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Fri Apr 3, 2020, 10:40 AM

Good Samaritans

I generally prefer Martin Luther King's birthday, rather than the anniversary of April 4, 1968 assassination. But April of 2020 is different than most, and so I find my self both reading and listening to his last speech. There were, of course, countless men and women, children and elders, who were the foundation of the Civil Rights movement. There were the famous and the unknown. They sacrificed, too many with their lives, in an effort to make America better.

Still, King is rightfully recognized as having played a unique role in American history. While serving as the most recognized leader of the Civil Rights movement, King participated in numerous “direct actions,” often being incarcerated. He authored books and articles, and gave numerous speeches that students of social action study to this day. Among those speeches, two are known best: the August 28, 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC, and the April 3, 1968 “I See the Promised Land” speech in Memphis.

For most people these days, each of these two speeches are most familiar from highlights that have played on the news, in documentaries, and can easily found on the internet. The “Dream” speech is noted for its optimism, the “Promised Land” for being his most apocalyptic. At the end of that speech, King spoke about his own death, in terms that are haunting in the context of his death the following day.

King had been under an intense level of consistent pressure for the last year. Since his April 4, 1967 sermon at the Riverside Church in New York City, King was attacked by many “liberals” and others in the Civil Rights movement. And many of his close associates were opposed to his planned “Poor People's Campaign,” to be held in Washington, DC, in the summer of 1968. A respected US Senator had been calling for the federal government incarcerate King, calling the proposed campaign to be a dire threat to national security. All of this was on top of the years of threats from the Ku Klux Klan, and the very model of self-righteousness, J. Edgar Hoover.

Fewer people remember or re-visit the entire “Promised Land” sermon these days, though I think it is an essential message for April 4, 2020. King started by talking about his close friend Ralph Abernathy. Next, he spoke in a way that today seems to mark his place in history Then he identified his focus, saying, “The issue is injustice.”

King quotes the prophet Amos: “ 'Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” He speaks about the need for unity of purpose as a requirement for bringing about social justice. As a central requirement for social progress, King then speaks about the story of the Good Samaritan. He wasn't the first social justice advocate in the US to make reference to this story from the Gospel of Luke – most notably, William Jay the son of USSC Chief Justice John Jay, has spoken of the clergy who ignored or approved of slavery as “following the example of the priest and Levite.”

But King went further. He knew that knowledge of the oppression of the Samaritans had faded over the centuries, making the meaning of this essential parable of Jesus's difficult to put in the then-current context. So he brought it to life. He started by telling how a man, sometimes referred to as a lawyer, attempted to trick Jesus with questions. King said this man may have been trying to show that he was smarter than Jesus. But Jesus responds with a question regarding the Great Commandment.

When the lawyer then questions him about this commandment, Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan, taking place in the setting of the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. King tells of how he had told his wife that traveling that road on their visit to Israel made clear why Jesus selected this road. It was known as the “Way of Blood,” due to the numerous robberies, assaults, and murders that took place upon it.

We are all familiar with the story's basic outline. A man is injured along side of the road. A priest and then a Levite pass by, walking on te other side of the road to avoid the injured man. A third man came by, tending to the man's injuries, placed him upon his own animal for transportation, took him to an inn, paid for his stay, and promised to pay for any extra expenses when he came back. Jesus asked the lawyer which of the three men had followed the Great Commandment? The answer, of course, is the “enemy” of the injured man, the Good Samaritan.

For centuries, the most common answer to why the priest and Levite had passed by the injured man was out of the fear that attempting to help him would put them at risk. Indeed, high risk, considering the road they were on. But King went further, using some of the biting humor that was usually known only to his closest associates.

King said that maybe they were intent upon being on time for a meeting of the “Jericho Road Improvement Association.” He noted that they may have mistaken the injured man as part of a trap, and wondered, “If I stop and help this man, what will happen to me?” But, King said, the Samaritan reversed the question, and asked, “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” For that is the real question that society must answer in the most threatening of circumstances in the most dangerous of times.

I've noticed that, among my circles of family, friends, and associates, that there is an interesting dynamic. Everyone feels the weight of the anxiety and stress of this time. But none of the nurses an doctors that I know are complaining. None of them asks those requiring treatment if they are Democrats or republicans. Not one of them allows the question, “If I help them, what will happen to me?” No, they are motivated by the question, “If I do not help, what will happen to them?”

I know how much stress that having a family member on the front lines causes. I've been talking to one of my closest friends for the past 40+ years. Ted's daughter is on the front lines. I know he is mighty proud of her, but for Ted and Mary, it is a difficult time. I think about that every day, and am convinced that King woul say that they, and parents like them, have raised Good Samaritans in the truest sense.

H2O Man

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Reply Good Samaritans (Original post)
H2O Man Apr 2020 OP
MFGsunny Apr 2020 #1
H2O Man Apr 2020 #2
Docreed2003 Apr 2020 #3
H2O Man Apr 2020 #4

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 10:50 AM

1. Amen! Well said. Well recounted. Much obliged! n/t

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Response to MFGsunny (Reply #1)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 10:57 AM

2. Thank you!

think that everyone who is working these days is on that front line. I worry about kids I know that a clerks in grocery stores. That is a front line. I saw an article about the number of police officers who have the virus. It's a big front line that our society is facing.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 11:46 AM

3. Beautiful...thank you for this my friend

It's certainly stressful times for us all right now, but particularly those of us and our families who are facing this pandemic every day in our work. I appreciate all of your kind thoughts and wisdom. Stay safe!

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Response to Docreed2003 (Reply #3)

Fri Apr 3, 2020, 12:45 PM

4. Thanks!

I appreciate that!

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