“Love them as yourself, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Leviticus 19:34
The quote above is the opening page of this book. The title grabbed my attention. The image on the cover did as well. The author, theologian and ethicist Matthew Kaemingk, takes us with him on a deep dive. A historical look back at the attempts, political and non-political, of reconciling Religious differences in Amsterdam the past 100 years or more. He looks at each generation of thought. The countries unending attempts to bridge society and soften the edges of religious views with Multiculturalism and Nationalism of a diverse public within the country and the “public square.” Ultimately delivering his own thoughts, “A third way,” towards a Christian Pluralism and the rights and freedoms of Muslims as well.
Kaemingk does a good job, perhaps a bit heavy, in detailing the history of Amsterdam’s struggles with each pillar of both Multiculturalism and Nationalism that seemed to have failed them. He explains the strength and weakness within each viewpoint. His has extensive notes so detailed, he would have served the reader better by stitching them into the writing directly. Much of the reading was labored through. It was good information and welcomed. It is just not inspiring writing. Kaemingk does offer a pretty even-handed look into these policies and delivers a thorough lesson on each. He discusses his purpose:
“The book is written for two groups of people. First, It is written for Christians who sense a deep need for an alternative response to Islam that begins and ends with a Christian conviction – not the simplistic ideologies of the right and left. Second, This book is written for non-Christians who are interested in peering over the religious fence, as it were, and exploring how some Christians are attempting to live peacefully and faithfully in an increasingly diverse, fragmented, and fear-driven world.”– Matthew Kaemingk, Christian Hospitality and Muslim Immigration is an Age of Fear
This writing is rich with history and context. Matthew Kaemingk studied and lived in Amsterdam for some time and interviewed many people to come to his conclusions. In the end he delivers his “Third way” quickly and concisely. My fear is that many will be lost trying to get there, both Christian and non-Christian. The author himself acknowledges this. He also is not looking to solve the differences of the two faiths. His Pluralism is used to detail a way toward faithfully responding to those differences and finding a path to living alongside our neighbors without the fear that is rained down on society today.
Since it is pretty clear that the Nationalism response of “High Walls” nor the Liberal approach of “Open Door” policies are not working. Reading his approach towards a solution was refreshing. It was a tough read for me and takes some commitment to stay with him through to the end. The style, more academic, may not be pleasing, but the information is worthwhile.
- I would like to thank the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and Matthew Kaemingk for the opportunity to read this work through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.