Anti-Christian Bigotry has Poisoned our Civic Discourse
Much of the power of the parable of the Good Samaritan stems from the fact that, at the time of Jesus, the Samaritans and the Jews were long-time enemies. So deep did their divisions go that they typically refused to have anything to do with one another. Hence, the shock of the Samaritan woman at the well (and of Jesus’ disciples) when Jesus engaged her in conversation.
And yet, in Jesus’ parable it is not the Jewish priest, nor the Levite (also a prominent Jew) who stop to help the Jewish man who has been robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. These two callously ignore their suffering compatriot. It is the Samaritan who lovingly bandages the man’s wounds and spends his money to ensure his recovery.
Christ taught that the two great commandments are love of God, and love of neighbor. In this parable, however, and elsewhere in His ministry, Jesus clarified precisely who our neighbor is (“But I say to you, love your enemies” – Matt 5:44), as well as how we are to love our neighbors (“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” – Matt 25:35-36).
For two millennia Christians have imitated the Samaritan. Wherever Christianity has spread, networks of hospitals, orphanages, schools, food banks, homes for the elderly, leprosy and AIDS hospices, and more have sprung up, indiscriminately offering charity to anyone and everyone in need. Such charitable works are the natural and inevitable expression of what it means to be a Christian.
It is unsurprising, therefore, that in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Christian charities should be on the frontlines. However, what is surprising is that their contributions should be met not with gratitude, but with scorn and even hatred.
Samaritan’s Purse is a large evangelical Christian relief organization, run by Franklin Graham, the son of the famed preacher Billy Graham. The organization operates in some 100 countries, providing medical care and other humanitarian relief. They have an impeccable record, working in some of the hardest hit disaster spots on the globe. They famously played a central role in battling Ebola in the Congo.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Samaritan’s Purse shipped some 20 tons of medical equipment to Italy and set up a field hospital in the town of Cremona. They shipped another 17,000 pounds of medical equipment to Alaska, and set up a 68-bed field hospital in Central Park in New York City. The charity reportedly staffed the New York field hospital with some 72 doctors, nurses, and other staff, and also brought 10 ventilators with them.
When they arrived in New York, fear of Covid was at its height, with projected massive shortages of beds, ventilators, and other medical equipment. Every bed, every doctor, every ventilator, every mask was precious. And yet, despite this, Samaritan’s Purse was welcomed by New York media and politicians not with gratitude, but with suspicion, protests, and even irate demands that they leave. Mayor Bill de Blasio stated publicly that he was “very concerned” and proclaimed his intent to send staffers to “monitor” Samaritan’s Purse’s work. Media everywhere reported that the field hospital was “controversial.”
How, you might ask, could a well-equipped field hospital providing much-needed medical care be “controversial”? Well, it turns out that Franklin Graham and Samaritan’s Purse believe that marriage is between a man and a woman.
In other words, Samaritan’s Purse believes what just about everybody believed about marriage until just a few years ago. But with the rapid and astonishingly total victory of the sexual progressives, in the space of a few short years holding this belief has gone from normal to automatically rendering a person a “hater” and “bigot,” and even (it seems) is now deemed so contemptible that even accepting charity from those who believe it is considered an unacceptable cooperation in intolerance.
Despite Samaritan’s Purse’s impeccable record of providing lifesaving services to all people, without respect to race, creed, or any other characteristic, New York LGBT activists and politicians cast aspersions on the charity by suggesting that they might refuse to care for people whose viewpoints or lifestyle they disagree with.
“Group behind Central Park’s COVID-19 field hospital run by antigay evangelist,” blared the headline of NBC’s article about the arrival of the field hospital. Meanwhile, four Democratic U.S. Congressmen wrote to Mayor de Blasio expressing their “concern.” “While we in no way wish to see any reduction in capacity, even in this crisis, we must ensure all care providers and organizations are abiding by non-discrimination policies, rules and laws,” they wrote.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, one of the four, wrote bluntly on Twitter: “Hate has no place in NY.”
Turning the Parable on its Head
It is as if the parable of the Good Samaritan were turned completely on its head: as if the parable were to end, not with the Samaritan lovingly nursing the Jewish man back to health, and thereby proclaiming a message of tolerance and love, but with the Jewish man reacting with horror when he realized that the man helping him was a Samaritan, and rejecting his help in disgust, preferring to die in pain while heaping abuse on his enemy.
This is hardly the message Jesus intended to proclaim, and hardly, one would hope, the direction any of us want our culture to go. And yet, tragically, it appears that this is the state of the left, and the degree to which anti-Christian bigotry has poisoned our civic discourse. Leftists now believe that believing Christians must be completely ostracized from every aspect of society, with even their Christian “charity” – which has aided untold billions of humans through the centuries – scorned merely as a Trojan’s horse for their hateful beliefs.
Samaritan’s Purse responded to the manufactured controversy with admirable, Christian restraint. “Samaritan’s Purse treats everyone we help the same,” they said in a statement. “We do not make distinctions about an individual’s religion, race, sexual orientation, or economic status.”
But this statement wasn’t enough to appease the LGBT activists.
“It is time for Samaritan’s Purse to leave NYC,” tweeted City Council Speaker Corey Johnson a few days ago, after Samaritan’s Purse’s volunteers had spent weeks putting themselves in harm’s way to serve hundreds of New Yorkers with Covid. “Their continued presence here is an affront to our values of inclusion, and is painful for all New Yorkers who care deeply about the LGBTQ community.”
Samaritan’s Purse treated over 300 coronavirus patients at its field. Now, however, they are closing up shop. This is largely due to the diminishing number of patients. However, while originally Samaritan’s Purse was supposed to continue offering their services to the Mount Sinai Health System even after shuttering the field hospital, that arrangement has been discontinued. One journalist reported that a “source” told her that the “decision was made to sever ties after controversy over the group’s religious views on the LGBTQ community caused concerns in NY.”
“Good Riddance,” proclaimed the headline of one liberal publication.
In the Face of Hate, Carry On
An increasing number of people have begun to point out that the left has become poisoned by precisely the one vice that they decry – intolerance. Much of the left now operates according to a monolithic dogma that admits of no exceptions: either accede to every dot and tittle of progressivism or be cast out into the darkness as a heretic. Dissenters from this newly established creed are deemed ritually impure, beyond redemption.
Those four Democratic congressmen who wrote to Mayor de Blasio surely knew that without Samaritan’s Purse’s beds and doctors, more New Yorkers could very well die from Covid-19. But so sacred is their progressive sexual dogma that they were willing to run that risk, rather than have “those Christians” taking care of the sick in their city.
And yet, all around the world, it is “those Christians” who are quietly providing critical care to countless people, regardless of their race, sexual orientation, creed, or anything else. And they do so because, not in spite, of their Christian beliefs – yes, including their beliefs on marriage. They do so because it was Christ who brought to our world the revolutionary teaching that every human being – including those of our enemies who revile us even when we do good for them – is our neighbor. Every human being possesses infinite intrinsic worth, and is therefore worthy of unconditional love.
Leftists who decried Samaritan’s Purse’s presence in New York would do well to imagine a world in which Christians did not sacrifice their lives and resources in imitating the Good Samaritan: a world without the AIDS hospices run by the Catholic Church, without the homes for the elderly and homeless shelters operated by the Missionaries of Charity, without the countless schools staffed by religious and other missionaries. And on and on.
As Samaritan’s Purse puts it on their website: “After sharing the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus said ‘Go and do likewise.’ That is the mission of Samaritan’s Purse—to follow the example of Christ by helping those in need and proclaiming the hope of the Gospel.”
“Go and do likewise.” That is the Gospel imperative. This is what Samaritan’s Purse was doing in New York. It is what Christians everywhere must continue to do, regardless of the suspicion and hatred heaped on them by ideological extremists.