Tuesday, July 17, 2007

An exposition of the parable of the ficticious ex-homophobe Nigerian archbishop

Yesterday, I parodied the parable of the Good Samaritan.

My priest told us that a scholar believes it likely that Jesus was using the three stock characters joke format that plays a prominent role in humor around the world. There's the priest, who's different from all the other Israelites. There's the Levite, who's also different. If this scholar is correct, the last stock character would normally be an Israelite, who would nonetheless react in a different and humorous way from the other two.

Jesus shakes things up a bit, and casts a Samaritan in the last role. I think he wanted to shock his audience a bit, and get them to think, who really was their neighbor. Given the racial relations between Jews and Samaritans, he probably did.

Down South during World War II, a sergeant gets a telephone call from a woman. "I would love it," she said, "if you could bring five of your soldiers to my house for Thanksgiving dinner."
"Certainly, ma'am," replied the sergeant.
"Just make sure they aren't Jews," said the woman.
"Will do," replied the sergeant. So that Thanksgiving while the woman is baking, the doorbell rings. She opens her door and, to her horror, five black soldiers are standing in front of her.
"Oh, my!" she exclaimed. "There must have been some terrible mistake!"
"Nope," said one of the soldiers. "Sergeant Greenburg never makes mistakes!"

I hypothesized in the tale of the Syro-Phoenecian woman that Jesus, incarnate as a human being, took on all our traits, including our prejudices ... and that, as humans sometimes do, he had an encounter that transformed him. He was forced to reconsider his prejudices. And in doing so, he became more fully human.

And so, there's possibly another element to the Good Samaritan. In Jesus' parable, the audience is clearly Jewish, as is the man who was beaten by robbers. His rescuer was a Samaritan. Upon waking, the Jewish man would have been forced to reexamine his prejudices also.

This was the direction I went with the parable of the ficticious ex-homophobe Nigerian archbishop (the ficticious archbishop, by the way, is Anglican). He had not previously considered the consequences of his condemnation of homosexuality. But now, he sees that his hateful words had incited an attack, the victim of which is lying at his feet. He stands condemned by his previous actions, and he chooses a different path.

Note that this ficticious archbishop doesn't necessarily come to reconsider his opinion on whether homosexuality is right or not. He comes to condemn violence against LGBT people, and to abandon hate speech. Perhaps he still believes that they should be celibate, and he has his church create programs to support those who do choose celibacy. Or perhaps he does come to think that homosexuality is a natural variation in human sexuality.

The point is, upon seeing the consequences of his actions, he comes to give up his need to be right. I once read a book on near-death experiences. Mainstream psychologists will of course be highly skeptical. However, one person described being confronted by a being of light, who showed her all the consequences of her actions that hurt another person. She felt judged, and yet not condemned.

Could this be the sort of judgment that awaits us on the last day?

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