Fraser takes issue with the way charities like Samaritan's Purse spin Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan.
Don't dismiss this as an intramural, parochial squabble affecting only Christians. Samaritan's Purse is run by Franklin Graham, who, as Fraser points out, was "chosen by George Bush to deliver the prayers at his presidential inauguration."
In his address at that same ceremony, the new president invoked the parable of the Good Samaritan as part of his description of what it means to be a "compassionate conservative," and of his intended agenda for the next four years:
And I can pledge our nation to a goal: When we see that wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not pass to the other side.
Fraser believes — as I do — that both Graham and Bush are misinterpreting this parable, and that their exegetical problems are producing real, and sometimes disastrous, consequences:
Jesus is asked: "Who is my neighbour?" The moral of the story he tells in response — at least the one most people remember from Sunday school — is that it is the man who is beaten up and left for dead that Jesus points to as our neighbour. Conclusion: we must help those in need.But that's not the story at all. A man is mugged in the Wadi Qelt between Jerusalem and Jericho. Whereas the religious pass by and do nothing, it is the Samaritan who offers care. Those listening to the story would have despised Samaritans. The words "good" and "Samaritan" just didn't go together. Indeed, theirs would have been the General Boykin reaction: that Samaritans worshipped the idol of a false god. Therefore, in casting the Samaritan as the only passer-by with compassion, Jesus is making an all-out assault on the prejudices of his listeners.
If the story was just about helping the needy, whoever they are, it would have been sufficient to cast the Samaritan as the victim and a Jewish layperson as the person who helped. Crucially, however, the hated Samaritan is held up as the moral exemplar. Conclusion: we must overcome religious bigotry.
The story of the good Samaritan, in the hands of Franklin Graham, is conscripted as propaganda for the superiority of Christian compassion to the brutal indifference of other religions — almost the opposite of the purpose of the story.