Welcoming the Stranger: Anatheism and L'Arche
In his book Anatheism, Richard Kearney argues for God to be imagined as a stranger and a guest, a God who comes unexpectedly into mundane reality. As a potential host, the human person may freely say yes in hospitality or no in hostility to this divine stranger, a hospitality or hostility practiced in encounters with the everyday strangers of life, such as marginalized populations. As an exemplar, Kearney offers Jean Vanier's vision for L'Arche, a global network of communities that live in solidarity with the developmentally disabled. But Kearney provides only a start for a theological dialogue with L'Arche's experience. In order to further refine this conversation between Kearney and L'Arche, I consider questions about the limits of hospitality in the context of L'Arche. What are, for example, necessary boundaries between guest and host? When does uncritical hospitality become problematic? After a discussion of Kearney's anatheism and the writings of Vanier, Henri Nouwen, and others, I argue for the necessity of judiciously drawn boundaries so as to promote a healthy relationship between the disabled person and the assistant, a relationship that hopefully has become one of friendship. This article, then, confronts the task of discerning the limits to Kearney's paradigm, and L'Arche's practice, of hospitality.
Little, B. (2016). Welcoming the stranger: Anatheism and L'arche. Toronto Journal of Theology, 32(1), 95-111. doi:10.3138/tjt.3465