On Sunday evening, a man opened fire in a shopping mall in Greenwood, Indiana, killing three people and wounding two others before also being shot dead. Sadly, that’s hardly news in our country that averages more than one mass shooting per day. What city officials said in response, however, sparked some odd headlines.
“As of now, we do not know the shooter’s identity or motive,” the city’s mayor said that night. “We do know that someone we are calling the ‘Good Samaritan’ was able to shoot the assailant and stop further bloodshed.”
The city’s police chief went further, praising “a good Samaritan with a handgun.” The media quickly picked up the biblical allusion and ran with it.
To be fair, this isn’t the first time the term “good Samaritan” has been used to describe someone killing another person. Police and journalists previously employed the term to discuss other shootings. Tragically, sometimes the so-called armed “good Samaritan” kills a shooter only to then be targeted by police.
All these headlines should raise a critical question: Have any of these officials or journalists actually read the story we often call “the parable of the good Samaritan” in Luke 10?
It’s one thing to call the man who stopped the mass shooting “a hero.” It’s another to distort a biblical text to change the moral of the story. Jesus wasn’t teaching his followers to go kill your neighbor as they kill others.
Apparently in the New Revised American Version of the Bible, the Samaritan comes galloping in on his white horse and stabs the bandits on the old Jericho road. And then Jesus hands the lawyer a sword and tells him to “go and do likewise.”
With such a theology, the gun company Daniel Defense litters its social media feeds with Bible verses mixed with gun imagery. One of their guns was used in May to slaughter 21 children and teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. That news led Peter Manseau, the Lilly Endowment Curator of American Religious History at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, to note in a New York Times column that “entwining faith and firearms this way has a long history” in our country.
Critiquing what he called “the Gospel of the Good Guy with a Gun,” Manseau pointed to a sacrilegious statement by Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado that Jesus needed an AR-15 to stop the crucifixion. That’s something, but it ain’t Christian.
Yet, when people challenge such bad theology, they get critiqued for allegedly being political. Like when people — myself included — complained on Twitter about the “good Samaritan” headlines after Sunday’s mall shooting.
What Fox News missed is that the complaint over the reports isn’t about opposing guns but about taking the Bible seriously. Using the term “good Samaritan” to talk about shooting people is not a faithful reading of the parable. We must not pass by quietly as officials and reporters do violence to the text.
As a public witness,