I live in the bible belt, as it is so affectionately called, and here in Dallas, it is tough to see how the reality of that translates into the actions of people in any way that is positive or an asset to the community at large. There are slews of examples of how that is true, and I am sure a few examples of how it isn't, but I have to say that as a believer, there is very little about my community of believers that I can be proud of that impacts the culture at large.
When we were in Colorado, we were coming down from the mountain pulling a rented pop up camper. My good friend Ben Canon was helping me get the rental back to it's owner, and as we were turning onto the street where the company was located, his wheel came off of his truck! We hit the ground, and saw the wheel spinning out of control and glazed the bumper of another car. Fortunately, that didn't happen while we were driving down the mountain! Over the next hour as we were waiting for the tow truck to pick us up in Colorado Springs, at least 10 people stopped to see if they could help, all friendly and eager. Some offered cell phones. One offered his shop around the corner. Others offered rides, car jacks, or an informed inspection of the damage.
Recently, my wife was on a walk here in Dallas with our two kids and her mom with a heart condition. She was in our neighborhood, and stepped of a curb and badly twisted her ankle. They were on the side of the road, no cell phone, and scores of people drove by without offering to help. Eventually two Hispanic ladies stopped and lent a hand.
The Samaritan is supposed to be all of us believers. We are the ones who should have hearts of compassion and the ability to both recognize a need and meet it, but here in the bible belt, while there are a few good Samaritans, I think that for the most part there are bad ones. I do realize that there are circumstances that surround our tendencies to drive on. We live in a city and watch the news, and isolated cases of violence force us to live our lives in fear, although pretty much every one of us, including myself have neither been a victim of or known someone who was a victim of a violent crime, but still many live their lives in fear that the person on the side of the road may be setting us up. So we would rather be cautious than compassionate, even if that is a mom, grandma, and two kids.
Now this is an identifier of Americans that continues to press us to make fear induced decisions that greatly affect others lives. We exhibit caution rather than compassion with the Cubans, Iraqis, the black families in South Dallas, the Hispanics in West Dallas, our neighbor with the lazy eye and a creepy demeanor, and the list goes on and on. Certainly the Good Samaritan could have let the fear overcome him and not stop to help. Culturally there was much of a divide between the Jew on the side of the road and the half blood that would eventually stop to help. That cultural divide is just as strong between the white Christian culture of Dallas and the rest of the city, but unlike the good Samaritan, we live our lives being paralyzed by what might happen, or how we might be treated, or how that person might be violent.
Another reason why we don't stop is far more sinister. It's because we are just too "busy." Our time is too important to help those who need it, so we make an excuse as to why it is just not possible to stop, say a quick prayer, and figure that someone else with time on their hands will stop. And the of course, let's dare not explore the fact that one might just be a self centered jerk and could care less about anyone else. Nope, we are good Christians.
This week, at the fellowship where I work, we are talking about suffering, and I find it almost humorous for us Americans to ever have the ability to relate to Christ's suffering, because we live our lives in such caution that we dare not allow suffering to take place. We isolate ourselves with other believers. We go for the college education and work a job that we hate so that we can pay our bills and acquire "stuff." We do not confront the injustices that exist in our backyard, much less across our planet, but we weekly attend our gatherings, have lunch with our small group, and live in ignorance of the fact that there are people truly suffering, of which we have no desire to share in. But Christ did just that. The foundations of the Church were built with blood, but we consider a bad economy suffering, or the loss of a job, or our kids smoking weed, or living paycheck to paycheck, but this is far from suffering. This is far from the reality of the world that we live in, and that person who is on the side of the road or asleep on the sidewalk in a 100 degree day could at that moment be experiencing a great deal of suffering that we will never understand in our late model air conditioned sedan that we got a great deal on.
I know that in our beautiful cathedrals where we listen to messages intended to encourage the whole rather than challenge the chosen, it is difficult to see beyond that culture and get our hands dirty with those that Christ COMMANDED us to love and take care of. Stopping for the mom who is stranded with her two kids is a ridiculously easy way to be about that commandment, but if we can't do something as simple as that, there is no way that we can be able to connect with God's suffering over the status of the world today, and truly make a difference in the lives of those who are victims of the things that we see on the news.