The story of the Good Samaritan made me realize that mental self-care requires that we do occasional attitude checks to see if we’re harming ourselves (and others) by our firmly held beliefs.
My name is Anita, and I’m a bigot. Let me explain.
The Good Samaritan wouldn’t let me go to Bible study this morning. Before heading over to fellowship with a group of Christians, I sat down to study the Bible on my own.
The scholar (Luke 10:25-37) had just shown up to test Jesus’ understanding of the law. And the traditions—those traditions that had started to have more importance than the Ten Commandments.
Warning. What I write next might make you angry or uncomfortable. As a Christian who struggles daily to love God and to love my neighbors as myself, I struggle with loving people who think differently from me sometimes, too.
Yes, marketing. I enjoy listening to Donald Miller’s Story Brand podcasts. While the main message of his podcasts deals with successful marketing, he always interviews fascinating people. I listen to them while I train for a half-marathon, so I can’t remember which episode I heard this on, but it struck me as so important for us to remember in today’s hotbed of political contention.
According to Donald Miller, people will vote for the person with the best slogan, not the person with the best morals. It’s a marketing thing.
If the slogan sounds great and resonates with people, we’ll latch on to the candidate and imbue that person with OUR standards and OUR morals and blithely ignore all evidence that proves otherwise.
We don’t do this because of stupidity or ignorance—we do it because of consensual validation. We ALL want America to be great. Fourth of July celebrations everywhere testify to our love of country and what it stands for: Freedom to live according to our own convictions.
Unfortunately, we run into problems when other people’s convictions clash with ours.
We stagnate in the moral development stage of black-and-white thinking and subconsciously group everyone into two categories. People who think/look/act like me and people who don’t.
I do it all the time. The other day I walked my daughter’s very energetic, very in-heat, Alaskan Shepherd past a house we jokingly refer to as the “Weed House” (and not because of the unkempt state of the lawn). A pit bull puppy ran out of the yard and started sniffing around Eira.
Pot and Pit Bulls
“Get over here, Peanut!” the owner demanded. The puppy ignored him, and within seconds a second puppy had joined the tangle of yipping, excited dogs at my feet. The mama pit bull stalked to the edge of the lawn.
Pit bulls freak me out. I’ve read stories about pit bulls eating their owners. I have evidence that pit bulls are bad dogs. But one of my high school classmates loves pit bulls. She passionately advocates for them and has participated in pit bull rescue missions.
The dueling information about pit bulls raced through my head as the worst-case scenarios thundered in my ears. Picking up Eira and running (she weighs 50 lbs or so) might make things worse if the pit bull mama had a strong prey drive. Screaming for the owner to do something might trigger the her to go into full protection mode, resulting in my demise.
The owner rushed out and tried to scoop up the puppies without losing the joint gripped between his fingers. The acrid smell of marijuana smoke wafted around me and the episode from Monk and the “fields of reefer” references brought a hysterical giggle burbling up my throat.
“I’m so sorry, Ma’am,” the pit bull owner said as he hauled his puppies back to his yard. “Sorry we disturbed your walk.”
“It’s o.k.,” I assured him as I tried to bring Eira back under control without having my arm ripped out of its socket from the force of her lunges. The mama pit bull kept a wary eye on us as we struggled down the road.
I had misjudged the homeowner. Despite the piles of broken appliances on his front porch and his nightly joint, he acted kindly in a tense situation.
I confess that because we appear to have little in common, I assumed that he would react differently. In fact, visions of him reaching for his rifle and taking potshots at my feet to hurry me along had danced through my head.
Sometimes, the Good Samaritan has a bushy beard, wears plaid shirts, owns pit bulls, and tokes up every evening.
Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan to make an important point—one we easily overlook in today’s contentious political climate.
God wants us to see the humanity in each other—the things that make us the same, not the things that make us different. He wants us to think and act outside our comfort zones.
If Jesus told the same story today, would it sound something like this?
The Good Samaritan
An evangelical Christian was driving through south Texas when his car ran out of gas. The sun beat down, and car after car passed him by, kicking up clouds of dirt. Finally, a car pulled over, “Looks like you need some gas,” the driver called out through the open passenger window.
“Hop in the back,” the driver said, nodding to his other passengers, “we’ll take you to the nearest gas station.”
The Christian felt relief that someone had stopped to help him. God answers prayers. The kind trio of strangers not only took him to a gas station, they drove him back to his car.
“Here’s twenty for your trouble,” the Christian said, holding out a crisp bill.
The kind strangers grabbed the money, knocked him over the head with a tire iron, stole his phone, watch, wallet, and shoes, and drove off with his car.
Ten minutes later, a prominent evangelical author and radio personality drove by. He looked at the tattered man lying beside the road and shook his head at the man’s unhealthy lifestyle that brought him to these circumstances. He edged his car towards the other side of the road and shrugged. “If that man had just stayed in school and learned to read and write,” he opined, “this never would have happened to him.”
An hour later, the elder of the local church drove by. His red cap tilted at a jaunty angle as he whistled the national anthem. Things were going well—his government had passed more laws to take care of the disgraceful debacle at the border, and he would celebrate tonight with his fellow Christians at prayer meeting.
The elder glanced out the window as he zoomed past the man. “Disgraceful,” he thought. “Once we close our borders, we’ll cut off the drug supplies and we won’t have to deal with addicts and losers lying beside our roads anymore.”
As the sun started to set, a dilapidated car with a missing muffler pulled over to the side of the road.
Love Drives a Beater
“Qúe haces, Papi?” a middle-aged woman asked, fear infusing her voice with unusual sharpness. “We can’t stop here, it’s not safe.”
“Cálmate,” the man replied. “I see something next to the road. It looks like a body.”
“But if la migra happens to drive by…” the woman’s voice trailed off as the man got out and hurried to the side of the road.
“¡Todavia viva! Grab a bottle of water, Mami, and the blanket from the back of the car. I think we can move him into the back seat.”
Together the couple worked to wash the blood off the man’s head and clean him up before rolling him onto the blanket and carrying him to the car. The man remained senseless throughout the operation.
“Papi,” the woman said, “this man better not die. I’ve seen those crime shows, and they’ll blame us.”
“It’s what El Señor wants us to do, Mami. Take care of those who are worse off than ourselves. Look at this poor man. He doesn’t even have shoes!”
Once they had loaded the man up, they drove to the next town and found an inexpensive hotel. The owner, an immigrant from India, listened to the couple’s story of finding the man beside the road.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine in the morning,” the rescuer assured the owner. Here’s money to pay for a few night’s stay, a clean set of clothing, and a pair of shoes.”
“What if he needs medical attention?” the owner asked.
“I’ve heard that hospitals have to take patients, even if they can’t pay,” the rescuer assured him. “Maybe he’ll wake up soon and can tell you his name. Díos le bendiga. We need to keep moving.”
Which of These?
And then Jesus might ask, “Which of these three people made America great again?”Jesus might ask, "Which of these three people made America great again?" #Christian Click To Tweet
But Jesus isn’t around retelling the story of the Good Samaritan. That story remains firmly entrenched in the Biblical lexicon—begging for us to pray, ponder, and study it over and over again.
I find a disingenuous dilemma in the last word of the slogan ‘Make America Great Again.’ For over two hundred years we’ve believed a narrative about our history that skates close to the edge of white supremacy. White makes right, and might makes right.
As a nation, we have shamefully treated the indigenous people who lived here long before we did. Did you know that White settlers rounded up baptized Natives and locked them in a church? And while the Natives prayed inside, the Christians on the outside set the church on fire.
I used to think Catholics were horrible people because of what they did during the Inquisition. Now, I think we all have the capacity for horrible hatred and acts of violence.We all have the capacity for horrible hatred and acts of violence. #Christian Click To Tweet
Another Good Samaritan
I heard a story from one of my professors in a history class about something that happened in Oklahoma during the land rush.
The Natives, forced from their homes in the South, traveling with only the belongings they could carry, had rebuilt their lives in Oklahoma. One family built a replica of their log cabin back in Georgia and did their best to farm the not-so-fertile land.
Then the government bowed to political pressure and opened Oklahoma for white settlers.
A settler, his small children, and his very pregnant wife came through, looking for land. They set up camp not far from the cabin, and the woman went into labor.
Her cries alerted the landowners to the settlers’ presence, and the Native family went to investigate. Upon seeing the woman’s condition, the Native family returned to their home, gathered some personal belongings, and made camp away from the cabin.
The husband urged the settler to take his wife and family to the cabin and stay as long as he needed.
Sometimes, the Good Samaritan lives in a log cabin, has no rights, speaks a second language, and has dark skin.Sometimes, the Good Samaritan lives in a log cabin, has no rights, speaks a second language, and has dark skin. Click To Tweet
Great for the First Time
I recently read Gilbert King’s Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America. Do this: read the book and tell me that we as a nation have to ‘make America great AGAIN.’
I say we need to make America great—for the first time.
If we want to create a great country, we need to start applying the words and actions of Jesus to the way we interact and react to the least of these.
God doesn’t promise to judge us on how we treated our fellow middle-class Caucasian Christians. His standard involves how we treat the ‘least of these’ (Matthew 25:31-46).
When is the last time you had contact with someone on the ‘least of these’ list?
- The hungry (not just the tidy visitor who shows up for church)
- The thirsty
- The stranger and the strange (people who don’t look and act like you)
- The destitute
- The ill (physical and mental)
We like to whitewash the list and pat ourselves on the back when we assist people just like us who fall into the ‘least of these’ categories because of misfortune or a fall from grace. But if someone with a different skin tone or language has one of those problems, we recoil.
God calls us to act as his hands and feet. He wants us to reach out to the foreigners in our midst; to care for the orphans and widows. God doesn’t call us to a gospel of prosperity. He calls us to a gospel of love in action.
Mental Self-Care and Attitude Inventory
As Christians, we need to inventory our attitudes on a continual basis. We need to fight against falling into the rut of consensual validation and seek Christ’s validation.We need to fight against the rut of consensual validation and seek Christ's validation alone. #selfcare #SelfCareSunday #socialjustice Click To Tweet
Jesus didn’t call us to preach the gospel just to people who look, act, think, and smell like us. He asked us to preach the gospel to all nations (Mark 13:10, Mark 16:15). And that means living out the gospel in our lives as it concerns all people—even people from other countries.
I have to constantly filter my opinions and attitudes about politics and politicians. Looking beyond the slogans and soundbites and asking deep questions doesn’t come naturally to me.
But if I don’t do the hard work, the attitude inventory, and the heart work, I’ll fail miserably at the one task Jesus gave me to do. Living my love for Jesus by showing my love for my neighbor. I struggle on a daily basis against bigotry (and my blindness to my condition).