Unlike some political options taken to address the poor treatment of minority groups, hospitality refuses the fantasy of neutral ground and instead emphasizes how friend, stranger and even enemy can hold things in common even in contested spaces and places. To host a meal or discussion with a stranger situates action and discourse in a common location with joint recognition. Hospitality is neither a construction of friendliness nor is it an appeal to holier-than-thou toleration. In the Hebrew Bible, for example, the notion of the stranger was not only a designation for outsiders, but also part of a communal identity for a people who were strangers themselves in Egypt and Babylon. "You shall love the stranger as yourself," God says in Leviticus.In many places throughout the world, toleration would, indeed, be an improvement. But with the instability of governments where, oftentimes, minority communities are made into scapegoats for a nation's woes, earlier tolerance itself becomes precarious. Is the ancient tradition of hospitality--even towards one's enemies--the solution? I'm not sure, but it is definitely worth considering. Indeed, as a similar article a few years ago suggested, one can remain true to one's own tradition while learning from others'.
Among Christians, hospitality has an equally firm divine mandate. Jesus' words in the Gospel of Matthew, "I was a stranger, and you welcomed me," along with the central symbolic action of sharing a meal, equates making room for the vulnerable with welcoming the presence of God. The recourse in Islam to the virtues of ʾIbrāhīm (Abraham) as the exemplar of hospitality, a friend of God and a host of many guests, only elevates the importance of mutual encounter between host and guest.
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