I am not sure where I first started following Kester Brewin’s writings. Probably I found some of his stuff on Vaux’s old site and I assume that I heard of his book from either Jonny Baker or Steve Collins’ blog but I ordered The Complex Christ when it came out in England, paid a fortune to have it shipped across the pond and then paid of 18% of Canada’s national debt in import fees. To this day, it is the most expensive book that I have ever purchased. It was worth every cent and I paid for it and lead to a fundamental rethinking of my theology and my understanding of the urban context (it was about that time that several of you started to hate what I posted here).
The other day on Twitter I was waiting for my Kindle to finally arrive when I asked what book I should order. Kester came up with and instead of ordering it, I went online to see if Other was available in Canada yet. It isn’t here in paper form yet but it is available on Kindle and it quickly earned the honour of being the first book I ordered for my Kindle (and hooray, no import fees).
The book hit home for me this week as the debate exploded over political rhetoric in the United States after the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords outside of a Safeway. Whether or not you agree that themes of violence in political rhetoric contributed to the murders or not, I think all of us agree there is something wrong with how we see people we don’t agree with in this world. Whether that divide is Christian-atheist, moderate-fundamentalist, liberal-conservative, Israeli-Palestinian, black-white, or whether or not we like Kenny G, we tend to dismiss and deride the opinions of those who we disagree with. I don’t know if has gotten worse but I suspect it has. Years ago I used to be a regular viewer of Capital Gang which had the Democrats and Republicans around a table disagreeing. Not only was the dialogue cordial but they actually seemed to enjoy being around each other. Now the Republicans are at Fox News and the Democrats are on MSNBC. Not only are they no longer sitting around the table but they are at competing networks. There isn’t even an attempt to engage or dialog with each other.
For a wide variety of reasons this has changed how we see and interact with each other and Other tries to address that by looking at the Great Commandment, to love the other. While that seems obvious, Brewin addresses the situations where Christianity and the church have largely failed to see God’s creation in other people. As he puts it, what kind of selves do we need to be in order to live in harmony with others?
For me, it’s the biggest question that I wrestle with every day at work and the hardest discussion that we have with staff. In a context of violence, drugs, and anger, how we deal with the other is a definition of how we see them but also ourselves. Once the U.S./Canadian edition hits the shelves, I plan to purchase a bunch for our staff because it’s something that we all need to wrestle with everyday… or at least it’s something that I need to do to remind myself to reset myself and look for God in other people every day.
In a time in my life when I am working hard at getting rid of over 1000 books from my library, I am glad I added this one to my Kindle and look forward to always having a paper version on my shelf.