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Friday, September 29, 2017

Solidarity as a Spiritual Exercise

Rev Rob Hardies gave a sermon last Sunday entitled “Who are my People?” Our church has joined with other churches to declare sanctuary for embattled immigrants and refugees, and especially the Dreamers who have been told by the President that the program that allows them to stay in the USA, brought here as children and grown up to adulthood, is ending. They are no longer welcome by Trumpians, but they are welcomed by those who have faith in the dignity of all persons.

He told the story of the Black Baptist Minister who delivered a eulogy at a meeting of gay and lesbian advocates and their friends celebrating their victory in the passage of marriage equality act in the District of Columbia. For a theologically conservative minister, taught that homosexuality was a sin and transgender a disease, how did it feel to be addressing these folks? He said that when he looked out at all those persons listening, he was moved. He thought of the passage of Leviticus I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” He realized that in this event he had extended vastly his circle of ultimate concern. And he was changed in the process.

Hardies’ point is that we grow when our circle grows. He referred to the time when Jesus was in working with his disciples and someone came in to tell him: your mother and brothers are outside. Jesus turned to his disciples and said: here are my mother and brothers. He wasn’t excluding his family. He was including to his family. Hardies was asking us to consider: Who are our people? Who is our family? Who is our neighbor? He indicated that we must expand our circle to include all men and women—though he went on to say that that may be an impossibility, just one of those ideals or aspirations towards which we are working.

But here I want to add a clarification. There is no way I can like all people. No way can all persons be in my circle of personal friends. 

I read for entertainment Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, and Walter Mosley who present the most unsavory characters you can meet. And yet there is always one who is admirable and even the most unsavory have some saving characteristic. Yes, they are bums, a—holes, and jerks. Yet at the same time, there is something there to recognize. Even the man without a soul I described in an earlier meditation was better described by a journalist as a man with a pebble for a soul or as spiritual writer James Hillman might write “an acorn,” just one that hasn’t yet been planted and nourished. Even with him, there is something to recognize as humane.

But I do not need to like him—his personality, his character, his lack of empathy, his narcissism.  I do not have the capacity to include him or people like him in my personal circle. He is not family. He is not a personal friend. And here is the distinction I want to make to clarify “who are my people?”

My personal friends I like and share with intimately. My public friends, those with whom I enjoy working and those especially whom I find important to my own mission, I respect and share speech and action in concert. It’s wonderful when the personal like and the public respect come together. But that cannot be expected. An office is not a family. A family is not a public.

But a public is a widening circle of friends--public and personal.

The ideal to which we aspire, universal friendship, peaceful community, and social justice, which we call the democratic Republic, can only be achieved through politics. It is politics that ensures the possibility of diversity in culture and equal opportunity in economy. When politics is reduced to economy or subservient to culture, then diversity, equal opportunity, and solidarity are all lost. And I submit so is humanity. I may not like your style of speech, art, life, or belief, but in solidarity I respect you. You are my neighbor. You are a fellow citizen of my world. You are my people.

Solidarity is a political virtue that must be learned and practiced. Solidarity exceeds personal friendship and cultural similarity. Solidarity is a unity beyond style, beyond religion, beyond ethnicity. Solidarity transcends family, tribe, nation, and civilization. Solidarity is the highest of virtues because it makes all the others possible. Solidarity is achieved by showing up both in the moment and the movement both to resist threats to, and restore the actuality of, the democratic Republic. Solidarity is shared suffering, shared anger, shared passion in shared hope for us all.

Solidarity is a spiritual discipline, a means of growing our souls.