The Other

So, I’m reading Will Willmon’s short book, “Fear of the Other”. It’s a quick, thought-provoking read.

In the midst of perusing through my social media news feeds, and finding myself both deeply disturbed (tragic events in Aleppo) and deeply annoyed (false religious persecution in Knightstown, IN), I find Willmon’s book to be fitting.

First, let’s just say he knocks it out of the park with the first few sentences of the introduction:

“Thanks to fellow Christians Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Ted Cruz. If not for them, I would not have been asked to write this book. I’m serious. Competing attempts among politicians to leverage fear of others into votes for them led to the idea of a book that thinks as Christians about the Other.”

This morning, I read a passage that is challenging me to do more in an effort to build bridges with the Other I encounter on a regular basis:

“Every time we miraculously move from exclusion to embrace, it’s a little earthly experience of what one day we shall do forever. Truth and love don’t stand in opposition, and a hermeneutics of hospitality doesn’t relieve you from making correct judgments. In fact, our hospitality can be an attempt accurately to construe and to understand the Other. Christians ought to be better at building bridges than erecting walls against those we have injured as well as those who have injured us…

Sadly, sometimes exclusion of the Other is presented as a Christian virtue rather than a sin. We take upon ourselves God’s prerogative to judge, separate, exclude, and embrace as if it were our own. We label another as a dangerous threat and construct our mechanisms of defense. The separation of the world into ‘sinners’ and ‘righteous’ is a notoriously tricky business, too bound up with our denial of our sin, too caught in structures of privilege, race, and class to be done without the greater of care and humility.

That America has the largest military defense budge of any country in the world suggests that our defensiveness is costly. That we have more people in jail than any other country in the world is a great irony – or perhaps even a great sin – in this self-proclaimed freest of all nations.

I wonder if our stress on the distinctiveness of our gender, sexual orientation, or native culture contributes to a sense of a vast, unbridgeable gap between us. They can’t possibly understand us and we can’t understand them. My experience is my experience. How dare you presume to ‘know just how I feel’? Are we guilty of overstress upon the uniqueness of our personal experience and our particular identity? There are lots of ways of attempting to dodge Paul’s lumping of all us together as ‘the ungodly’ upon whom God has shown mercy for all.

Who are the “others” in your life? How can you go about building bridges?

 

 

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