I hesitated when asked to participate with Unbound on this series, especially when our conversations and discernment led to sharing about “solidarity” from our faith contexts and life experiences. After a few minutes of excitedly batting around ideas with the editors, I stepped back and froze, realizing that I had a problem. My problem is that I feel like I share no tangible weight in this conversation because I have no real experience of suffering – at least nothing like the oppression that many others in the world experience. The reality is that I am a white, male, heterosexual American citizen. I am a beloved son of empire, and the systems and powers that be favor me over others. This deep historical reality began to freeze me in my tracks. Why move forward? What could I bring to the table? If I did find something to bring, would my privileged position make me feel like I had all the answers, that I understood better than others? After all, since my childhood, society has told me that I’m a natural born leader, that I’m where I am today because I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps!
Where did I get these ideas, and why do they give me pause? Some people would write it off as some concocted fallacy of “American guilt,” the “white man’s burden.” However, after I experienced this uncomfortable pause, I realized – this needs to be something that we openly talk about. Not in a way that seeks to offer all the right answers, but in a way that can humbly enter into the conversation and offer one among many equally valid perspectives. Those of us with privilege – and if we look hard enough, we’ll find that we are privileged people – need to wrestle with what it means to walk with the poor and oppressed, which we’ll discover, is walking with Christ himself. How does the Gospel call us into solidarity with the poor and suffering; how can we let them be our teachers?
My problem is that I feel like I share no tangible weight in this conversation. I am a white, male, heterosexual American citizen. I am a beloved son of empire, and the systems and powers that be favor me over others.
I have invited several friends and colleagues – sisters and brothers – to share in this conversation with me. They bring their own unique perspectives and experiences from their journeys and their work. Join us as we pray and wrestle with what it means to live in solidarity with the poor, with and despite our privilege.AUTHOR BIO: Dylan Rooke serves as Peace Discernment Organizer & National Committee Member of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. He is an ordained Presbyterian Ruling Elder and Building Manager at Hot Metal Bridge Faith Community – a union church plant of the Presbyterian and Methodist denominations in Pittsburgh, PA. His passions are communal and simple living; the ecumenical unity of all believers; creating art, music and occasional writing/blogging; non-violent peace activism; hospitality to all; riding his bike everywhere; and learning to fix things. He currently resides as Founder/Caretaker at The Greenway Community House of Hospitality, a Catholic Worker expression in the neighborhood of Hazelwood, Pittsburgh.
Read more articles in this series.