Steinbach

Steinbach Pride

Steinbach Pride
Image: Steinbach Pride

There are so many pitfalls and temptations as one endeavours to live into solidarity from a place of privilege. In my case, I benefit greatly from many things, including a lot of education, gender and sexual orientation identities.

What that means is it is easy to think I have answers, easy to speak too loudly and tempting to assume I know what’s right. That sense of privilege, therefore, only becomes more complicated when the work of solidarity leads one see more clearly others who equally share my privilege. In particular, in the choices of those who hold authority within the democracy in which we live out our days in this Canadian context.

In the midst all of these tensions – which are really only a gloss – sometimes one must speak. As Jesus turned tables as a political critique, while not being part of the ‘official’ structure of power, I believe that Winnipeg Presbytery’s denominational context, as an Affirming Ministry, requires us to acknowledge that the work of solidarity is never done and always comes with choice.  Privilege is awkward and has great value. It also is very muddied when one wears it into places or moments in which the suffering of those who are marginalised is highlighted.

As I mused last week – Rainbow Weeps – the reality of life for our LGBTTQ friends, Sisters and Brothers remains troubled. In our United Church of Canada context, we might like to imagine that our evolving theology of diversity reveals that the world of the Kingdom-to-Come is all around us. It certainly is always in progress, and the violence in Orlando has only reinforced that assumptions of work-done can lead to complacency. Recently that sense of accomplishment has been challenged locally.

For those who do know, the third largest city in Manitoba will be holding its first Pride event. That’s right, Steinbach will be holding an event that was meant as first steps, perhaps was even imagined to be ‘low key.’. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the violence in Orlando reminds us of the ongoing struggle to embrace dignity and safety is never done. This is especially true for those who challenge the conventions of sexual gender, identity and orientation. In such times and places, privilege can be harnessed to advocate and even protect.

Solidarity

Solidarity
Image: geralt

Now I openly acknowledge that I do not agree with theologies or philosophies that are grounded in exclusion and phobia. I can also accept that people will and do have different perspectives than my own or my faith community. It becomes difficult, however, when those who have privilege (just as much as I do) and hold elected positions, hide behind ‘freedom,’ in order not to attend such events. Pride events – though some may think they are simply a party – remain grounded in a protest movement. This resistance is grounded in human rights, which have been, are, and likely will continue to be violated.

I can live in the paradox that an elected official may have personal beliefs that are different than my own. Specifically, that Creator intend us to embrace a world as blessed because of variations and differences, not because our species is at the top of the chain, but because we recognise all life is threaded and intimately woven together.

I cannot, however, reconcile when someone who holds public office does not realise that their choices not to be attend such events highlights that they are not, in fact, representing ALL of their constituents. This choice, therefore, ends up reinforcing cultural phobias and, in this case, that directed at the GLBTTQ community.

I could go on … I am most tempted to do so, but I know that is simply ego. As Jesus’ response to hurting was compassion and care, as discussed last week, his response to those in power was witness and solidarity. Walking with those who are oppressed – from my place of solidarity and privilege – feels truer to the Good News then either engaging into the vitriol of right and wrong debate or our Canadian tendency to sometime acquiesce when disagreements becomes apparent.

On July 9th, therefore, I will simply walk with those who are members of the Conference of Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario. I will accompany those brave and courageous people in Steinbach on their initial steps toward celebrating diversity’s blessing in Creation. Anything more would be just words …

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2016-12-28T23:10:06+00:00 June 24th, 2016|Tags: , , , , , |

4 Comments

  1. Pamela McLeod June 24, 2016 at 12:26 - Reply

    Some folks ask for and are given positions of leadership, and they intend to lead others towards their own goals. If they are honest about this intention, they step up and identify their goal; they don’t hide behind the social obfuscation of a “previous engagement.” I may not agree with their goals and I may not vote for them, but I can respect their honesty, and I can appreciate their taking responsibility for their positions, and I can sit with them and talk it out.
    Some folks see leadership as servership, and they support followers in reaching the followers’ goals. Those leaders/servers put the needs of their whole community before their personal needs. They serve, and they are the sort of people I want to follow.
    And some folks use the power and influence of leadership to insidiously protect and serve their personal goals.

    • Richard June 24, 2016 at 12:42 - Reply

      Thanks Pamela – I love this 3 part critique of leadership and intention. It is very helpful. It also highlights – for me – the tension of how we understand leadership within any of our institutions. The underlying assumptions, which often go unspoken, is indeed worthy of dialogue! Does that make sense?

      As a side note, this week’s blog has been influenced by a White Privilege webinar ending today that has been provided by the Center for Progressive Renewal https://vimeopro.com/progressrenew/white-privilege-lets-talk

      Would be most excited to hear your thoughts about this – as it connects to solidarity from a faith perspective – as life and time permit 🙂

  2. Myles Hildebrand June 26, 2016 at 12:06 - Reply

    Respectfully, I shake my head when people say that the political leaders need to represent ALL of their constituents, and when 80% of the letters and calls urge the politician to NOT come out to the march or change the school policy – how are they to support both sides? Leaders tend to represent the majority of their constituents or they are ex-leaders. Simple math. A very brave politician in Steinbach would have to step up and support the LGBT community – and then either leave office or not be elected again. A career politician wouldn’t do that. Politicians always face this dilemma – support an unpopular view and be soundly beaten next election. Stats show that the left can be nuanced and forgetful of political transgressions to a greater extent than the right – the right always vote and vote people out while the left enjoys their right to stay home.

    • Richard June 26, 2016 at 13:36 - Reply

      Hi Myles,

      Thanks for the reflection and challenge! It is helpful to imagine and explore what our expectations are for those in whom we place our trust through the democratic process. How do we – with this lens – respond to the needs of those who are oppressed and marginalised? If that is not, necessarily, those whom we elect, then what is the role/call to solidarity means for us?

      Bravery is a great word – it offer a way to imagine how we might step into being allies, as it reminds us there is always risk. As liberation theology often challenges: what are we willing to risk for resurrection?

      As always Myles – thanks for sharing your voice and challenge!

Your reflections are most welcome!

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