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Center for Action and Contemplation

Solidarity Works Shoulder to Shoulder

Monday, July 3, 2023

Author Renny Golden writes about the biblical meaning of solidarity and her involvement in the sanctuary movement of the 1980s, which provided hospitality for Central American refugees fleeing violence.  

Solidarity as a word does not appear in the Bible. As a practice of faith, however, it captures the essence of the [Jewish and Christian traditions]. The Bible is a multithousand-year story of Israelites trying to maintain solidarity with their God and with the poor…. 

When God first called Moses to lead the people from bondage, he balks and gives excuses [Exodus 3:13, 4:1, 10]. But God promises, “I will be with you.” That is the basis of the relationship of solidarity. It is not paternalism or pity; it is working shoulder to shoulder in the act of liberation.…  

The birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God into the world, is the paradigmatic act of solidarity. God so loved the world that God took human form. It was total identification with the human condition, total solidarity with human history. God embodied love in a stable in the midst of the most imperialistic empire in the world, and from the very beginning Jesus had to flee the excesses of [imperial] power. From the beginning Jesus was a threat to the established order and so had to flee the death squads of the Roman government [Matthew 2:13–14]. Jesus began life not as one of the elite but as a refugee, homeless, living on the run. Thus, the love of God for the world meant very specifically solidarity with the persecuted, the fugitive, the outcast. 

Scholar Robert Chao Romero describes the solidarity of Jesus’ ministry, which embodies good news for the poor and excluded:  

God became flesh and launched his movimiento [movement] among those who were despised and rejected by both their Roman colonizers and the elite of their own people. Jesus didn’t go to the big city and seek recruits among the religious, political, and economic elite.… He started in what today would be East LA, the Artesia Community Guild, or Spanish Harlem. To change the system, Jesus had to start with those who were excluded from the system.…  

Although the good news of Jesus is for the whole human family, it goes first to the poor and all who are marginalized. Like a loving father [or mother], God loves all [God’s] children equally, but shows special concern for those of his [or her] children who suffer most.…  

Riling under the double burden of Roman colonialism and economic and spiritual oppression by the elites of their own people, [the underclass of Jesus’ day] needed first to hear the announcement of God’s liberation. Though they were seen as weaker in the eyes of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and ruling elite, Jesus considered them indispensable; though they were thought to be less honorable, Jesus gave them greater honor. Jesus gave greater honor to those who lacked it (1 Corinthians 12:22–25). He went first to those “outside the gate” of institutional power and authority. [2] 


[1] Renny Golden and Michael McConnell, Sanctuary: The New Underground Railroad (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1986), 188, 190. 

[2] Robert Chao Romero, Brown Church: Five Centuries of Latina/o Social Justice, Theology, and Identity (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2020), 36, 39–40. 

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—CAC Staff, Untitled, watercolor. Izzy Spitz, Field Study 2, oil pastel on canvas. Izzy Spitz, Everything at Once, digital oil pastel on canvas. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image

Artist Statement (Izzy Spitz): “Chemistry of self” [collection of images] is a visual diary of varying emotions of my day-to-day life. It’s an act of presence in a world of existential overwhelm and grounding in the gifts of mundane life. 

Story from Our Community:  

When my firstborn lacked oxygen at birth, she had to learn to live with an intellectual disability from her very first months of life. With the support of professionals, I realized that I can be either an obstacle or a facilitator for her development. I focused on what she can do and achieve, not the other way around. In the process, I met with inspiring parents and caring professionals who worked in solidarity with people who have been marginalized because of their disabilities. My daughter will never be independent, but she is productive and happy. In her own way, she brings pure joy to everyone around her. She is a living example that with love and respect for each person’s talents (and limits), we can all develop our potential. Each one of us is the face of Christ. How then can we not love all of humanity? —Salwa K. 

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