Solidarity is one of those words that most Christians don’t talk about. If it comes up at all, it’s whispered behind closed doors like a four-letter word — shorthand for the work of radicals and revolutionaries hell-bent on destroying society.
And apparently, solidarity is a curse word in multiple languages. On several occasions, Pope Francis has chastised the Global North for its aversion to the word solidarity and the spiritual commitment it represents.
Speaking at an Italian center for refugees in 2013, Francis said:
“Solidarity, this word that strikes fear in the more developed world. They try not to say it. It’s almost a dirty word for them. But it is our word!”
Of course, by “our word,” Francis meant the church’s word, a word that was hard-wired into the Christian worldview the moment Cain asked God if he was his brothers’ keeper.
What is Christian solidarity?
In its simplest form, solidarity is unity. It’s the recognition that we are all part of a single human family. It’s been described as the glue that holds us all together. The tie that binds us in our pursuit of the common good.
As beings that reflect the imago Dei, solidarity is what makes us human.
Scripturally, solidarity can be seen in Jesus’ preference for the poor. Throughout the gospels (and many of the other 65 books of the Bible), passage after passage describes how important it is to identify with and welcome strangers, aliens and outcasts into our lives.
Not because we are superior to the marginalized. But because we count ourselves among them.
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Now here’s the real irony: Many of the same people who want to eliminate solidarity from the Christian lexicon already practice it as a sacrament. Strip away the ritual and baptism is an initiation into solidarity with brothers and sisters around the world and across the ages.
How can I practice solidarity in my everyday life?
In April, Pope Francis described solidarity as a “prophetic force.” Inspiring stuff. But as a spiritual virtue, solidarity is only useful if it is practiced as a sacrament in our everyday lives.
Although it isn’t as convenient as other spiritual practices, here’s what you can do to incorporate solidarity into your daily routines:
1. Pay attention.
Be more aware of people on the margins, around the world and in your own backyard. The poor and the homeless, immigrants and outcasts — these are the people Jesus challenges you to see and love.
2. Lend a hand.
It’s easy to write a check. But solidarity asks you to get your hands dirty. Whether it’s in a formal volunteer role or in the course of your daily life, look for ways to actively serve those who need your help.
3. Speak up.
Self-sufficient people like to blame the poor and marginalized for causing their own poverty and marginalization. The poor and marginalized don’t need accusers — they need advocates who are willing to speak up for them at dinner tables and water coolers.
But the most important way to incorporate solidarity into your everyday life might be to reframe the way you view yourself and your place in the world.
Because at the end of the day, there’s no us and them. There’s only us.