Reading from a Place of Privilege

psalm 53When I read Psalm 53, my privilege stares back at me from the page.  

Psalm 53 is one of those passages many of us come across and think, “Hmm… what should I do with this one God?” It speaks in language of vindication and violence uncomfortable to our modern ears.


But the words that really get under my skin? They are words like these,


They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.  – Psalm 53:1b, 3


I agree with this, theologically. I see brokenness in myself and in the world that point to the sin that has poisoned us all. And I believe that’s what the Bible talks about when it points to our need for redemption.


But in reality, I live as if all of us are basically good. I have a great life. It’s easy for me to see potential and beauty and positivity everywhere. Though this in some ways reflects seeing the image of God in each of us, it also reflects something else: my privilege.


I hardly ever confront evil in my day-to-day existence. Brokenness and problems, sure. The kind of evil and corruption that really show the depravity of this world? Those things are all an arm’s length or longer away from me.


I am a married, Caucasian, employed, middle class woman. I am not oppressed. I have rarely been victimized. I have access to food. In fact, I went to Costco today: I have access to excessive stores of food. I do not worry about having enough clothes to stay warm, I just worry about whether the ones hanging in my closet are fashionable enough.


I have a skewed perspective on suffering and evil.


I can analyze them and think about them, and wonder how I can help with them, but I do not have to face them. Not really. I can read a blog post that makes me think, and then go to my comfortable queen bed with the down comforter, and get plenty of rest for my day tomorrow.


And so, I’m uncomfortable when Psalm 53 says things like this,


God scattered the bones of those who attacked you; you put them to shame, for God despised them. – Psalm 53:5b


I have some valid wonderings about where God’s grace comes into play, how all of this changes with Jesus. But also? I just want to skip these words, call them irrelevant Old Testament violence, and move on.


But then I wonder… How would I read these verses if I were among the attacked and oppressed? Would I have a different depth of longing for God’s vindication? Would I have a graver prayer, along with ancient Israel, for the time God would restore His people, bring His kingdom to this earth, and finally set things right? Would I more easily agree with God about how sinful the world really is?


Probably so.


I’m trying to become more aware of how I read the Bible, not only the ways in which original context comes into play, but in the ways my context comes into play. There are many layers to peel back. I guess I’ll take them on, one at a time.


(A side note: Psalm 53 is almost identical to Psalm 14. Interested in my reflection on that Psalm? Almost a year ago I wrote, “Am I a fool?” in response to it.)


Link up with your post on Psalm 53 below. Up next week? Psalm 54.