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I Won the Lottery

Rev. Rodger McDaniel

I won the lottery. This is why I’m throwing away the winning ticket!

I’m not sure when it was. It didn’t happen all at once. There was a gradual awakening that as a Heterosexual-Male-WASP (White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant), I had won the All-American Lottery. America, it turns out is a great place for Hetero-Male-WASPS.

My first awakening came in the pews of a small Baptist church. There I learned that only the people in our church were going to Heaven. We were “born again,” “saved,” and while awaiting the Rapture we did not dance or swear, the girls did not wear make-up, and nearly every Sunday we answered the pastor’s call to come forward.

WASPLater I became aware of how special it was to be an American as my schoolmates and I practiced crawling under our desks to thwart a Russian nuclear attack, and read stories in our Weekly Reader about starving children in Africa. Tom Paxton wrote a song that could well have been about our little school.

“What did you learn in school today,
Dear little boy of mine
I learned that Washington never told a lie.
I learned that soldiers seldom die.
I learned that everybody’s free.
And that’s what the teacher said to me.
That’s what I learned in school today.”

Other awakenings came in a wave as I came of age in the 60s. The civil rights and women’s movements highlighted my good fortune. I was a white man in a world that marginalized people of color and women. Later it occurred to me how fortuitous it was that I liked girls as I watched my younger brother struggle to figure out why he didn’t.

It wasn’t until my days in seminary when a group of “debunking” professors deprived me of the joy of my lottery prize. It seems that my winning lottery ticket was nothing more than “white-privilege.” There is, they said, a set of societal privileges that white people benefit from beyond those commonly experienced by people of color in the same social, political, or economic spaces, e.g. the workplace, educational settings, housing, etc.

That caused me to tinker with my self-description. What if instead of a “Hetero-Male-WASP,” I was a “Hetero-Male-Black.” In an instance, the chance that I’d be unemployed doubled. The odds of me going to college would be little more than double the chance I’d go to prison.

Black and White Unemployment

But it wasn’t just about being “white.” I realized that anytime even one of the descriptors changed, my life would change. For example, if I’d been born a Hetero-Female-WASP, I’d earn a dollar for every $1.30 a man earned. Male politicians could require doctors to probe my vagina or deny me contraceptives because they think I can’t control my libido.

If I suddenly found myself a Hetero-Male-Muslim, Sikh, or Jew, I’d be faced with a range of discrimination and danger including unprovoked bodily attacks.

As an LGBT or Q-WASP, I wouldn’t be able to marry the person I loved in nearly all states. In a majority of states, I’d lose protection against discrimination in the workplace. Politicians would pander for votes by making unfounded claims about my life. The odds I’d take my own life would increase exponentially.

In some churches I would be denied communion though scripture teaches that the disciple who denied even knowing Jesus and another one who betrayed Jesus received the bread and cup. In most hospitals I’d be denied family visitation when my partner was on life support.

Homosexuals Need Not Apply

What an awakening it was to acknowledge that many of the privileges of my life are inherent in the descriptors I take for granted. I was born a Heterosexual-Male-WASP. If any one of the descriptors defining me was changed, be it my race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion, if any one of those was different…I’d be significantly more likely to be a victim of a hate crime.

Hate Crime

It was then I decided this Hetero-Male-WASP had been called to do something other than cash in that winning lottery ticket.

Privilege

From the Mass Moral March in Raleigh, North Carolina. Photo by Sherry Brewer.

Rev. Rodger McDaniel serves on the MLP Editorial Board. After practicing law for nearly 20 years, Rodger McDaniel received an M-Div from the Iliff School of Theology and was ordained in 1999. He was Director of the Wyoming Department of Family Services (2003-2007) and headed the state’s mental health and substance abuse programs from 2007-2011. He pastors the first More Light Presbyterian church in Wyoming, Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne.

McDaniel was a Wyoming legislator from 1971-1981 and is the author of “Dying for Joe McCarthy’s Sins-The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt” (WordsWorth 2013), biography of a US Senator senator who committed suicide after being blackmailed by senate colleagues following the arrest of his son for soliciting homosexual sex in 1953.

Rodger and Patricia have two children and five grandchildren.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Michael J. Adee #

    Thank you Rodger for this thoughtful, inspiring post. I appreciate your sharing of your faith and life journey. Thank you for your teaching about privilege and ethics. With privilege comes responsibility, rather than entitlement. I so appreciate your ministry and the ministry and witness of Highlands Presbyterian Church, Cheyenne, the first welcoming and affirming, More Light Presbyterian church in Wyoming.

    February 18, 2014
  2. GERI MARIA JOHNSON #

    WAY TO GO, RODGER!!! AB-SO-LUTE-LY LOVE IT!

    PS. Still, and always will, feel the same.

    February 18, 2014
  3. Keith Barber #

    What a wonderful expression of love for ALL of God’s children. I got all the lottery check offs except the hetero one and know in the depths of my heart that I am as precious to God as anyone else, and know that thanks to the love and encouragement of faithful Presbyterian pastors and congregations in Albany, NY (First PC) and Fort Lauderdale, FL (2nd PC).

    February 18, 2014

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