Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Adoption, the Good Samaritan, Down syndrome...and social psychology

Luke 10~~
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
 26"What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"
 27He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
 28"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."
 29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
 30In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, 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 into the hands of robbers?" 
 37The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
      Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Jesus spoke of three different people who walked by the beaten and helpless man: a priest, a Levite and a Samaritan. If we were to put it into more modern-day parlance, we might say a pastor, a music minister and someone we despise as being a Christian half-breed and who would know they are despised. Someone who is, according to whatever standards you think Christianity maintains, a Loser. You'll have to fill in that blank yourself.

When I was in graduate school studying clinical psychology, one social psych study had determined that people who had been given good news about their performance were less likely to stop and help an obviously ill person than those who had just received bad news. The inference was made that those people who were feeling really good about themselves didn't want to risk downgrading their self-concept by stopping to help someone who might be too needy, might take too much time, might remind them of the ephemeral nature of good fortune. Those participants who had received news that led them to feel less than adequate were more able to stop and help the needy person. They felt they had little to lose from the encounter.

I often think of those findings when my friends in the Down syndrome adoption community wonder why, statistically speaking, more wealthy people don't adopt children with special needs nor contribute help to those who are doing so. I also think of the following verses:

Mark 9:33-37~~They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all. He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me."

I can't help but wonder how many people won't welcome a little child because they're just feeling too good about themselves. Life is good, I'm good, why in the world should I rock my boat? I don't need to be losing all my cool points by stopping to help. I'll leave that to the Losers.

Romans 12:3~~For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

I am including a link to a truly awful article from someone who thinks more highly of himself, and his eugenics, than he ought. He is, in the extreme, the opposite of the Good Samaritan. He is so sure of his cool self that he believes his is the only 'good enough' life to live. He strenuously advocates for never allowing a person with Down syndrome to live. For their own good. (I'll stop here because, honestly, I could go on and on about this article.)

The irony inherent in the Good Samaritan story, in the lives of those who won't slow down to help because they are just too proud of their station in life, is that helping is so consistently linked to satisfaction, to happiness. Jesus doesn't want us to be helpful or to be 'the last' simply as a form of self-abnegation; He is far too efficient for that. He wants us to be more like Him, to not think of ourselves too highly, to help others and to find joy in so doing. It all works together, which reminds me of another verse:

Romans 8:28~~And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

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