Journal Week 11: My Book About the Little Way

A lot of people have described Stranger God as a popular version of Unclean. That's not how I see it.

It is true that in Part 2 of Stranger God "The Emotional Battlefield" I present some of the material from Unclean describing many of the emotional triggers that cause us to become unwelcoming toward strangers. Specifically, I talk about disgust, contempt and fear. The presentation in Stranger God is much more straightforward and practical, but readers of Unclean will be familiar with most of this material. But once we get to the second half of Stranger God, the book moves away from Unclean.

I don't think of Stranger God as a popular version of Unclean, I think of Stranger God as my book about the Little Way.

As long time readers of the blog know, I discovered the Little Way of Thérèse of Lisieux in the years after the publication of Unclean. Since that discovery, the Little Way has helped me bring a more practical approach to conversations about hospitality as I've worked with churches. As I describe in Stranger God, the Little Way shows us how hospitality can be practiced as a spiritual discipline.

And that's the great intellectual contribution of Stranger God. Given it's popular, conversational tone, most readers of Stranger God won't notice that some creative, academic work is taking places on its pages, especially if you're unfamiliar with the literature about Thérèse and the Little Way.

Specifically, most of the writing about Thérèse has been done by Catholics for Catholics. And most of this writing describes the Little Way as a practice of humility and self-mortification. By contrast, Stranger God argues that, yes, the Little Way is little, it is a small, humble path that can crash into our ambitions to live a heroic spiritual life. But the heart of the Little Way isn't humility, it's love.

Consequently, Stranger God describes the Little Way as a practice of hospitality. Readers of Stranger God who are unfamiliar with Thérèse, which I expect will be most readers, will be unaware that in the pages of Stranger God they are getting a fresh, creative and new reading of Thérèse and her Little Way.

Connecting the Little Way to hospitality is the creative, intellectual work of Stranger God, the work that makes Stranger God unique in the literatures both on Thérèse and Christian hospitality. As a scholar and academic, that contribution is what I'm most proud of in Stranger God. Stranger God isn't just a practical book about hospitality and kindness. Stranger God is a academic contribution as well.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply