Luke | The Good Doctor

The parable known as The Good Samaritan is so familiar to most of us that it has lost any shock value, particularly for those who have known it only as a simple morality tale. But to the first audience, a bleeding, potentially dead, body was ritually unclean, thus untouchable, and Samaritans were the despised ‘other’. The following riff on the story tries to capture its original force by naming an experience common to many women and girls. If you have a strong response to it, that’s okay. It means the story is being restored to its power.

CONTENT WARNING: Contains a description of sexual assault and the ungodly vicious words some preachers say. So if you’re not up for it, please skip this one!

But wanting to justify himself, the religiously righteous one asked Sophia, ‘And who is my neighbour?’

Sophia replied, ‘A young girl, say ten or twelve, was home alone. Her mom was at her second job, trying to cover the bills. Her dad had cleared out long ago. Knowing she was unsupervised, someone came into the house—her uncle, her mom’s boyfriend, her next-door-neighbour, it doesn’t really matter—and stripped her, and raped her, and left her for dead.

‘She was shocked, speechless, terrified; her body ached all over. But when she could move, she picked herself up and had a long, hot shower. Then she shoved the clothes she had been wearing into the trash can out back, and said nothing to anyone: for she felt ashamed.

‘Six-and-a-half weeks later, the girl developed acute stomach pain and ended up at the hospital. A doctor did a series of tests, and discovered she was pregnant. She asked the girl some gentle questions, and gradually uncovered the story of the assault.

‘Now it happened that, in that time and place, abortion was unavailable to anyone more than six weeks’ pregnant, and vigilante ‘justice’ laws were in place. Even so, the doctor tried.

‘They went to the judge, but he shook his head sternly. Ignoring the trembling child in front of him—in middle school, pregnant, with no medical insurance and whose mother already struggled to pay the bills—he gave it as his considered opinion that every child has the right to life: by which he meant the foetus. He warned them that, at six-and-a-half weeks, abortion would be a crime with serious consequences. Looking hard at the doctor, he reminded her that anyone could file a civil lawsuit against any person who helped another obtain an abortion. Then he turned his back, and walked away, and left them.

‘Next, they went to the preacher-man. He raised his eyes to heaven and quoted Psalm 139 and Jeremiah’s call narrative and ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’. He said fornication was a sin and that the girl should beg God’s forgiveness for having tempted a man; he said that abortion was murder in God’s eyes, and would lead to her eternal damnation. Then he, too, turned his back, and walked away, and left them.

‘They went to the Christian mommy-blogger. She clasped her hands ecstatically, and told them that every birth was a miracle and a gift, and that the girl should savour the opportunity. She recommended her line of wellness products for young moms; then, ignoring the girl’s flinching, laid hands on her still-flat belly and prayed a blessing over the pregnancy. Suddenly, the mommy-blogger’s Apple Watch buzzed: it was time for the live-stream. So she, too, then turned her back, and walked away, and left them.

‘Finally, the doctor reached out to trusted members of her professional network. She made a series of phone calls, and some confidential arrangements. Then she bundled the girl into her own car and drove five hours to the border. There, at a nondescript truck stop, she met an interstate colleague and a social worker. She handed them an overnight bag packed with soft new bunny pyjamas and a teddy and a toothbrush; she gave them an envelope full of cash, withdrawn from her own bank account; she entrusted the young girl to their care. Two days later, they met again at the same place; and she chauffeured the young girl, clutching her teddy and no longer pregnant, safely home to the arms of her mother.

‘Which of these—the atheist doctor, the right-wing judge, the preacher-man, the Christian mommy-blogger—was a neighbour to the young girl who fell into the hands of a predator?’

He said, ‘The one who showed her mercy.’

Sophia said to him, ‘Go now, and do likewise.’ 

Reflect: Whom do you secretly hope to convert, control, save or simply ignore? What would you need to let go of to truly assist this person? From whom would you find it difficult to receive life-giving assistance yourself?

Also – If this story has brought up something for you that you would like to talk through, as your pastor I am here to listen without judgement.


Emailed to Sanctuary 13 July 2022 © Sanctuary, 2022. Riffing on Luke 10:25-37 (Proper 10 Year C). Inspired by a conversation with Emma and an interview with Rev. Angela Williams on Beloved Journal podcast (11 September 2021, well prior to the overturning of Roe vs Wade). While this is a story, details are an amalgam of many pastoral conversations over the years and true to the experience of countless women. Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash.

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