[Book review] Divided: why we’re living in an age of walls

By Gordon Showell-Rogers |
Divided Tim Marshall Book Cover

Believing in a Creator who made all people equal and in a Saviour who is building a church of every tribe and nation, then Christians should surely be taking the lead in addressing the divisions of our deeply polarised world.

Tim Marshall reviews how walls have divided humanity historically and continue to do so, with analysis from the Great Wall of China to gated communities in cities today.

Marshall brings his 30 years of experience in foreign affairs to bear on dividing walls in places as diverse as the USA, the EU, Israel/Palestine, the Middle East and South Asia.

His angle on the walls is balanced, yet he does occasionally introduce provocative and challenging questions. For example, he introduces the chapter on the USA with this quotation from Janet Napolitano, former US Secretary of Homeland Security: ‘Show me a 50-foot wall and I’ll show you a 51-foot ladder’.

In his first sentence about China, he observes that ‘Chinese Emperors have always struggled to unite their disparate and divided fiefdoms into a unitary whole’. In his USA section, he points out that ‘the US-Mexico border has long been a troublesome one’.

That historical perspective throws light onto the discussion of identity politics, the rise of nationalism globally, psychological ‘walls’ and the fear of difference. Christian readers will almost certainly disagree with some of his conclusions, but he does (interestingly) end by saying that ‘The codification of human rights acknowledges that, in theory at least, humans are all created equal’ (italics added).

This books could be perfect to read with a discussion group or book club. Christians may want to read it in parallel with a book of the Bible such as Genesis, the gospel of John, or one of John’s three letters to stimulate conversation.

'Divided: Why We’re Living in an Age of Walls’ by Tim Marshall. Published in 2018 by Elliott & Thompson, 27 John Street, London, WC1N 2BX. Hardback ISBN: 978-1-78396-343-0. eBook ISBN: 978-1-78396-343-0