Today we had one of our Hunger Coalition meetings in Tippecanoe county. The meeting went extremely well, much along the lines of how one might expect a community-grounded CCA process to unfold. The food insecure participants who experience hunger in their everyday lives came together today to lay out the steps of the coalition as well as the objectives of the coalition. I was incredibly impressed by how fast this project seems to be moving toward accomplishing multiple tangible goals.
But I am going to spend my blog today about an event that happened toward the end of the meeting. As we were wrapping up the meeting and I started packing my bag, Sara (we will use her pseudonym here) walked up to me in trepidation and stood by me as other community members were leaving the room. I felt she needed to share something with me. When I looked at her, she walked up somewhat nervously and asked me if I would not be offended to accept a Bible written in Arabic (now I can't really read Arabic although I can indeed read the English portion of the Bible) that she had picked up thinking that the Bible would be useful for me. She repeated multiple times about how she hoped that she did not offend me by giving me the gift of the Bible.
For those of you that know me, you know how I find it offensive to be handed over Bibles by everzealous missionaries.
I grew up following the ideals of my Marxist father, in a family that loosely followed Hindu rituals mixed into a broadly socialist ideology, and as I got older and came to the US, learned to really dislike the experiences of the Bible being shoved down my throat by narrow-minded White folks who believed that their way was the only pathway to spiritual salvation. For a long stretch of my adult life in the US, I grew to associate Christianity with parochialism, cultural arrogance, and imperialism.
But there was something so very different in Sara's gesture today. The warmth and openness with which she wanted to share her spiritual reading of the Bible with me came from a moment of solidarity, as a sojourner. Her invitation for me to read the Bible, albeit very subtly, was an offering of hope and camarederie, not one filled with the arrogance of needing to "save my Brown soul."
Increasingly as I have spent over the last few years working with the subaternized sectors in the US, I have grown to see the value that the Church holds for the marginalized, in offering them hope and entry points for social action. Although I understood this conceptually and have gradually worked on renegotiating my worldviews, none of these cognitive experiences were similar to the one I had today. For the first time I felt the power of solidarity to move me beyond the ideological constraints of specific worldviews. For the first time in many years, I wanted to open up the Bible and set it beside my summer reading of Marxist Theory. For the first time in many years, I actually picked up a verse and read it.
PS: For those of you getting ideas of saving my soul though, this is not an invitation!