I reflected anew on one of the most formative books of the twentieth century, Martin Buber’s classic I and Thou. This remarkable book shaped the thinking of generations of theologians, philosophers, cultural students and political thinkers, its terminology entering the mainstream of our speech. Buber challenges us to move beyond making “objects” of other people, projecting onto them our assumptions and stereotypes or simply using them to promote our own agendas, to see and hear and understand other persons as living subjects, as “thou” in relation to “I.” By so doing, we reflect the fundamental “I and Thou” relationship between God and each of us. — Michael Jinkins



Stamp celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Martin Buber, 1978





There seems to be an act of intellectual empathy that precedes and makes possible the emotional empathy needed to transcend a tribal aversion to strangers. Once we can fathom that every other person, however different, however distant, is also made in God’s image, indeed, that the image of God is most fully reflected in our being in relationship, then we are empowered to imagine what it means to be both human and different. There’s no real virtue in loving those who are just like us and who serve our interests, at least according to Jesus of Nazareth; virtue lies in loving those who are different, even potentially troublesome. Maybe Jesus knew a thing or two about overcoming the destructive power of tribes.

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