My Culture

More Than an Ally

Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, Dua Lipa, Timothee Chalamet are just a handful of celebrities who, in the last year, have been celebrated by the public for being famous “allies.” Maybe you have friends who call themselves allies. Maybe you call yourself an ally. Or maybe you’re unsure of whether or not a Christian should be an ally. The reality is that, as a Christian, you’re called to be much more than what the word “ally” has come to mean in most cases.

According to the world, what is an ally?

While most often associated with straight people who stand with the LGBT community, the term “ally” doesn’t apply exclusively to that group. Rather, allies are those people who step into the oppression and struggles of a marginalized community and work for justice for that community.

While it’s important to never misuse or overuse the term “ally,” there are many people and groups who are marginalized and mistreated systemically. That means there are many people and groups who are supported by people who call themselves allies. Allies, then, are those people who can never fully experience oppression that certain groups face firsthand (i.e. racism, sexism, discrimination, prejudice), but they willingly choose to recognize their privilege and, despite it, enter into these conversations and injustices.

Should you be an ally?

There are things about all of this that might sound very good to you: standing up for and suffering with the mistreated, adopting solidarity as a reaction to marginalization, and sacrificing self for the good of those who are suffering… Those are all very good, Christian, and holy things that our faith in Jesus should compel us to do. But you also might be struggling because the Church hasn’t tended to formally stand with some of these groups, there are certain agendas that go against Church teachings that are championed by some of these groups, and, in some cases, Church teaching has been distorted in such a way that has condemned rather than listened to the experiences of these groups.

So… should you be an ally? I’ll propose that, because of how Jesus lived and because of what His death and Resurrection actually mean, we’ve been called to be much more than allies.

Jesus showed up for the suffering. But He did more.

Jesus’ work may appear similar to the work of modern-day allies in many ways: He made space for and favored the marginalized, and He healed the sick. He shocked crowds by lovingly engaging with sinful women and morally corrupt tax collectors. He stepped down from His place as a teacher, to be close to little children and name their dignity.

But Jesus didn’t stop at merely being present to victims of society — He was present to them, absolutely, but He did so much more. His love went further by defeating evil, the source of all suffering, to establish an eternal Kingdom where abundant life is possible.

In His death on the cross, Jesus defeated every last bit of what could separate us from the Father, so that we could live as His daughters and sons — that’s the lengths that His saving work took Him to: defeating sin. Simply suffering with us wasn’t enough to save us from sin, so He made a way for us to overcome it. By His death and rising, we can receive His very life within us, making it possible to enter into eternity with the Father right now. Jesus didn’t suffer with us so that we could just feel better when we suffered; His love compelled Him to suffer for us, not so that we’d be free from suffering, but so that we’d be free from sin. And in becoming man, He made a way for us to live from that love — meaning you and I have the opportunity to do the same.

Your Responsibility

If Jesus was more than an ally, then we have been called to be more than allies, too. This does not mean that we should ever outright reject the good work of today’s allies. Your call as a follower of Jesus is to collaborate with allies where their work aligns with yours, but also to strive for more than only suffering with the oppressed; your call as a follower of Jesus is to suffer and rise with the oppressed into the new life Jesus promises.

Now, this all might sound nice and good, but what does it look like, exactly? To be honest, a lot of your Christian call does look like the secular understanding of allyship: acknowledging your privilege, listening to marginalized voices, learning about issues that you don’t understand or have the privilege of not needing to understand, and using your voice and influence to defend those who are oppressed. But it also goes beyond these noble decisions to suffer with the oppressed. Jesus’ saving work wasn’t the destruction of suffering, but the destruction of anything that would separate us from the Father — it was a rejection of the notion that sin would defeat us. And for that reason, your life as a follower of Jesus will deviate from the life of a typical ally at times.

For example, where allies to women often defend abortion as a right, Christians are allies to women and unborn children; meaning they simultaneously defend the unborn against any form of violence and celebrate the strength of the feminine capacity to bring life into the world, by always showing up for them in support and in charity. Similarly, where allies to the LGBT community often aim to redefine marriage, Christians show up for LGBT community by affirming the good of every human being, living according to the reality that the highest form of intimacy is expressed in self-gift — not in sexuality — and defending the natural order of marriage between one man and one woman, as part of God’s design.

This will be challenging as a Catholic because the world will always want you to align with something that envisions a reality much smaller than the Kingdom that Jesus established. But if you believe in the reality of Christ’s resurrection, you naturally can’t align with a vision so small. And while you may be able to acknowledge the good in the work of non-Christian allies, Jesus’ saving work proves we have been called into so much more. Your life as a follower of Jesus will, in many ways, look like the life of an ordinary ally. But at the end of the day, it will look different in other ways because the Kingdom is about so much more than ending suffering. It’s about rising with the Christ who proved that sin will never have the last word.

About the Author

Leah Murphy

I'm a simple lady and one of my favorite things to do is to laugh really hard. I'm constantly looking for what is true, good, and beautiful in everything around me, especially music. I have an insatiable desire for authenticity in all areas of my life. I'm pursuing heaven on a messy little journey that Jesus is making beautiful, with new mercies every day.