Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Good Samaritan and the Episcopal Church

When I was a child, my grandmother use to scold me with “what you do, speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.” When I grew up and became a psychologist, her saying turned out to be very helpful. I learned if I really wanted to comprehend what a person was saying, watch what he or she did. What they said, was often too ambiguous to decode, but actions spoke louder than words, as my grandmother taught me.

Following that thought about actions, did you ever wonder why the Jews never took the action of stoning Jesus for His story of the good Samaritan? I grew up being taught that the Good Samaritan story illustrated that the Jews were to love everyone, even the hated Samaritans.

Take a look at what happened to Paul though, when he got into that subject. When a Jewish lynch mob had Paul on trial, Paul declared to them that the Spirit ordered him to: “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.” At the word “Gentile,” the listeners went nuclear: “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live!” They screamed.

They heard Paul loud and clear. Did they not hear Jesus? After all, they both were taking the Jewish religion, which for centuries had been exclusive, and making it into an inclusive religion. Or were they? Maybe the reason they did not react to Jesus’ story of the Samaritan was because He did not say what we think He said.

Jesus had just told them to love their neighbor, when someone asked “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ reply is confusing. Who was the person who needed neighborly loving? Obviously, the Jew in the ditch. One might say the Samaritan was being neighborly, but certainly not the one who needed a loving neighbor. The neighbor was in the ditch; no overturning thousands of years of tradition here. So no rock throwing on that day.

Unfortunately, today’s modernist church leaders, use this one problematical Scripture to develop an entirely new religion–the hated Samaritan became a brother, ergo, all men are brothers–ergo, the universal love of all humankind.

Universality though, is not in that story, otherwise Jesus might not have made it to the end of that day.

What other evidence do we have that Jesus never taught the brotherhood of man? After three years of sitting under His teaching, if Jesus had taught all men are brothers, why did the disciples take so long even to decide to allow non-Jewish converts into their fellowship? After all they could observe that these converts were having the same experience that they had at Pentecost?

If they had heard a message of the brotherhood of all humankind, why did they model the church after the other secret societies with strict initiatory rites? Why not a wide open church like modern churches?

Why am I writing all this? Because the church in which I was ordained, the Episcopal Church, has been torn apart by leaders who use the Good Samaritan to support their doctrine of inclusivity. Sometimes it seems to be the only Scripture they know. They have made inclusiveness a value to pre-empt all values. In doing so, they have convinced themselves they have the high moral ground.

Yet, inclusiveness was never Biblical, not from Genesis to Jesus to Revelation.