Leadership Scholars

Marginalized Spirituality

Jacob Kendall

By Jacob Kendall

Is there such a thing as “marginalized spirituality”?

Lately on LinkedIn I’ve been seeing a lot of posts with a graphic that’s commonly titled the “Wheel of Power / Privilege.” One of the original versions is below, borrowed from here: https://ccrweb.ca/en/anti-oppression.

The closer to the center you are, the more privilege you have. Lately folks have been modifying it and adding to it, which I think is a good thing: housing status, residential and urban status, and religious identity, to name a few.

My point for bringing this up (and including the graphic below) is that I think there are some obvious types of identities missing from these graphics. Having had two open-heart surgeries (I’m “only” 37 years old) and dealing with chronic pain that is often debilitating in my everyday life, I wonder why there isn’t a slice on the wheel for those who have major chronic illness or pain.

I’m wondering about others, including spiritual marginalization. Are there certain kinds of spirituality that are marginalized in our society? I’m not talking about religious identity here. That’s sometimes included on the wheel, with Christians being the dominant group with power and others being marginalized.

I’m speaking of spirituality as something related to but still unique from religious identity. Is anyone marginalized in the U.S. on the basis of their spirituality, all else – including religious identity – being held constant?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that those experiencing spiritual marginalization are as marginalized as are those based on other identities, especially race and sex. But I would argue that it’s still worth including spirituality on the Wheel of Power/ Privilege. Marginalization based on spiritual identity is not the same as that based on religious identity.

To get a bit personal I will say that I identify strongly with and hold a worldview strongly influenced by ideas from Darwinism, quantum mechanics and pantheism. I was raised in a CBF church and find a lot of value in many of the messages in the Bible. But do I feel comfortable or welcome discussing my spirituality in all Christian circles? The answer is no.

It’s because of spiritual marginalization that I’m attending seminary. I think there’s room at the table for a wide swath of spiritual identities; not only are they welcome, but the church needs these people. Because they’re often not welcome, faith deconstruction exists. I want to help people navigate these issues for themselves, clients and communities.

Finally, let’s discuss terminology. We have sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia and ableism. For chronic disease and pain, I propose “well-ism.”

What term fits spiritual marginalization? My current idea is “essence-ism.”

We shouldn’t be messing with others’ essence.

Jacob Kendall is from the Birmingham area, and has also lived in Louisiana, Indiana, and Georgia. His home church is Crosscreek Baptist Church in his hometown of Pelham, Alabama. He previously taught undergraduate social work and public health. He is a gerontologist, small business owner, and online MDiv student at McAfee School of Theology. He currently resides in coastal Alabama with his wife, Emily, and son, Simon.

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