Who is your neighbor?

The Parable of the Good Samaritan:

Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind and your neighbour as yourself.”

He said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”

But he, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”

Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?”

He said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

There are a few interesting points here, although I think it is probably important to avoid being too Pharasaically pedantic in considering them. First is the confusion between who one’s neighbor is and who is not. The usual Churchian concept is that everyone is your neighbor and the Christian should be mindlessly nice to everyone. This is why Churchianity is essentially the religion of niceness that doesn’t so much preach salvation through faith or works, but through etiquette and due regard for the social mores. But if we follow the pure logic of the parable, one’s neighbor is the individual who shows mercy to you. It’s not everyone, in fact, it cannot possibly be everyone since only one of the three men was the correct answer. Second is the fact that the Samaritan had the wherewithal to help the helpless man. Third is the fact that the man was actually helpless, half-dead, to be specific.

So, this makes a few things clear. First, one clearly has a Christian duty to help the helpless. Therefore, this duty just as clearly does not apply as any sort of moral imperative to the non-Christian. Nietzsche, for one, would howl at the concept. Second, while one should offer assistance when one has the ability to do so, it’s not a blanket requirement to everyone. What would the Poor Samaritan, lacking an animal to carry the injured man, without either oil or wine for his wounds, and devoid of money to pay for an inn, been able to do for the man? And third, the parable says absolutely nothing about responding to a call for assistance, which may or may not be legitimate. It is an extrapolation, and a groundless one, to expand the Christian duty from helping the helpless to helping everyone who requests assistance.

There is a significant difference between “lying on the ground wounded and half-dead” and “standing next to a parked car, waving one’s arms”, especially given that most individuals have cell phones and are perfectly capable of summoning appropriate assistance on their own. So, while one can do so for a variety of reasons, given these distinctions, I don’t think that anyone can reasonably appeal to the Parable of the Good Samaritan as a basis for criticizing John Derbyshire’s advice to young people concerning individuals of African descent in apparent distress requesting assistance.