I recently linked to Jamelle Bouie’s post on “What does it mean to be privileged?”
Bouie tells the story of needing to carry a TV set a few blocks to a friends’ apartment, but realizing:
This would be a terrible idea. Not because I would have been carrying a TV at 10 p.m. down a quiet city street — I actually feel pretty safe doing that. But because I would have been a black dude — in a hoodie, no less! — carrying a nice-looking TV down a quiet city street at 10 p.m.
He concludes the story by saying:
What does it mean to be privileged? It means not having to think about any of this, ever.
That’s something that Christians should remember when reading this post from Rabbi Ari Saks, “The Challenge of ‘Amen’: A Young Rabbi’s Reflection on Taking Part in an Interfaith Prayer Service.”
I stepped up to the stage with my prepared words in hand, excited about the opportunity to share some Jewish words of prayer in a public setting. Yet at the same time, I carried some of the nervous anxiety that has been stewing for over 2,000 years. See — before I approached the stage in the YMCA, most of the words offered before me were offered specifically in the name of Jesus Christ.
They began and ended with phrases like “and unto Jesus Christ’s name do we pray.” As such, these prayers were not simply pieces of wisdom from their respective tradition; they were communal prayers. Creating a communal interfaith prayer space meant that there wasn’t a speaker and an audience; it meant that there was a preacher and a congregation. And for this young Jewish rabbi, participating in a Jesus-centered prayer space was an uncomfortable feeling.
Saks also follows up in a graceful and gracious post titled, “Uniting the Transcendent and Immanent: A Jewish Way of Saying ‘Amen’ in an Uncomfortable and Challenging Prayer Space.”
In that second post, Saks provides what I think is a model for interfaith or extrafaith respect. His response — the way he finds to affirm a passionate, but sectarian statement made by a Christian — is lovely. He found a way, because he was forced to find a way, to say “Amen” without having to endorse the sectarian expression of faith he was uncomfortably and unfairly being expected to affirm.
I would guess that many Jewish readers can relate to Saks’ experience in those posts.
I would guess many atheists can as well.
But I’m just guessing, because, for us Christians, it’s not something we ever have to think about.
“What does it mean to be privileged? It means not having to think about any of this, ever.”