Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Samaritans of Our Day

This re-imagining of The Good Samaritan story is dedicated to my brothers and sisters in Christ of Rutherford County, Tennessee. It is worth remembering that Jesus told the original story to people who hated Samaritans... and Jesus made the Samaritan the hero. There is nothing new under the sun.

Some Christians of Murfreesboro, TN asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?"

Jesus replied with a story:

"A man was going down from Nashville to Chattanooga, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.

A politician, on his way to a political rally, saw him and was moved to help him. But as he looked about, he became afraid that this would be mis-perceived as an act of social justice. It might cause his constituents to believe he was a man of his party in name only; so he passed on the other side.

So too a Christian radio host, when he came to the place and saw him, considered helping. However, he always believed that individualism should rule the day. The man will be stronger one day if he picks himself up now. He was also hesitant since the man looked like a foreigner. So the radio man also passed on the other side.

But a Muslim, as he traveled to Mosque, came to where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds. Then he took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he gave money to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

"Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The crowd of Christians replied, "The one who had mercy on him."

Jesus told them, "Go and do likewise."


Eruesso said...

Great post!

Andrew said...

Thanks Eruesso!

When I mentioned this idea to a Christian the other day while we were chatting about the TN Mosque issue, he said, "I just remembered that since you are a teacher, you are pretty much required to hate your own culture and civilization."

So my story is just born out of my hate for my own culture it seems. :)

Redlefty said...

Very good!

And I know what you mean about teachers -- it seems that at this point in my journey I have grace for everyone except the people who are exactly where I was a few years ago. I have more patience and grace for a murderer than I do for the fundamentalists at my own church.

Andrew said...

I hear ya. My ire comes up quickly for those who use God to condemn every group but their own. I sometimes try to comfort myself with the fact that Jesus was not always patient with the religious asses of his day, but somehow that doesn't seem to cut it. :)

Mystical Seeker said...

I really like that retelling of the Good Samaritan story.

Steve B said...

Andy, I recognize that remark you quoted about how 'one's being a teacher requires one to hate one's own culture and civilization' as coming from myself. Cute. I don't remember the context anymore in which I said it, didn't remember it being specifically about the mosque in Tennessee or wherever the hell it is, but I do remember you getting super-pissed in response and saying that I should get a radio show, because I could 'out-Beck Beck'. Ha ha ha. That was hilarious. But - if you are indeed quoting me - and I believe you are, unless someone else told you the exact same thing - let me just say, that was a bit of a joke, there. I wasn't saying that you hate our country or culture or whatever, just that you seem to look to criticize it first. So I hope you didn't take it too seriously. Although, now it seems that you have embraced that sentiment, actually. Whatever.

One little quibble: you identify me as a 'Christian' in your remark, and so make me sound like some typical, bitter, Bible-thumping Evangelical of the sort you frequently complain of. As it is, however, I could pretty much count on two hands the number of times I have attended church on Sunday in the past ten years (if I had seven fingers on each hand, I guess). Anyway... since I am rather rusty, in a spiritual sense, or rather, just in a plain, hypocritical religious sense, and since I haven't read much of my Bible lately, I was wondering could you clarify something for me? When Jesus originally told this story in the gospel, had a group of Samaritans recently hijacked a couple 757 airliners and parked them in a Jewish Temple? What I wonder, is it that we hate Muslims because they are simply different from us, or do we fear and distrust them due to the fact that in not-too-distant-history, a(n admittedly small) group of them tried to kill us ? Also, is the comparison of Samaritans to Muslims really apt? The relationship between modern-day Christians and Muslims does not really seem comparable; a more apropriate modern parallel is really that of Catholics versus Protestants, if you ask me.

Andrew said...

Steve - One point of correction, I was never "super pissed". I think we all have a tendency to project emotions when reading the responses of another. However, unless the person states their emotional reaction, we are just presuming.

I have always wondered if, in a way, Jesus stories were kind of pointless. It seems one would need a certain empathy or insight for his stories to have any meaning or usefulness. If one had that, did one really need the story? If one didn't, would the story mean anything? I kinda wonder if Jesus was doomed to always be preaching to the choir.

Steve B said...

I don't think the story is pointless, it's one of the more memorable parts of the New Testament, and everyone knows what a 'Good Samaritan' is, so I would say it's probably had some effect over the past two thousand years. I do think, however, that you are misapplying the parable a bit here. Yes, the story of the good Samaritan has a basic point that people can transcend cultural or religious boundaries and that those whom we consider our 'enemies' can turn out to be good people, but the Muslims are not quite to us what the Samaritans were to the Jews. Both the Jews and Samaritans claimed to be the same thing; they each claimed to be the heirs of the 'true' Jewish religion, while there are more significant differences between American evangelicals and Muslims. And the reality is that we are actually fiercer in our disapproval or condemnation to those who are closer to us. Therefore, for example, you, Andy, are much more censorious towards Evangelicals whom you feel are misapplying the religious beliefs which you share, rather than of Muslims who believe largely different things. The relationships of the differing sects of Christians is more analogous here, I think, rather than that of Christians to Muslims.

I don't think Muslims are all that hated here in this country. There would be less discomfort with them here if a group of them hadn't perpetrated the most horrific, barbarous attack ever made on this country in recent history. I think the people in Tennessee were acting more out of mere provincialism and ignorance, rather than any deep religious hatred. And I'm sorry, but I think some amount of suspicion is justified, in light of events not only in the not-too-distant past, but also over the broader course of history.

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