I and Thou

“. . . filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich empty away.” – Luke 1:53

Are the rich an I or a Thou? Or is that Martin Buber concept dated? I think it is. The rich are too much I and too much Thou. Plus I and Thou is too anthropomorphic.

Buber argues that we should treat each other as subjects, not objects. In our Advent theme there is no difference to the lion when seen by the lamb. They are both subjects to each other.

Theologian Paul Santimire recommends a more ecological approach than Buber, one beyond anthropocentric dominion, where the phony on-toppers assume everyone and everything is here to feed them. Santimire prefers what he calls an “I-it” relationship, in which we regard ourselves as part of a whole.

From Buber’s anthropocentricism, where it is all about humans, it is a small step to get to rich people and poor people. Rich people deserve more than poor people. Or so they say.

If we learn to think differently about lions and lambs, it is a small step to think differently about rich and poor. If rich and poor and animals and humans are part of a larger whole, instead of wearing the layered look, the world looks different. Mary glimpsed a greater justice than most of us have. Her justice is a mutual subjectivity, a sense of the I in the Thou and the I in the poor and the I in the animal. Animals and the poor are no longer understood as property, food or labor.

We are all a part of each other.


God of animals and humans, I and thou, us and it, when we imagine ourselves the greatest, surprise us and let us hear Mary’s song in our rabbit ears.

ddauthordonnaschaper.jpgAbout the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.