Friday, June 19, 2015

A History of the Samaritans: A Reflection on the attack on Emanuel AME Church

A History of the Samaritans: A Reflection on the attack on Emanuel AME Church

(Please understand this is written in the same vein as “Paul’s Letter to American Christians”)

This morning I woke up, and found a first century non-sectarian scroll entitled, “A History of the Samaritans” on my kitchen table. This is the translation. If it sounds more Halversonian than Hebraic, I am to blame. The brackets are portions of the text that are missing and I have restored.

A History of the Samaritans
            After today’s [at]tack on the Samaritan Temple, it’s worth considering their history and our own.

            [Th]ey did not come here escaping Phar[aoh]—seeking a promised land. In fact, their journey here is quite the reverse. They came from the nations of the East, drug here in chains by the Assyrians after their own cities were conquered, just as the 10 northern tribes were conquered and dispersed. On that journey from there to here, that MiddlePassage, many of them died, all of them were devastated. They were placed on foreign soil so they would be away from their gods and their land, familiesspit up, nothing familiar, rendered helpless so that they might be used in the fields.
            [They soon] converted to a form of Judaism. They did this for their safety; lions were eating them and they believed these attacks were the work of the god of this land. So they called upon him in their distress and were saved. For this conversion under pressure, we called them “Lion Jews,” those Samaritans. We claim their priests are deficient, their traditions insufficient, their religion suspect. But, I wonder, if we do so out of jealousy. Essene, Sadducee, and Pharisee all agree that they are more pious than us. They lack the history and tradition going way back (though some say they too were monotheists, some even go so far as to say they too were Jewish, like us. They claim we simply didn’t listen to them when they arrived, that their otherness began with our rejection of them—rejection of our siblings of the faith), but the Spirit is with them in ways that it seems we can only pick up second hand. Perhaps many of us lack the existential level of trust in the LORD that comes from being saved from Lions and finding temple as the last safe space in a world that is rarely safe.
            [The thi]ngs we did to them in the Maccabean period, LORD, have mercy. The slightest interaction between Jew andSamaritan brought torture and death. Accusations of rape led to so many of them hanging on trees, accu[rsed.] Their temples attacked, worshippers attacked.

            [These days w]e say those strugglesare done. These days we say with Rome’s boot upon our necks, those differences are secondary. We say these things until radicals push us. Radicals like that the Pharisee, Jesus, who told stories about Samaritans, saying they and we are neighbors, and spent time with them. Then again there are rumors he and hisfollowers were Samaritans, he was from Galilee after all. They all have at least one drop of Samaritan in them, and for most that’s still enough.
            [For that] matter, we say it’s “all good” between Jew and Samaritan, but the things they say about Herod the Half Jew, our leader. The ways the Zealots talk about “taking our country back.” It’s not “all good.”
            Again, I think about the attack of yesterday. This man, flesh of my flesh, of the same faith as I, did this thing—killing those 9 Samaritans. It’s not an event that materialized out of thin air.
            Think of it. That particular templehad been attacked in the Macc[abean] period too. There is a long history of violence on our part against the Samaritans. He accused them of rape—pointing back to the Judas Maccabeus and his band. He talked of taking his country back. If you stand on any street corner in Jerusalem you can hear someone saying it “take our country back.” It’s a watchword, so common we don’t even hear it, even when it comes out of our own mouths.
            Even if the man who did this deed was possessed by a demon, that demon fed on our past and present, which we refuse to acknowledge or address.

            Over these things I weep,
            My eyes gush with tears upon tears.
            My soul and my belly and my bones,
            All cry out with sorrow.

            Oh Comforter, be not far from the mourners
            Oh Merciful LORD, draw near those in deepest need.

            Look not on our iniquities
            Make us look upon them
            Turn us in our tears
            Turn us from our sins
            They are many and great
            As the stars are many
            As the deep is great
            So is the depths of all of this
            Cleanse us with the most hyssop
            Allow us to rebuild the walls
            That all may be inside

            Comfort O Comfort my people
            He is Defender of the lowly
            Our LORD, Caretaker of the widow and orphan

            My soul fails
            My heart is distressed
            All people groan
            All cry for mercy

            All cry “Lord, how long?”

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