Samaritan Woman at the Well: A Different Perspective

Samaritan Woman at the Well: A Different Perspective

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The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I can see that you are a prophet? Our ancestors worshipped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”

In 1923, the Jewish theologian Martin Buber wrote an immensely influential little book entitled I and Thou. Buber’s main point is that there are two ways of relating to other people in our lives: We can see them as objects to be used – what Buber calls an “I-it” relationship; or we can see others as having feelings, dreams and needs as real and as important as our own that can be the basis for dialogue and relationship – an “I-Thou” relationship.

In his memoirs, Buber tells the story of how he came to his theory of I-Thou and I-It. When he was a professor of philosophy at a university in Germany, a young student came to see him. The student had received his draft notice to serve in the German army in World War I. He was a pacifist by nature and afraid of being killed in battle, but, at the same time, he was a loyal and fiercely patriotic German. He asked Buber what he should do: serve his country and risk being killed or claim conscientious objector status and perhaps leave another young man to be killed in his place. Continue reading