Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Won’t you beeeeeee, my neighbor.

Obviously I’m a day late and a dollar short on commenting on this story, but whatever.

Seems Howard Dean was in Iowa Sunday and was castigated by an old man for being surly and rude. The man, a Republican retiree named Dale Ungerer said Dean (and the rest of the Democratic candidates, for that matter) ought to quit attacking Bush and each other.
[…] Ungerer, wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "Mr Fix It," rose to his feet and condemned what he called the incivility of the campaign and the political press. He suggested Dean and the other Democratic candidates stop "tearing down your neighbor" and cut their "slam, bam and bash Bush" rhetoric.

"Please tone down the garbage, the mean-mouthing of tearing down your neighbor and being so pompous," Ungerer, a registered Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, said to scattered hisses and boos from the overwhelmingly pro-Dean audience at the Oelwein Community Center.

Dean, whose rivals have suggested his impulsiveness, outspokenness and temperament make him less than ready for the White House but have been unable to provoke him in a dozen or more debates and forums, began by calmly replying: "George Bush is not my neighbor." […]
Mr. Ungerer begged to differ, which seemed to light off Dean’s burner and demonstrate to the audience exactly what he had been accused of. And then there is this strange quote-
[…] "It's not the time to put up any of this 'love thy neighbor' stuff ... I love my neighbor, but I'll tell you I want THAT neighbor back in Crawford, Texas where he belongs." […]
I say it’s strange, because this is the same Dean who came swinging through here not long ago saying how religious he is, and how he wanted to let us folks down South know what a pious feller he was.

I’m sure he thinks he is, but I fear the only religious people who are going to be enthused by his theology are the ones who believe God is a cross between FDR and Whoopi Goldberg, that Jesus is like the really cool guy you know who you can trust to hold your stash without smoking it all up, and who think the kingdom of Heaven is run like the local zoning board of adjustment. Although there are probably a good many who share his view, not a lot of them live around here.

Further, the story behind all that “’love thy neighbor’ stuff,” whether Dr. Dean likes it or not, is one of kindness and compassion for your fellow man, despite any earthly differences that may separate you. Seems that there are an awful lot of Democrats out there who think such ideals are their sole province, which makes Dean’s response seem, well, un-Democratic, and much more like those filthy Republicans. Odd that a physician would so lightly disregard a lesson from the Great Physician, but then again, Jesus isn’t a caucus delegate.

Anyway, according to Luke’s gospel, what happened is that a man who knew his Scripture (and wanted to test Jesus) stood up and asked Jesus to tell him what he needed to do to have life everlasting. Jesus asked him what the Scripture said, and the lawyer said that you were supposed to love God and love your neighbor, which is exactly right. But the lawyer thought he had him with that nigglingly imprecise word “neighbor,” and asked Jesus to explain exactly who his neighbor is--probably thinking that he could figure all kinds of ways to trap Jesus with whatever he said.

Jesus then told them of a story of man who got robbed, beaten and left for dead. A priest passed by without helping him, then a Levite (a man of the priestly tribe) passed by without helping the man. Then along came a Samaritan, who felt compassion on the beaten man, put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and paid for his medical care, and promised to pay any other costs that might accrue between then and the time he got back from his business trip. Jesus asked the lawyer who was the man’s neighbor in that scenario.
36 Which of these three, thinkest thou, proved neighbor unto him that fell among the robbers?
37 And he said, He that showed mercy on him. And Jesus said unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
Some things to consider--the Samaritans were despised by the Hebrews of that day, and were regarded as little more than dogs. The men who refused to help the robbed man were of his own people, and further, were religious leaders who should have known better. To have someone so reviled behave in such a way would probably have seemed incredible to some who heard it, but to make it hit even closer to home, some believe that since Jesus said that this was a “certain man” and “a certain priest” and “a certain Samaritan” that this was no simple parable, but an actual event that was well known to the audience. The shame of not helping, compounded by the shame of who did help. And if it were an actual event, it certainly would have been much harder for his lawyer interlocutor to simply dismiss it as a hypothetical.

In any event, there are a good many folks who take that “love thy neighbor stuff” seriously. If Dean wants their votes, it might be worth it for him to remember that.

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