“But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.”
Wednesday, 21 October 2020
With the arrival of the Samaritan, we see the religious, social and cultural outsider. In our day he would be any of a number of people frequently hated or feared for who or what they are: the illegal immigrant, the atheist, the homosexual, the feminist, the political enemy, etc. – take your pick according to your favourite prejudice.
In his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Francis’ language is interesting. Though he uses lots of theological and scriptural references, he speaks two ‘languages’ at once – secular philosophy and political theory, as well as the ‘God-talk’ one expects. Though he seldom references the former one can feel that he is acknowledging that the voice of the non-religious ‘outsider’ has something to say. Indeed, by juxtaposing this language with theology he is in effect proposing that we are speaking of the same thing, just in different languages.
I would go further and suggest that he thinks these secular voices, or voices from other faiths, are in their way speaking God’s word to us, particularly when religious people seem unable or unwilling to hear God’s call to justice speaking through their own faith.
This should not surprise us. Do we really imagine that God only speaks to our people, in our language, according to our sets of rules and norms? Apart from being more than a little arrogant, this is precisely the thinking – whether religious or secular – that creates the climate of hatred and ‘othering’ that Francis challenges in Fratelli Tutti. It’s what is called a ‘zero-sum game’ mentality: we have all the truth, all the righteousness, and all the right to remake the world in our image. The rest – well they are wrong, probably evil and therefore a threat!