I tell you, the appeal of exclusivity is so strong. It is so easy (for me, a middle-class white guy) to slide into a place of privilege, reserved for myself, separated from what is uncomfortable, and from the suffering of others.
Last week I had the amazing opportunity of going on a father & son vacation (while my wife and daughter did their own thing). First, I realize it is an enormous privilege to: a) have a child, and a healthy one; b) have a job which gives me vacation days; and c) be able to book and take a vacation. And the privileges pile up from there: we flew from Vancouver to Calgary (thanks to my loving parents who generously paid for our flights), enjoying the privilege of modern flight. And on top of that, due to a mix-up, we were bumped up to executive class! We then got to spend a few days skiing together (a ridiculously expensive sport). . . Privileges galore.
I fully realize that I live a life of privilege, one I don't deserve more than anyone else.
As I sat in that plane in executive class, watching all the "commoners" file past me to their economy seats behind that thick dividing curtain, I could not help but feel aware of the inequalities in my day-to-day world. That said, while sipping my free beverage and being pampered by the flight attendants, I was also gripped by the realization that I loved it. I would love to travel and fly executive class regularly. Yes, I would love to feel that important and comfortable all the time.
Thinking on this, I was struck by a larger realization, that if I did live like this all the time, it would be so easy (and in some ways, so nice) to lose touch completely with the realities and suffering of those behind the dividing curtain (and beyond. . . indeed, many people at Mosaic could not even dream of flying).
That curtain, what it represents, is the problem – whether it be in an airplane, a neighbourhood or countless other contexts. This class-separating, view-blocking thing we've drawn tight is the reason for so much inequality and needless suffering in the world. It is both the cause and the result of so much injustice.
As soon as we, the privileged, allow ourselves to be consciously separated from those behind/beyond the curtain, we lose touch with reality, pain and need. And just as soon do we find ourselves fortifying what divides us from all this by accumulating and consuming (the verbs of privilege) without thought or pause.
However, if we move with intent into relationships with the otherwise unseen, if we enter into spaces and places where inequality and injustice are experienced, seen and challenged, then we can be disentangled and freed from what binds everyone. If we move into Christ-led connection with and regard of others, we can no longer sit back and allow people to live in need while we live in excess.
Curtains separate people from people. Curtains of fear and self-protection, curtains of superiority and condescension, curtains of complacency. When we don't see suffering, we don't seek to make things different (if things are working for us, what needs changing?). . . The fact is, when we aren't in touch with suffering (our own or others), then we aren't in touch with Jesus, the despised and rejected, a man of sorrows who spoke for those suffering, and who suffered.
It's Good Friday. Today we remember a savior who gave up the highest privilege of all in order to experience the worst suffering, bearing ours, identifying with us completely, so that, through his death, we may know life and be changed. This death literally tore the ultimate curtain of separation apart, forever. Let us follow him in this, to the cross, crossing all separations, into relationship with God and into life as it is meant to be lived.