Teaching the Taboo: Walking the Tightrope of Christian Privilege
A sociology class retreats into silence after a student emphatically states that “all Muslims are terrorists!” A psychology student pulls out her Bible and begins reading Leviticus to the panel of lesbian and trans-women that are visiting class to discuss issues of sexuality and gender identity. As she informs them of their destined afterlife in hell, the tension in the classroom is palpable. These behaviors actually occurred in courses that challenged student assumptions about social identity, outgroup homogeneity, and privilege. Both stories paint a picture that becomes quite difﬁ cult to envision if the Muslim, lesbian, and transgender targets were replaced with Christians. Imagine a student declaring to the entire class that all Christians are terrorists or reading passages from the Qur’an that condemn all Christians to hell. As allies in the classroom, instructors carry the responsibility for effectively navigating such moments to maximize student learning. However, educators often feel ill-equipped to skillfully navigate the terrain to promote academic dialogue for deeper learning. In these moments, Christian privilege expands beyond course content to dominate classroom interactions and potentially disengage learners. The pedagogical challenges unique to teaching and learning about religious privilege call for effective strategies for these teachable moments to support student learning.