The Space Between Us, Susan Wise Anderson. [No publisher information], 2020.
Summary: An argument for a Christ-rooted civility in our politically and culturally polarized climate.
Sarah Bauer Anderson grew up in a political household, with a father, Gary Bauer, who briefly attempted a presidential candidacy. As Sarah grew older she found herself differing with her family on a number of issues they once saw eye to eye. She realized that to not allow those differences to separate them, it meant taking steps to move toward them without feeling the need to make each other into one’s image. She writes this book to describe how her Christian faith informs her approach to closing that space between us–not by agreeing on all the issues but on agreeing on the worth of each other–and even discovering that we like each other and are able to work on matters of common concern.
She chose connection versus distance with her family and describes in pairs of opposites some of the other choices we may make to close the space between us. She contends we need to be present with those with whom we disagree rather than deserting them for our echo chambers. She observes how Jesus included those “out of bounds” in his ministry rather than remaining boxed in. She describes learning that it is more important to develop a posture of wisdom, kindness, and generosity than to be “right” in our positions. Also, there is value in distinguishing beliefs, convictions, and opinions, rather than raising everything to the level of non-negotiable belief.
She urges choosing a politics of faith rather than fear. She distinguishes between enforced peacekeeping and the peacemaking that says that all of us in all of our differences are needed–we need each other. We learn to focus on commonalities rather than exclusivities. The Lord’s table teaches us that we may be re-membered rather than divided because of the one who was broken to make us whole. We recognize that instead of shaming those who disagree with us, we can choose to be curious, and draw closer. We can engage rather than build walls. We can learn names rather than using narratives to exclude. We meet new situations with wonder rather than confining expectations and allow for mystery rather than requiring certainty.
There are some common threads that run through this. Do we live in light of the work of Jesus or only cultural expectations? Do we value positions more than people? And do we choose animus over the value of those with whom we differ?
Emerging from the divisive politics of the last two elections, racial divisions, and the quarrels that arose around public health measures, we have had a glimpse of the abyss of allowing these things to drive us apart? Anderson invites us to step back from the abyss and toward each other. She shares her own journey with her family and others. There are some who consider the divides irreparable, and a politics of division essential. Anderson argues otherwise and describes the richness of drawing toward those with whom she differs, both harder and fuller than hanging with our own echo chambers. Most of all, she invites those of us who name Christ to follow the Christ who was broken for us, who made peace with his broken body.