We Are Not Good Samaritans: A Familiar Tale Re-visited
Last Name Yi
Terminal Degree(s) PhD
Title/Position Associate Professor
Institution/Organization Loma Linda University
Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is a well-known story that has influenced the development of Western medicine and its altruistic ideals. A traveler encounters a robbed and injured man on the side of the road, and unlike the religious leaders who callously pass him by, compassionately cares for the man, binding his wounds, transporting him to shelter, and paying for his further care. The story, as it is commonly interpreted, presents the Samaritan as a moral exemplar, one to be emulated by the physician/nurse/pastor. As influential and powerful as this reading is, I will problematize the care provider as Good Samaritan analogy as being overly simplistic, moralistic, and inaccurate. Rather than reading one’s self into the story as the hero, I present alternate possibilities that position the contemporary caregiver as different characters in the story—the religious leader(s) who pass the wounded man by, the wounded man cared for by others, and as the innkeeper paid by others to tend to the injured man. Such readings, I argue, engender ethical humility, deep compassion, and responsibility and are actually more congruent with the story’s wider literary and theological context.