I have done. If you want some pointers I am happy to help in my small way.

  4. I found this enlightening. Being an American, I realize that the UK atmosphere is very alien to me. However, I do think British people are quite cool.

    The issue of class in Britain is woven into it's very fiber. Since the time of the Romans there was class in Britain. So, I think that maybe the UK is more inclined to such an attitude and situation because of the almost 2000 years of it. Here in America, class is, I don't believe, nearly as much of an issue. Here in America, class has become a political tool. Class warfare is prevalent. Mr. Obama uses frequently as well as do other members of the left. The ideas that surround the concepts in America and Britain are a little different though. Class is seen as no obstacle in America. A lower class person may invent something or provide a service that is desired. Then they will make money in the free market. It gives you the chance to rise above your class. To ascend the ranks. I know that Britain is a free country, yes, but, according to your post, it appears that the British people have not conquered the class system. By all means, please correct me if I'm wrong.
    I want to state that I'm in no way condemning. We Americans have plenty of our own problems. Words like consumerism and debt come readily to mind.

    One final point: I think that it is the natural tendency of human civilization to parcel the population into the have's and have-not's. That is basic to the structure of civilization and to man's psyche (which is warped by sin.) From what I understand of class, it is a necessary evil. It is part of who man is. Obviously, the power of the Holy Spirit can overcome this. But in a secular society, class has become simply a pragmatic solution that isn't ideal, but it is fundamental to man's way of thinking.

    Thank you for your post!

    1. Hi Stanley. First off you wrote: "...I do think British people are quite cool." Well, that's a good start!

      Yes, the issue of social class seems more important in the UK than in other Western nations. In a sense though, what you describe for America, as in class being no object, is sort of the same for here as well; once you make money or are successful in some way, your social class seems to become irrelevant as in America. After all is said and done though, class is still an issue for many people. Forgive me for saying this, where Americans are less obsessed with class, it seems that racism and all that goes with that, is more a part of the American system. in the UK, on the surface, we are supposed to be tolerant of different races, but the reality 'on the ground' so to speak is very different. There is an incredible amount of racism in the UK, but it gets little precious coverage.

      Both the UK and the US proclaim freedom, democracy, freespeech and the like as being very important, and in that we share similar ideals and are similar in some ways, although being different in others. However, I think that in some senses, there is often very little genuine grassroots democracy in both countries; you might correct me on this. This aside, I feel that many British people and many Americans live quite well and live quite freely, much more than many other countries, and even poor people in both countries live better lives than the poor in many other places. We both have a lot to be thankful for, but we don't have to be uber-patriots to be good citizens; and that is a blessing also. We can criticise our governments, our leaders, and we can exercise our right to freespeech which is a privilege we should be grateful of.

      As a Christian, I have come to believe that no human nor any human society is ever going to be perfect; we have to work with what we have. I think class is an evil, like racism, and rather than say it is necessary although I completely get your point, I would say it is inevitable because of fallen human nature being what it is.

      Thanks for the thoughtful and intelligent comment!

  5. I have to agree that irregardless of where our countries' prejudices stand, we are still vastly more blessed with freedom than the majority of other countries. I also think it's a good point that you mention America's relationship with racism. Racism is a dark stain on the fabric of America. As someone on the far right, I really don't appreciate being labeled a racist. Often, calling someone a racist is easier than actually engaging them in intelligent debate. However, it saddens me that there are still some genuine racists left in America.

    In both countries, class has become a ladder and not a chain. We are blessed in comparison to those who live in the caste system in India. That is a perfect example of how pagan thought takes man's sin and takes it to its extreme. It's a saddening system and it is a testament to man's sinfulness. So, I agree with you that the class system (or caste system, in its most extreme form) is a gross distortion of the system of hierarchy God originally designed man for. I think that we can see how it should work in how the church is set up. God has placed pastors, elders, and deacons over His people but these people are their for our benefit. We are also given brothers and sisters to fellowship with. They are our equals. This, I believe, is the ideal system man was designed for. Our sinful hearts will never attain this, but we can always strive for such a system to be lived out in the church.

  6. Hi Stanley; you've made some really good points here, and I'd like to address a couple of them. I think if it isn't racism or class it's something else like in India as you say with the caste system which is like class and race combined. As you say also calling someone a name and so stereotyping them is far easier than engaging with someone. I've come to the conclusion that it's better to have friends that you might not necessarily agree with on every point, than enemies.

    You say that prejudice without God can distort human relationships; that's a very interesting concept for certain. Never quite saw it like that before, but as a Christian it makes perfect sense. Yes, we need leaders, we need presidents and high-ranking people, but they often forget their mandate; it isn't to rule so much as lead, and often the best leaders are they who serve others before themselves.

    The equality in Christianity is one of the things, amongst many others, why I am a Christian, apart from the fact that I have a calling on my life from God! I think we all need a dose of humility now and again to keep us from getting too big for our boots!

    Thanks for the intelligent and thoughtful comment; it's worthy of debate, and I am lucky in attracting people like yourself and many others to my blog! Thanks!

    p.s. Many thanks for joining my blog; it's much appreciated!