Some right leaning Christian politicians and commentators were not satisfied when a wise man told them you should love your neighbour as yourself. “And who is my neighbour,” they asked. The wise man replied:
A conservative Member of Parliament was walking back home from church and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, and then began beating him to within an inch of his life. Now it happened that a fellow conservative was travelling nearby, but when he saw the man and the brigands he pretended as if not to see and drove straight by. Then another devout church-goer came upon the commotion, but he too ‘turned the other cheek’ and continued on his way. But a Muslim man – a doctor – who came upon the scene was moved with compassion. He stopped his car causing the brigands to flee. He then took out his First Aid kit and proceeded to bandage the man’s wounds, comforting him with words of kindness. He then gently lifted the man into his car, laid him on the back seat, and took him to a nearby hospital. “Look after him,” he said to the medical registrar; “he has received an awful beating. I will stop by tomorrow to see if he is alright.”
“Which of these three do you think proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?” asked the wise man. “The one who took pity on him,” they replied. “Go and do the same yourself.”
The parable of the Good Samaritan is far more than a nice story about human kindness. Rather, it is a sobering challenge to people who should know better: our lives must not be governed by the cultural or religious constraints of our peers – of “my tribe”; of “my nation”.
In today’s fractured political and social climate we must be very wary of fear-mongers who invoke tribalism. Such leadership only provides fertile ground for brigands and cowards. Citizens start to feel threatened and panic sets in as people compete for a dominant identity: it us versus them, me versus you.
Not One Nation, but rather a divided nation.
Peter Day is a Catholic Priest in Canberra.