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.
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 …