Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Empathy and Privilege

On June 4th I wrote about sympathy and empathy. As I recall, I believe I said that sympathy was not something that has the Biblical  seal of approval, but empathy is deeply embedded in scripture and should be practiced by all believers. This is because it requires something of you besides a feeling. It is more than saying, as James put it, "be warmed and filled". It is actually making that happen. It's more than "raising awareness", as the kids say today. Empathy is about becoming actively involved in someone's life and ministering to their needs.

Jesus and the apostles actively taught the practice of empathy. They were especially sensitive to management of wealth as a tool that should be used to assist and minister to others. Those that did not use their material blessings to help others were received warnings. Those that loved their wealth more than God had a problem. When you boil it down, God is the source of everything we have, be it life, liberty or property or talent. He did not distribute it all equitably. Rather, He arranged it so that we could all share with each other the privileges we enjoy as gifts. I think the plan was to force us to need each other. So why don't we?

The social justice warriors (SJW) in our culture wield the word "privilege" like a weapon to beat down those that enjoy certain abilities, occupations, social positions or even political power in an effort to force the "privileged" to share. It should not be this way in the world or even in places like the Church; even so, the privileged continue to deny their privilege in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary.

Think about it for a minute (or an hour). If you are a white heterosexual male, you are at the top of the privilege pyramid. You don't even need money or power or social position to exercise your privilege. You are welcome and welcomed wherever you go by others of your kind. What's worse is that you don't even realize it. You do not think you have privilege simply because you are white, straight and a man. You might even argue the contrary. Think again boy!

Despite leveling of so many cultural institutions, white men still own 99% of everything. We still grow up learning to assert ourselves in ways that women do not learn until much later. Have you ever been in a business meeting with female coworkers? They have trouble being heard many times because the alpha male in the room is dominating the conversation and minimizing anything the females say. I have seen this a lot. It's not pretty.

Now imagine that you are a female person of color that is a lesbian in that situation. You become a token and an outsider in a group of white straight men that might find your peculiarities entertaining.

What I am saying is that if you are born with more privilege in a caste society, you have more responsibility to help others with less privilege or different privileges. Those of us that are differently blessed owe it to those who are higher to let them know what we have to contribute and how it can be useful.

As a white male, I did not understand this for years...decades. As a gay man now out of the closet, I am becoming very familiar with it.

God did not create us to oppress each other and hold each other down. He made us to use our individualities together to His Glory. He loves variety. To Him, vanilla is just another flavor and not the most popular. There is a rainbow of possibilities...pun intended.