Why Solidarity is Better than Charity

I’ve been trying to catch up my reading for a couple weeks here, so I’m spearheading an effort to finish four books this week that I’ve been toting around for awhile now. Today, I finished Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries, and a “review” is forthcoming, but here’s a reflection I had when I read the appendix.

We must, then, begin to erase our old concepts and begin to draw closer and closer to the people and to be increasingly aware. We must approach them not as before. You are all going to say, ‘No. I like the people. I love talking to workers and peasants, and I go here or there on Sundays to see such and such.’ Everybody has done it. But we have done it practicing charity, and what we have to practice today is solidarity. We should not go to the people and say, ‘Here we are. We come to give you the charity of our presence, to teach you our science, to show you your errors, your lack of culture, your ignorance of elementary things.’ We should go instead with an inquiring mind and a humble spirit to learn at that great source of wisdom that is the people.  – Ernesto “Che” Guevara

For all the things that Che was, one of the things I’ve picked up on in reading The Motorcycle Diaries was his deep love for the working class and marginalized that he encountered on his travels.  Now, Che was, for all intents and purposes, a young man of privilege when he took his trip, but it was during this trip that he affirmed his desire to see the “lower classes” liberated from their struggle.  What I love about this quote, however, is how he went about doing it, and how much it applies to Christianity.

In Christianity, we’re very big on charity.  We give to “missions” or we go on short term “missions” trips.  We’ll put our tithe in the basket when it gets passed around.  We might even help feed the homeless in our city once in awhile.   While giving money and occasionally volunteering can be helpful, it doesn’t help to serve what ought to be our goal in the existence of these ministries, that being an identification and solidarity with the oppressed, which in turn should inspire us to the eradication of systems that perpetuate these injustices.

I have much in my position of privilege.  I was raised in a home with two parents who had a decent income.  I currently have enough money to cover my needs and then some, between my wife and I’s income.  I am white.  I am male. I am educated. I have many things that others can’t even dream of having access to, such as running water.  Some of this I did indeed “achieve;” I worked for my college degree and I work full time in conjunction with my wife to support our marriage together. I also had to work at the abilities I have now to develop them. Other things, however, have allowed for that “achievement” to happen by no work of my own.    The system, as it stands today, favors people like me when it should hold all in equal standing, and that is not OK.  What’s more is that charity cannot fix this problem.

Solidarity, however, can.

Solidarity happens when you sit down and listen to the stories of those who are oppressed.

Solidarity happens when you reach out and touch a leper, making them feel human again.

Solidarity happens when you acknowledge the truth of your upbringing, and work to make sure that all contexts are present at the table of humanity (not just your own).

Solidarity happens when you empower communities to resolve their own problems on their terms, rather than acting like your answer will fix everything,

I want to see more churches practicing solidarity in their communities, not just charity.  Christ is right there in the dirt next to the oppressed, the “least of these.”  He loves them, and the Gospels attest to it.

So why aren’t we there with him?


One thought on “Why Solidarity is Better than Charity

  1. Religion is a waste of time.
    Che “Up against the wall!” Guevara was a murderous clown; Latin America was doomed from the moment the Spanish and Portuguese started colonizing it. Everything they touched turned to garbage.

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