When the "Other" is my Neighbor
The parable of the Good Samaritan is offered, by Jesus, in answer to the question "who is my neighbor." In the parable, Jesus elevates the despised Samaritan (the "other") as one who acts as neighbor (Luke :10-25-37). Christians like this parable, and yet I think that too often we miss the point. We do so because we don't understand the context, we don't see it as a challenge to our "homogeneous" vision of neighbor.
There is growing concern among portions of the American population, as well as in Western Europe, that the "Other" could take over. Census reports tell us that in the United States, before too long, we will be a "minority majority" country. We're already moving toward the time when no ethnic/cultural group can claim majority status, and that has people worried, especially white people. Only 22% of White Americans think this is a good thing. There is, it appears deep ambivalence and even fear.
While nativism has long been with us, the object of this fear-mongering is no longer immigrant Catholics from Ireland or Southern Europe. Now it's the growing Latino population, as well as a growing Muslim population. We see on a regular basis people raising concerns about "sharia" being imposed on America or fears of terrorists lurking under every rock -- the NYPD is busy profiling Muslims, not just in New York but across the country. We see it in the way that President Obama is being portrayed in conservative circles as the "other," even as a secret Muslim.
Of course there are political dimensions. It appears that one party is trying to tap into this white "angst" to gain power, while the other party is hoping to keep just enough white votes to go with the growing population of non-white Americans.
As we try to live together as neighbors, how do we receive the other as our neighbor? How then will we, as the Law commands, love our neighbor as we love ourselves? How will we express the desire to pursue the common good?