Kinship and Solidarity

by The Rev. Craig Lemming

Artwork: Ruth and Naomi by George Richmond (1809-1896)

“Solidarity has to do with the action of those not directly suffering from a situation of oppression in concert with those who are. It is both an attitude and a practice. Solidarity is an ethical principle, a direction human life should follow, operating both as a virtue (a character trait) and as a norm (a guide to human behavior). Solidarity refers to the community of feelings, interests, and purposes that arises from a shared sense of responsibilities; it leads to action and social cohesion. Thus solidarity moves away from the false notion of disinterest and altruism and demands a love of neighbor that is intrinsic to a love of self.”
– excerpted from the definition of ‘Solidarity’ in the Dictionary of Feminist Theologies

In these last several unspeakably tragic, painful, and contentious days, I turned again to the familiar words above on Solidarity. Those who generously helped me found the North Minneapolis chapter of the Episcopal Service Corps in 2016 will know that Solidarity is one of the key theological tenets that undergirds Circle of the Beloved’s vision of “Kinship Across Lines of Difference.”

Today we are experiencing the excruciating agony of centuries of apartheid. We desperately need to be reconciled in right relationship. To achieve this we must practice building kinship and solidarity across our lines of difference. What might that look like? Watch this:

Age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, education, language, family, religion, ability, and social class are some of the lines of difference across which Julie and Gavin are graciously building kinship and solidarity. This is what we, each made in the image of the Triune God, are created to be: unified in our diversity.

Kinship and Solidarity remind me of two things. First, this exquisite moment in the story of Naomi and Ruth:

Ruth said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said,

“Do not press me to leave you
    or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
    where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
    and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die—
    there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
    and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”

I am also reminded of the film PRIDE – the true story of how a village of Welsh coal miners and the lesbian and gay community in London built kinship and solidarity across their lines of difference to fight for justice in 1984 – the age of Thatcher and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. I highly recommend this film, especially this month, as we stand in kinship and solidarity with both the LGBTQ+ community and non-white communities in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic and national uprising against racism.

I close with three questions:

  • What power and privileges do you have access to that others don’t?
  • What access to power and privileges do others have that you don’t?
  • What’s one way you can build kinship and solidarity across those lines of difference that moves away from the false notion of disinterest and altruism and demands a love of neighbor that is intrinsic to a love of self?

    I am praying and pondering these questions with you as we discern the work God is calling us to do as individuals and as a faith community. The tender web of human relationship is in our hands. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”


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