The Global and Personal Challenge
Edited by Richard Carter and Samuel Wells with contributions by Sarah Coakley, Brendan Cox, Stanley Hauerwas, Justin Welby, Rowan Williams and others
Published by SPCK
Who Is My Neighbour is a collection of essays on that question and its relation to other issues such as poverty, discrimination, immigration, ecology and the political upheaval in Western democracies. The editors set out their stall in the opening words of the preface, “This is a book about migration. But because it’s about migration it’s about cross-cultural relationships, fear, discovery, surprises, politics and faith. Which are what the bible is all about.”
The question posed by the book’s title is certainly one of the best questions asked in the Bible, and one that lies at the heart of the political and social crises facing Western democracies today. More than that it is a question that cuts to the very heart of what it means for us to be human, as Rowan Williams writes in his essay ‘The ethics of global relationships’, “…to speak of the ethics of creating relationships is not to speak of a decision to be good or to be nice against the odds. It’s to speak of a decision to be what we are…”
The essays are not a collection of expositions on Luke 15 and the parable of the Good Samaritan, but that parable lies at the heart of the book; Williams uses it to interact with the ethics of Bonhoeffer and the subject of global relationships. In her essay ‘Loving your neighbour as yourself’ Shulamit Ambalu goes behind the parable to the texts from the Torah that provide its foundation. Hauerwas does not even mention it in his essay “My Neighbour: Donald Trump’, but always the question looms in the background, informs and shapes these essays in some way.
Each of the essayists is clearly well informed and understands the political, moral and social complexity of the issues addressed but they are never dispassionately detached from their subject, often sharing their personal experiences of these issues. The essays work very well as a collection and manage to avoid offering one-dimensional simplistically easy solutions, nor are they aimed at recruiting converts to some kind of social gospel. Rather the analysis offered by these essays goes deeper and their aspirations are higher than that much misunderstood and misused phrase suggests.
We live in very divided, fractured and dangerous times, where people who are ‘other’ are vilified and demonised in the press and on social media at a level that is unprecedented in human history. More than every we need to recover a sense of what it means, personally, communally, nationally and globally to be a neighbour. This collection of essays is a tremendous resource to help us begin to make that journey.
Rev N R Graham