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Rewriting the Parable of the Good Samaritan

A Commentary By Brian C. Joondeph

In the Book of Luke, chapter 10, Jesus told the “Parable of the Good Samaritan.” Is it time for a rewrite?

This was the story of a man who was robbed, beaten and left for dead. A priest and a Levite both saw the beaten man and walked past him, crossing to the other side of the street. But the Samaritan stopped to help the injured man, attending to his wounds, bringing him to an inn, paying the innkeeper to care for the injured man until he was well.

 Jesus asked, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" And he answered his own question, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise."

 A good Samaritan, according to the Oxford Lerner’s Dictionary is, “a person who gives help and sympathy to people who need it.” They can also protect others from harm. But this parable of virtue and morality is now being rewritten, making it dangerous or criminal for anyone following Jesus’s command.

A few weeks ago, ex-Marine Daniel Penny was arrested over alleged manslaughter after restraining unruly New York City subway troublemaker Jordan Neely.

The BBC reported, “Mr. Neely, who was homeless, was pinned to the ground and restrained for several minutes on the train carriage. He had been shouting at other passengers and asking for money, witnesses said.”

The Guardian called Neely “a talented dancer” who was “remembered as kind and loving” and even “had a fan club.” What a guy. The saint of Manhattan.

 The media was hesitant to report that Neely had his own criminal record. The Daily News chronicled, “Neely has been arrested 42 times in the last 10 years, most recently in November 2021 for slugging a 67-year-old female stranger in the face as she exited a subway station. He had a history of mental illness.”

Nothing says “kind and loving” like attempting to push a subway passenger onto the tracks as Neely did the day before his own fatal altercation. How did his “fan club” react to that?

Penny also put Neely into a recovery position after restraining him. Passengers complimented Penny’s actions, making the claim from Neely’s family that the charge “should be murder” a hollow accusation. If Neely’s family helped him get the mental health care he needed, he would be alive today.

Let’s see what the jury says. After all, they too ride the “mental institution on wheels” known as the NYC subway system, and may someday need a good Samaritan like Daniel Penny to rescue them from a crazed passenger. Convicting Penny of manslaughter will criminalize self-defense and set a new norm for public transit safety in America.

St. Louis attorney Mark McCloskey and his wife learned that defending yourself and your property from a threatening mob is now illegal, while the mob of a hundred plus were given a pass.

A similar story occurred in metro Denver, at a grocery store I frequent. A local news station reported, “They thought they were doing the right thing. Instead, five employees at a King Soopers grocery store in Greenwood Village were terminated for holding a shoplifting suspect and calling the police.”

The thief used a boxcutter to steal a cell phone. The perp was also on parole with a bag of methamphetamine in his pocket. Instead of praise for stopping a shoplifter and protecting customers from potential injury by a boxcutter wielding thief, the five good Samaritans lost their jobs and livelihoods. The supermarket’s message is loud and clear – shoplifters are welcome, but not good Samaritans.

This creates the Ferguson Effect where, “Increased public scrutiny of police, usually following a police misconduct incident, leads to de-policing, which could lead to an increase in crime.” This applies not only to police but also good Samaritans who will instead sit on their hands rather than getting involved.

City Journal asks a relevant question over the subway incident, “And what would you have done?” The article claims that “There is nothing Jordan Neely did on that subway car to deserve death.” Tell that to NYC officials who let someone like this, with dozens of previous arrests and mental illness, roam free. If he was in prison or in a mental health facility, he would be alive today.

The same question can be asked for the many killed or injured by thugs on those same subways. Murders and rapes on NYC subways are at a 25-year high. What did those victims do to deserve this? Is Al Sharpton pining over their deaths as he did for Neely?

The Parable of the Good Samaritan has become a criminal act. Expect wanton crime and violence in America’s cities to increase as those wanting to do the right thing instead wisely follow the lead of the priest and Levite, crossing to the other side of the street and walking the other way.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, is a physician and writer.

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