This year I’m planning to write 15,000 words (give or take) on the topic of Space. Well, that’s what I think it’s going to be about… hmmm, the final frontier.
Although I am genuinely fascinated by extra-terrestrial exploration (I have a deeply cherished ambition to be appointed as a chaplain to the first lunar colony), this project isn’t about that kind of space. Nor is it about alien life, whether heaven is in the nth dimension, or where Jesus’ body is right now (although I do have ideas about all these questions).
It’s about the space between you and me.
What is it? why is it? why should I care?
For most people, the third question is the hardest to answer. I get it. Life doesn’t need to be pulled apart and examined in order to be lived well, with joy and thankfulness. The Kingdom of heaven belongs to children, not philosophers. To those who have ears to hear, not those who have penetrating sight and highly developed critical faculties.
Perhaps all you need to know is this:
“For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.” (Ephesians 2:14 HCSB)
Whatever else we might discover about the space between us, we are confident of this: Jesus has transformed it.
Strange as it may seem, the healing work of God’s Spirit, renovating our humanity into the image of Christ, does not remove our individual differences but redeems them. And for a redeemed philosopher, this means being cured of his pride, the aspiration to be a philosopher-king, and being restored to his true vocation: to be a curator of that part of God’s garden in which ideas grow; to care for thoughts.
The space between you and me is a thought that needs care. The nature of that space is changing. I don’t know where you are reading this, but my (somewhat) unguarded thoughts are available to you whether you are in a prison or in the next room, around the corner or on the other side of the globe, sympathetic or hostile. We have a form of proximity that was completely unavailable to the vast majority of humans 20 years ago. How are we to think about and act within the new possibilities that this form of proximity enables? What sort of human communities will grow up in response to this transformation of space?
These sorts of questions have been with us for a long time. In the 1950’s, when the middle class moved out of the cities into suburbia, enabled by new roads, cars, cheap fossil fuels, this transformation of spatial relations generated a new form of community: the suburb; the ‘next-door’ neighbour; work colleagues who were not also members of the same home neighbourhood. New kinds of barriers and new kinds of proximity.
What does it mean to belong to a ‘Kingdom’, to have a share in a space that transects all these others? Is our thinking about what it means to belong to this Kingdom affected at all by these other transformations in our thinking about social space? More importantly, is there a basic line of thought, generated by the dawning of this kingdom, which teaches us how to think about our spaces and places? That gives us something to say about barriers, barbed wire, clasped hands, the world wide web, crossing over, and shared passage?