People are stratified. We instinctively arrange ourselves into hierarchies based on how we think we’re better-than or more-than our neighbor.
I might say I am more strong, more pretty, more rich, more educated that you. My skin is more better color, my gender is better, my sexual orientation is more familiar. I am more enlightened, have more experience, do more things, have more friends than you. I can do things you can’t do, so I’m better than you.
The more I have, the less people there are like me. So then, in our most excellent social strata, we have a foundation made of have-nots and lesser-then and ugly broken ones who support a minority of have’s and better’s that gets ever more elite the more they acquire.
Could be the foundation of lesser-than folks supports the more-than-s just by making them feel better about themselves.
But, you may say, we’re an enlightened society! We don’t believe in the caste systems(if we’re in the West) and we believe that every man and woman is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! We believe people can change and overcome and make new lives for themselves!
Mmm….perhaps some people can change their situations. But it could be that folks who really truly change things around them are a minority unto themselves…
What more often happens is that a person who tries to move up a level or two in society is not wanted in upper levels. They get to a new social strata and are looked down on, stigmatized and otherwise unwelcomed. What happens too often is that we who have some privilege do not welcome others who lack the same privilege. Moving up in the social strata is very difficult. In fact, it’s a battle.
There continues to be a battle of man vs woman. Black vs white. Straight vs Queer. Rich vs Poor. Ugly vs Beautiful. Educated and enlightened vs ignorant. People who seek God vs everybody else.
We fight for our gain, for our personal power, and to keep in place the systems that make us powerful.
These awful comparison-based hierarchies exist because they are well maintained, because nearly everyone participates in them. They are powerful, even oppressive because nearly all the people in them(which is all of us) agree on a few things.
It’s better to move up than down.
Better to have more than less.
Better to be strong than weak.
Better to be pretty than ugly.
Best to be like all the rest of us rather than be different.
The especially unfortunate part is that you don’t usually move up a social strata without pushing someone else down. Even if you don’t have to trod on someone lower than yourself, you still have to compete with others higher up. We believe the fittest and best survive and if you don’t have what it takes, we’ll walk all over you.
All this is why the life of Jesus is so incredibly potent.
He went against the social strata.
He went down in a world where everyone else was trying to go up.
He worked to lift others up instead of push them down, and those others were people lower than himself. Meanwhile people “higher” than His human form were pushing others down.
He said the way to be great was to serve. That healing came through brokenness and life came through death.
He spoke the opposite of culture. Against the strata. He didn’t play our oppressive game.
And we killed him for it.
I want to end this game of comparison and hierarchy. Of oppression and marginalization. Of racism and exclusive community. This god-awful game of always trying to be better and stronger and more right than you. I want people to be able to live free and unoppressed.
Specifically, I want people to be welcome in the community of the people of God regardless of skin color, sexual orientation or gender expression. I want people to feel at home and included among the people of God regardless of income, education or theological nuance.
What I want for the people of God…that we be welcoming. That we be hospitable. That we be patient with people we don’t understand, and above all else, kind. I want people to be able to come to the people of God with their questions and doubts and worst fears and be given a safe and sacred space to be cherished.
I don’t want the people of God to play the comparison and hierarchy game anymore. May we no longer exclude people who are different than us, but may we welcome and seek to serve them.