If Jesus’ parable is an extended metaphor for a life of mercy—if we are to treat those suffering souls whom chance has thrown in our way as if they were people among whom we live—then we have taken the wheels off that metaphor’s vehicle. If you do not really have neighbors, how can you understand Jesus’ command to be a neighbor to others? You have to disembody it, etherealize it into a manifesto of general benevolence and almsgiving (perhaps of the political variety, whereby you stoutly sacrifice the alms of other people). Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, and you hear a call to be kind to your friends and to give to the United Way.Esolen examines how the difference in neighborhoods has changed the way we understand the parable - not for the better. As we are on the lagging end of the cultural shift to few children and community isolation, it was especially poignant for me to note that we too, with four - now five if the court grants permanent guardianship - children are yet far from the neighborhoods of my childhood.
But before I come to how I think that parable must be understood, I should vindicate myself and my family just a bit, and in so doing point out a few reasons why neighborhood life in America is past. You see, my wife and I are not by nature sullen or withdrawn or suspicious. We live in a suburb of Providence, Rhode Island, but we have begun to spend summers in a small home in an old fishing village, called West Arichat, on the coast of Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia. In that village, after only a few weeks, we have met more people—have been in their homes, have eaten with them—than we have in eight years in our place in the States.
Great site. New bookmark.