Do you hate Samaritans? If not, one of Jesus’ most famous teachings, The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), won’t work as intended. The leverage point of the parable is that Jesus’ hearers despised their northern Samaritan neighbors, and to have one as the hero of the story was shocking. The purpose of such parables is to turn everything upside down and inside out. In fact, Jesus’ subversive goal is to disorient our entire world view so that we can reorient to the mind of Christ, the mind which sees beyond the confines of naked self interest.
“His [Jesus’] whole mission can fundamentally be seen as trying to push, tease, shock and wheedle people beyond the ‘limited analytic intellect’ of their egoic operating system into the ‘vast realm of mind’ where they will discover the resources they need to live in fearlessness, coherence and compassion – or in other words, as true human beings.” Cynthia Bourgeault in Wisdom Jesus, p. 37
Jesus spoke the parable in response to a lawyer who asked for an iron-clad definition of who qualifies as a neighbor. Unless you hate Samaritans, however, Jesus’ response is unlikely to evoke its intended visceral reaction, which is necessary to short-circuit the egoic mind. So, what’s a non-hater of Samaritans to do? If I may be so bold to suggest, we can try to update the characters so that they push our buttons and push us beyond our normal thinking. Here’s my update of the story:
An African-American gay activist leaves a local bar late one Saturday night. A couple of skinheads beat him and leave him for dead. A couple of regular churchgoers see the beating and take a step closer until one of the perpetrators wields a weapon, and they wisely run for safety. A few moments later, an overworked Latina social worker hears the man moaning in the dark alley and assumes it’s one of the city’s countless homeless whom she spends virtually every waking moment assisting. On this, her one free night a month from the responsibility of work and children, she simply has not the energy to deal with it and walks on by. A few moments later, Former Vice President Dick Cheney, in town for a political fundraiser, passes by and catches sight of the man out of the corner of his eye. He orders his driver to stop. He and the driver get out and take the man to Cheney’s personal physician who always travels with him. Dick Cheney provides the gay African-American activist, who has no health insurance, with all the financial and medical support he needs to heal and get back to work with the proviso that the man tell no one who has helped him.
What reaction do you notice in your gut? This is my take on updating the story. How would you modify it to create a visceral reaction so that you get the parable and so that it gets to you?