Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sunday school is in session: Republicans and the Good Samaritan

Posted By on Sun, Jul 15, 2012 at 5:00 AM

TODAYS LESSON: The Good Samaritan, as told in Luke.
  • Wikipedia
  • TODAY'S LESSON: The Good Samaritan, as told in Luke.
Can't resist some religio-political commentary this morning.

I'd be the first to admit I'm unqualified.

I grew up in the Methodist Church. I transferred my letter, as they say in the trade, to Westover Hills Presbyterian Church after I married. My wife was raised in that church. I had about as close as you could ever come to an altar-call-moment in the Presbyterian Church there one Sunday after hearing some fiery social gospel from Preacher Dick Hardie, whose march in Selma during the bad old days was by no means his only witness to social justice. You can still find me there at least every Easter if I can finish the newspapers and get the grocery shopping done.

My wife has long joked that they must not have taught much Bible in Methodist Sunday school, so paltry was my Biblical knowledge. It's true. My mind was always somewhere it shouldn't have been during Sunday school, church, MYF meetings and other regular stops at church, including Wednesday night potlucks or the Friday night meetings of the church-sponsored Scout troop, led by several stalwarts of the administrative board. Which is to say we prayed as well as saluting the flag at opening ceremonies.

I did love the hymns. Then and now, they lift me. I hope they'll carry my ashes out to "Mighty Fortress" or "God of Grace and God of Glory." The one Bible lesson that hung with me I owe to a children's hymn Mr. Kramer drilled into the First Methodist Junior Choir for performance at our annual Sunday service command performance. It was about the Good Samaritan, "an outcast and a hated man, who loved his God and his neighbor, too, because that's what Jesus wanted us to do." I can still sing the little song about the man walking from Jerusalem to Jericho, attacked by thieves and left for dead. Would no one help? Not the priest. Not the Levite, who passed by "stern and stony-eyed" with "quickened stride." But, yes indeed there was hope, the Samaritan.

Well, I got a lesson about the Samaritan this week from some leading politicians via 140-character dispatches on Twitter. Even accounting for the limitations of the form and the fact that a certain jocularity and political swordsmanship attended the back-and-forth, I was a little, well, taken aback. Perhaps I make too much of it. But I thought it ended up revealing a little bit about the central issue in government today, particularly the fight over health care. Do we all share a responsibility for the injured lying along the roadside, or does the parable say something else?

JOHNNY KEY: Help went to someone who didnt ask to be beaten.
  • JOHNNY KEY: Help went to someone who didn't ask to be beaten.
This is how it went. Republican Sen. Johnny Key of Mountain Home took to Twitter to lament that taxpayers had to pay for medical care for jail inmates who'd done stupid things. Relevant background: Key and his family make a good income courtesy of taxpayer dollars that flow to the Open Arms and Noah's Ark pre-schools, establishments that included Bible instruction until a group questioned the commingling of government dollars with religious instruction.

Key's Tweets:

And taxpayers have to pay for this idiocy. “@BXSO1: Two inmates in hospital serious condition after drinking bleach from cleaning cart.”

Since @ArkansasBlog liked last one so much, Baxter Co inmate had other inmate to stomp his arm, break it. Taxpayers pd for that idiocy too.

My smart-alecky interjection between Tweet 1 and 2:

@SenatorJKey Y'all ever cover the story about the Good Samaritan in your taxpayer financed pre-school's Bible studies?

Key's rejoinder:

@ArkansasBlog The victim in Good Samaritan didn't ask for his beating, and Good Samaritan paid out of his pocket, not taxpayers.

MARK DARR: Samaritan didnt tap anyone else for bucks.
  • MARK DARR: Samaritan didn't tap anyone else for bucks.
This tit-for-tat roused Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, another of the Republicans who often use religious witnessing as a core part of their campaigning.

yes. actually the good Samaritan paid 4 the mans care out of his pocket. He didn't pull $$ out of someone else's

Digging deep into my well of Biblical knowledge, I changed direction:

How about that Golden Rule thing? Does it have an only-if-they're-able-to-pay-me-back-in-kind clause?

Darr changed gears, too, Swiftboating me by attacking my presumed strength:

I'm just asking if you reference a Bible story get it accurate. But that would be journalism.

There's more, but enough.

I stick with my Methodist memory. The parable in Luke is about a shared responsibility for all those in need. Even those who might be liable for their own injuries. Not: "Hey, if somebody else wants to pick up the check, that's their business. I'm with the Levite."

Thus endeth the reading from Luke 10:30-37. (I bet Prof. Lindsey would also encourage you to begin a few verses earlier, with the Great Commandment in 25-29.)

COINCIDENCE: Conservative columnist Ross Douthat writes in NY Times today about the death of liberal Christianity.

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