Space for difference
“The test of faith is whether I can make space for difference. Can I recognize God’s image in someone who is not in my image, whose language, faith, ideals, are different from mine? If I cannot, then I have made God in my image instead of allowing God to remake me in God’s.”
– Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
This quote is from his book, The Dignity of Difference. Another recommended book by Rabbi Sacks is Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. In these books, Rabbi Sacks calls for the courage to accept those who are different from us. Bigotry is a form of cowardice, and violence against others is driven by fear. Sacks understands that and eloquently confronts fear-driven bigotry.
“Confront” is a wonderful word and concept for dealing with bigotry. Not “attack,” not even “oppose,” but “confront.” We need to stand up and face the bigotry with calmness, not anger. By neither giving in nor lashing out, we take off the mask of bigotry, exposing it as the empty fear that it is.
And we need to, as Sacks says, make space for difference in ourselves and our world. There will always be people who differ from us. We must develop the courage to not only accept that reality, and accept that we not perfect, but accept that those who differ from us are also very much like us. We are not made lesser by the existence of those who do not share our traits. Bigotry is fear; to make space for difference is courage.
Making space for difference is recognizing others as beings worthy of respect. That recognition is the basis of justice. We need not adopt the religious language of Rabbi Sacks to recognize other human beings as human beings like ourselves. By accepting with humility that we are fallible and not in a position to judge others, we can take off our masks and see others for who they are and let them see us for who we are. That is love and that is justice. And that remakes us in the image of what is the Good.