Monday, February 22, 2016

On Privilege

The devil on my shoulder has been dangling a carrot-cake-on-a-stick of temptation, seducing me far too easily back toward some familiar, destructive thought patterns, each longing to be vocalized: "just go get a job," "make better life choices," "solve your own problems" and "it's not my problem, nor my fault, nor my responsibility." The result is I'm finding it far too easy also to slip back into blaming the victims. That is not to say that no beggars are swindlers, or that no one ever "works the system" - some certainly are and do - but to blame ALL on account of a few is not acceptable. Each person is unique, and faces unique struggles. And I suppose many find themselves where they are because no one taught them the life skills they needed to do anything differently.

I've also tired of trying to explain privilege to my privileged friends. I'm not well-spoken enough to persuasively present the issues at play, let alone to argue against comments like "you know those beggars are just taking advantage of you, right?" or the "but I'm not a racist, so..." (both of which have been said to me). I don't have the words to prove my point because I've come to believe it's a heart issue, or a spirit issue, more than a fact issue. When one's heart is open to seeing injustice, then they'll see it, but until that time, my limited knowledge of facts and figures can't prove anything. Or at least I can't; a greater orator than I may possess the skills requisite for the proving, but in myself I find I am lacking. If it is indeed a heart and/or a spirit issue, though, then the best I can hope for is to plant a seed, and pray for the Spirit to open eyes, in a sense reminiscent of the roads to Emmaus, or Damascus.

Selfishly I am grateful: at least I get to choose to walk away from thinking about racial and financial advantage. Not everyone has that choice. With all the brokenness we read/hear in the news, and see in our own cities, no wonder my friend Jordan talks about his inner angry black man. I can't blame him.

And yet Community, which is something that God cares about, that Jesus cared about, a word I know the importance of not only from Beggars in Spain, but from Rob Bell's Jesus Wants To Save Christians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together, Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz, Watchman Nee's The Normal Christian Life, from Acts and Paul's letters - I know that Community needs to be the assumption, the default, the normal, and that I am part of that solution. I do not have the choice, or at least I ought not morally have the choice, of disengaging from those obligations to Community.

This is my struggle. Ask me about it. Challenge me on it. Disagree with me on it. Just don't let me ignore it.

If the system works for you, it can be quite hard to understand the perspective of people who have the boot of the system on their neck. If you have the power, it can be hard to understand the voice of those who have no power. If you have choice, options, and luxuries, it can be hard to fathom the anger of those who don't. If you have always had enough food, it can be hard to understand the shouts of those who's stomachs are grumbling from hunger. - Rob Bell, Jesus Wants To Save Christians

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