First of all, let me start this blog post by saying the views, opinions, thoughts, and words of this review of the book Love Over Fear are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions and thoughts of the wider Veritas Community.
A few years ago I became aware of Dan White Jr. and his church that he planted in Syracuse, NY called Axiom. I followed his blog posts as well as his twitter posts and really resonated strongly with almost everything that he was writing and speaking about. I remember reaching out to him and asking if we could grab a drink at the Missio Alliance conference back a few years ago, and he was gracious enough to take time to meet with me and answer question after question about planting a missional church that was rooted in community, rooted in discipleship and rooted in mission.
Fast forward to a few months ago when I saw that his new book “Love Over Fear: Facing Monsters, Befriending Enemies, and Healing our Polarized World” was coming out and through the blessing of Social Media had the opportunity to get to be on the launch team for the book. And so I read the electronic copy (even before receiving the book in the mail) and then when the book came I devoured it again.
Why did I read it twice? All I need to do is look around and see the polarization that is taking place in our world, in social media, and as much as I wish it wasn’t the case, in the church as well. It is a rare community that can be made up of conservatives and progressives, republicans and democrats, and any other groupings that can easily divide us. I dream of the church as a whole, of which Veritas is a part, being the kind of people who can be a place of love, grace, compassion, and not fear and hate and polarization.
Dan does a great job in his book combining theology, sociology, culture, and even the science of neurology in order to unpack fear, love, polarization, and practical ways and means of addressing these very things in our churches and in our communities.
Probably the biggest thing in the book that stood out to me is his engagement with attack, avoid or the way of affection. When we get into disagreements and arguments we normally do one of two things, either we attack the person (with words normally) or we avoid them altogether. Dan, following in the way of Jesus calls us into a third way, that of the way of affection towards others. This is so hard but this is the way of Jesus. Stepping into the polarization and differences with love, grace, compassion, and willingness to hear some hard things. One of the best ways of stepping into the way of affection is to gather around a table. To sit down over food to listen, learn, confess, and reconcile. Again sounds so much like the ministry of Jesus, who spent so much time around the table.
Closely related to attack, avoid or the way of affection, is what Dan calls the Compassionate Curiosity Pathway, which is what you need to walk if you want to pursue the way of affection with those you may differ. The pathway is a 4 part pathway which includes Being Interested, Being inquisitive, Being interpersonal, and Being indistinct. Each of us if we want to have love over fear and if we want to follow Jesus teaching to love our enemies will need to walk this pathway.
This is such a timely book especially with the next election cycle right around the corner. This is such a timely book as all you have to do is look at social media to see the antagonism that exists between people. This is such a timely book as all you have to do is to look at how Christians are becoming more and more polarized and how they are treating each other. This is a timely book because all you have to do is to look at your own life and see how you and I choose fear, hate, polarization, over the way of love, embrace, and affection.
If you (like I) struggle with walking in the ways of Jesus in this ever increasing polarized world, then I would encourage you to pick up his book, pass it on to others, and even pick up the study guide and use it in your faith communities. May we choose love over fear.