Learning from the stranger

Love exceeds tolerance and diversity when it comes to living with others, says David Smith.



Love exceeds tolerance and diversity when it comes to living with others, says David Smith.

Living alongside people from different cultures to our own is a fact of life in multicultural societies but it’s less clear how we can do this well. David I. Smith discusses what it means to learn from – and even love – the stranger. David is Professor of Education at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His book is Learning from the Stranger: Christian Faith and Cultural Diversity.


00:44 How can people from very different backgrounds pursue a common life together, especially when we can’t assume that everyone agrees?

01:54 Not everyone agrees or signs up to the Christian understanding of life. There are these liberal values of diversity and equality and tolerance. Haven’t we got our bases covered? What does love add to that?

02:44 What does that look like, that intentionality?

04:01 It’s a very lofty ambition at the same time. I think sometimes when we try to encounter the other, whether they are the religious other or the ethnic other or the cultural other, it’s very hard not to just reconfirm our own prejudices in the process. So how is it possible to genuinely encounter them as them and not as some casting of them as I want them to be?

05:12 But isn’t that very idea of allowing your assumptions to be challenged, that’s quite threatening as well.

05:58 People do tend to talk about Christians and the history of colonialism and how there’s this assumption of cultural superiority, we have the word of God, we need to convict you of it and convert you to our ways of life. So is what you’re talking about all part of that history as well, it’s having learnt from past experience perhaps?

07:12 But it takes a posture of humility, and it can be as risky as it is rewarding?