What separates a church from its neighborhood is the same thing that separates God’s people from God. It is sin, both as attitude and behavior. A way that we may describe the reverse, or the solution to this is “solidarity.” A church may be a prophetic voice to a community, but not without total solidarity. Fates and destinies of individuals and communities both tied together. A church may rise and fall with their city, or it may have no business at all being in that city. There is no third option.
For instance, as our nation becomes increasingly addicted, what is our church to do? All of the “why’s” for a community’s addiction ought to flow through the church – the believers and non-believers will feel it all the same. Closing businesses, fewer jobs, more crime, more death, more loss. A church choosing to escape or ignore this is missing the voice of God in that place.
A local church living in solidarity with their community would feel the same burdens, the same joys, as if living in the very same body. Because we are. That church would cry out with the same lamentation cry as the rest of the neighborhood when someone overdoses, when a gang member is murdered, when an undocumented immigrant is arrested, and so on… Too many local churches are caught up in their own local body politics, rather than the life and death of their surrounding neighborhoods. And then we wonder why church attendance and engagement continues to shrink.
A church fails its community when it is insulated from these things. How does a church pray for, serve, minister to, and evangelize to a community with whom it has very little or no emotional, spiritual, or relational connection? Not very well.
Instead of the church of the oppressed, speaking with one voice along with the poor, people of color, the oppressed, orphans, widows, single mothers, the elderly, sick, and disabled, and so on… instead of this, we have powerful, influential, isolated churches that trumpet the Gospel of wealth and power. Our American churches are structured around their resources, not around the needs of their community, and so they serve the resources and the resourced. The typical American church is not a place for the oppressed, there are too many social and cultural barriers. The American church is not only ignoring the voice of the oppressed, they have taken up the voice and cause of the oppressor.
“Solidarity” means, we as local churches and the whole body of Christ, suffer when the people suffer. We are enslaved with the slaves. We are the homeless, poor, voiceless, the outsiders. As long as there are poor among us, we must be poor. We must know the sting of humiliation, the look of pity on the faces of those who dare look upon us. We have to consider our fate one, singular, united thing, this fate we share with the lowest of the low in our community. Who are we to speak to them if we consider them “other?” Not even mentioning that we, the American church, consider so many as “lesser.” The All Lives Matter response came from millions of Christians.
“Solidarity” means that we die with those who are murdered. When an unarmed black man is shot by police, that was one of us. He was me. He us was. We can go on ignoring it, separating ourselves from it, we can go on pretending it is not our problem, but we know from scripture that we are united in Christ. Who are we to deny this? We die every time the state executes one of us, either in the streets or through the judicial system. Consider every death to be your brother and sister, to be your own life. That is solidarity.
Why would anyone listen to someone whose fate is tied to something else? If your fate is tied to your own personal bank account, your own standing or role in the community, your personal success, your political influence, and then you want to “love the poor,” you are a fool! Look at what you are holding onto, and look at what “the other” is holding onto instead. The poor have nothing left but God, that is all they are holding onto. And the American church has so completely sold out to wealth and power that we see no hypocrisy in lecturing the poor – if only they could be like us, or some such thing.
We are all one. Solidarity means that the rich and poor share the same fate, our love flows from the same God. Least of all, our resources ought to flow to one another as we need. But first, love. Solidarity means that we love so much that we are willing to lay down our lives for each other as Jesus did for us. If we do this first, everything will follow after.