The Good One

An apparently necessary update on a classic.

The Good One

25 On one occasion the Republican lawmakers summoned the Great Teacher to Congress in order to test him. One of them, an expert in the law, was first to speak. “Teacher,” he asked, “what are the first two commandments in the Law?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” replied the Teacher. “How do you read it?”

27 The expert answered, “‘Do not interfere with any person’s right to live as themselves;’ and, ‘Defend your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” the Teacher replied. “Go, and do likewise.”

29 But the Expert wanted to justify himself, so he asked, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply the Teacher said: “A Marine was going down from Midtown to Queens on the F Train, when he was wounded by a gunman, who took a gun from a duffle bag, opened fire, and fled, leaving the Marine half dead. 31 A Christian pastor happened to be on the same car, and when he saw the Marine, he got off at the next stop. 32 So too, an America-first patriot with a gun and a flag with a blue stripe on his baseball hat, who came onto the car and saw him, got off on the next stop. 33 But a mentally ill homeless man, as he traveled, came where the Marine was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, using his training as a medic in Iraq. Then he emptied all of the possessions from his shopping cart, put the Marine into it, and rushed him to the emergency kiosk. 35 When the ambulance arrived, the homeless man took two crumpled dollars from his sock and gave them to the medics. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I get to the hospital, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell prey to the gunman?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

The Great Teacher told him, “Go and do likewise.”

38 And the Republican lawmakers were astonished, and said, “Heartwarming: surely this was a parable about One of the Good Ones.”

But others among them said, “It was about the need for more guns on subways,” and still others said, “It means we need to do something about the mentally ill.”

39 The Great Teacher rested his head on the table. “Christ,” he sighed.

A.R. Moxon is the author of The Revisionaries, which is available in most of the usual places, and some of the unusual places, and is co-writer of Sugar Maple, a musical fiction podcast from Osiris Media which goes in your ears. He’s dancing in Chicago, down in New Orleans.