I don’t think this is ambiguous. It’s there in scripture. Both the Old and New
Testaments insist on the love of the “other”, the stranger. Exodus 22:21 says,
“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were once foreigners in Egypt.”
Throughout Romans Paul sets out the duty of Christians. He urges us to seek
to show hospitality, to live “in harmony with one another”. That is both in the
church and outside. He urges us to refrain from judging others. He says mingle
with people of all kinds with a humble frame of mind. Conceit has no place in a
life ruled by love. And Jesus’ teaching, there in Matthew (22:29) “Love your
neighbour as yourself.” Jesus summarizes Old Testament teaching this way:
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this
sums up the Law and the Prophets.
So if the Bible is pretty clear on this point, why are some Christians xenopho-
bic, and sexist or homophobic, even proudly so? Why is Senator Anning, a
professing Christian, so offended by Muslims, who represent the ultimate other.
Reflecting on the psychology of xenophobia in her book, Strangers to Our-
selves, French-Bulgarian philosopher, Julia Kristeva writes that we fear foreign-
ers or strangers because they represent something within ourselves we’re too
frightened to acknowledge or confront. When we recognize what the stranger
represents within ourselves, and come to terms with it, then we can dispense
with our fear and loathing.
Wasn’t it fascinating how Bob Katter, while backing his new Senator 1000
percent, talked about defending the Australian race? Is there an Australian
race? His comment denies the fact that colonists and settlers were foreigners
in this land. Perhaps that historical truth is what drives so much fear; a deep
insecurity still unresolved. Perhaps it helps explain Australia’s hostile policy
towards refugees, a policy that poisons our polity more generally.
British scholar Krish Kandiah takes up the idea that the stranger is within. It’s
controversial: the stranger by definition is not just every other human being,
further, must also be God himself. Kandiah’s extraordinary idea is in his book,
‘God is Stranger’. He’s not saying we can’t know God, but that God is other, a
foreigner, unrecognized and often scorned. Practising hospitality to God – mak-
ing room for him in our lives – can be measured to some meaningful degree by
our willingness to make room for the foreigner, the outsider, the other. 3 It’s re-
flected in Jesus’ statement that when you feed the hungry, give water to the
thirsty, or offer shelter to the stranger, there God is also.
Stories about Samaritans exist in scripture to teach us about loving the other.
There in the reading, found in the Gospel of John chapter 4, is the story known
as the Samaritan Woman at the Well. Jesus was passing through Samaria, the
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