DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Zombies, Identity, and You

Written by: on March 19, 2020

In his book Identity Francis Fukuyama argues that much of the recent shift in politics in the world is a result of people feeling that they are not getting a proper amount of respect or that they feel invisible or humiliated by the world as they understand it. These two motivations have led to the rise of nationalism and authoritarian governments on the one hand and identity politics on the other hand. Honestly I think that Fukuyama is on point with his argument. The rub is that I think a lot of people feel these ways for legitimate reasons, but just because a reason is legitimate does not mean that voting for an extreme government – on either side – is the right way to solve the problem.

Many minority groups are in need of a hand up in order to be seen and respected. It makes sense that they would push for a government that would give them a hand up or at least protect their rights. At the same time if you are at the less successful end of a majority group this can feel an awful lot like you are being neglected or disrespected, which would likely make you want to push for someone who (at least pretends to) see you. I understand the need to be seen and feel respected. The question that comes to mind, for me at least, is whether expecting these two things from politicians is wise. Of course it is not wise, but people still do it out of a lack of other options.

I would argue, and this will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, that the cure to this problem is found in hospitality. The problem exists not in a person’s understanding of themselves as disrespected or invisible, but in the zombification of the other.1 If the other side can be seen as merely a brain eating drag on culture it is easier to see pushing for ones rights alone as more palatable. The task then is not to make people care less about themselves, but rather to help them see the other as fully human. Whether it is a poor white person complaining about affirmative action and how it helps everyone but them or a queer person who is protesting the heteronormative laws that dictate their life, the task is to see the one who they are protesting against as human and deserving of respect the same as they are. It is only when we are able to see the other as equal – and in fact human – that we are able to move past voting solely in our own interest. That being said, a poor white person and a queer person both need the same respect in return.

Hospitality in this sense is giving the benefit of the doubt. Holding the space for the other person to not be entirely wrong. It goes back to the principles of dialogue that require honest listening on both sides to be able to move to a place of mutual respect. This sort of shift will be near impossible with politicians inflaming the hordes to despise the zombies seeking to destroy them, but if we can find that space individually change can happen. It will be slow, but even a single person holding space that the other is a fellow human in need of respect is progress.

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1 Nikos Papastergiadis, “Hospitality and the Zombification of the Other” in The Conditions of Hospitality: Ethics, Politics, and Aethetics on the Threshold of the Possible, Thomas Claviez ed. (Fordham University Press: New York), 145.

About the Author

mm

Sean Dean

An expat of the great state of Maine where the lobster is cheap and the winters are brutal I've settled in as a web developer in Tacoma, Washington. As a foster-adoptive parent of 3 beautiful boys, I have deep questions about the American church's response to the public health crisis that is our foster system.

3 responses to “Zombies, Identity, and You”

  1. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    Thank you for this blog post Sean and for bringing it back to Hospitality. My hope is that during this time you are able to practice “Self Hospitality,” taking care of yourself, as we move through this tumultuous season in our lives.

  2. What, I’m totally surprised! Hahaha! In all sericousness, yes, hospitality is definitely one way to solve the world’s problems. I’m with you on that. It’s definitely easier said than done.

    I’m wondering, is there a way to “institutionalize” or “secularize” hospitality in ways that appeal to a diverse population so that it is practiced and valued without necessarily grounding this to Christianity? Notice, I was specific in the grounding principle because I believe that true hospitality can only be enacted in a Christian worldview. I could be wrong on that, but that’s where I’m starting. Also, it may be the case that my question misses the point entirely if the outcome we hope already is saddled with many other challenges, i.e., habits, education, parenting, etc. Looking forward to your research Sean.

  3. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Sean,
    Praying for you and your family in Washington! Thanks so much for bringing your passion for hospitality down to the fundamentals of holding a space of mutual respect for the person before you. The reformative change will only take place one on one. We can start now digitally and then in person when the time comes. Thanks so much, Sean!

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