A Hit Close To Home

Luke 10:25-37 – The 8th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, July 14, 2013

“‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (Luke 10:25)

beatles-jesusI googled ten words/phrases/names, wondering which one would get the most “hits.” And by the way, let me be the first to acknowledge this methodology was as non-scientific as it was self-serving.

Here are my ten searches in alphabetical order:

  • Beatles
  • God
  • Golden Rule
  • Good Samaritan
  • Jesus
  • Larry Patten
  • Obama
  • Pat Robertson
  • Prodigal Son
  • Ten Commandments

Here are the “hits” each received (from my exhaustive efforts):

  • 1,660,000,000
  • 809,000,000
  • 663,000,000
  • 213,000,000
  • 54,000,000
  • 12,600,000
  • 8,970,000
  • 4,430,000
  • 3,200,000
  • 5,760

What word matched which number? Guess! (And please, no cheating . . . don’t go doing your own Google hunt, trying to wow me with your brilliance or to prove my search was a fluke that resulted in skewed results. I only wish for you to attempt a friendly guess.)

My quest for Google hits began after reading Luke 10’s ever-popular, well-known, oft-referenced “The Good Samaritan” parable. Without caring an iota for scholarly research, I believe “The Good Samaritan” and “The Prodigal Son” are Jesus’ best-known parables. I’ve heard people from faith traditions different from Christianity thoughtfully use these two stories. I’ve read novels and seen movies with plots based on ‘em. I’m confident the average atheist, agnostic or believer would score equally well on a $64,000 Samaritan-Prodigal pop quiz, whether given in the classroom or a supermarket aisle.

Have you completed your guesses?

God – – – – – ->  1,660,000,000 hits!!

Yes, God won. Whew. The Lord Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Maker of the Universe and Jesus’ Abba was well on the way to two billion Google hits. Hooray for the Holy One

Then, in descending order . . . Jesus, Obama, the Beatles, Ten Commandments, Good Samaritan, Golden Rule, Prodigal Son, Pat Robertson and—bringing up the inevitable rear—yours truly, Larry Patten.

As an aging baby boomer, I felt compelled to include the Beatles in this elaborate research project. In 1966, John Lennon (in)famously claimed that his rock group was more popular than Jesus. Here we are, forty-seven years after Lennon’s youthful boast, and the Beatles are still darn popular. However, the Fab Four’s 213,000,000 hits pale when compared to Jesus’ 809,000,000. Sorry, Mr. Lennon, may you rest in peace, but history has proven you wrong. Imagine that.

Because I despise Pat Robertson, I included him. In my view, he’s an embarrassment to Christianity. Though Rev. Robertson is twenty-two years older than me, his 700 Club (and numerous other endeavors) gained momentum around the same time I entered ordained ministry. Since the mid-1970s, other televangelists have risen and fallen, but Robertson’s vitriol has consistently filled the airwaves. His anti-gay statements, Biblical literalism and jingoistic attitude toward America repulsed me decades ago and still do today.

Of course, even now, well past his heyday, he’s more popular than . . . me. Robertson received over three million Google hits to my pathetic, anemic 5,760.

Sigh. Maybe I despise him because I couldn’t even achieve 1% of his Google dominance over me.

More on Pat and me in a moment.

I was fairly certain The Good Samaritan would garner more action than The Prodigal Son. The Prodigal had a respectable four-plus million internet references, which is nothing to scoff at! But Samaritan did three times better, steam rolling with over twelve million appearances across the world wide web.

Why the disparity?

Have you ever heard of a Prodigal Son Hospital (or church, counseling center, food bank or homeless shelter)? In contrast, Good Samaritan is regularly found, from buildings to non-profit agencies and more. I’d guess a moment doesn’t go by without a blog, speech or news article applauding someone as a “good Samaritan.” If you do a good deed for your fellow human, you’re compared to that unnamed fellow in Jesus’ popular tale. If a woman prevents a friend from stepping into onrushing traffic, she’s Ms. Samaritan. If a guy buys shoes for a homeless man, the gift giver is dubbed Mr. Samaritan.

But very few are like the parable’s namesake.

“Who is my neighbor?” a lawyer asked Jesus.

And Jesus told the tale of a Samaritan aiding a Jew; in other words, of the Samaritan being the lawyer’s neighbor. Jesus of the 809,000,000 hits hit the neighborly nail on the head. Your neighbor is the one you hate. Your neighbor is one you avoid. Your neighbor is Pol Pot, Adolf Hitler, Osama Bin Laden and the person who’s hurt you the most bundled into the same despicable human. Which is hyperbole, an exaggeration and yet true enough.

For the most part, the Samaritans and Jews would claim they worshipped the same God. But they had bad, bad, bad history. Trust me, hatred for the other was deep, wide and festering. (And if you don’t trust me, go forth and research!)

Didn’t I tell you that I despised Pat Robertson (And who might be your Pat Robertson)?

And so is he the “Jew” to my “Samaritan?” Dear old Pat is an easy “symbol” to reference. I’ll probably never meet him. I likely won’t get a chance to save him from hooligans that are stripping him, beating him and leaving him half-dead.

But he serves—for me—as a reminder that Jesus told a parable with a name that might now be popular for labeling buildings or do-gooders, but the story is a “hit” to everyone who too narrowly defines a neighbor . . . and that’s all of us.

(Image from here.)

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1 Comment

  1. You make several good points as always. Makes me wonder why we do some of the things we do. I’m not surprised God came in first, for he is first and foremost in many person’s lives. We both seem to feel the same about Pat Robertson. Man can drive me nuts when I accidentally see him on TV or an article. I try to avoid him as much as possible. I think too many people don’t see a neighbor in any one. Even people that I don’t like, I would help when push comes to shove. That’s part of what is wrong with the world, you think your neighbor lives only next door, and our neighbors sometimes are very far away. Thanks for making me think outside my box yet again.

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