From an article by Geoff Shattock
I must confess I hate the concept of social distancing. I think this term should be physical distancing but, nevertheless, those are not the words that have become common language this last season.
I have come across introverts who actually celebrate social distancing as it gives them an excuse to live the kind of life which they prefer. But it is a fairly universal target of dissatisfaction.
The paradox, however, is that, on closer inspection, it seems that we humans actually love social distancing. Let me illustrate with some examples from the world into which Jesus of Nazareth rode on Palm Sunday.
In the culture of his day there was deep distrust between what the New Testament calls Jews and Samaritans. Today we would call this racism.
Women were considered not worthy of education nor capable of being reliable witnesses. Today we would call this misogyny.
Religious factions delighted in distancing themselves from other factions, or the general public, who they considered to be inferior. Today we would call this bigotry.
I could assemble a longer list, but the truth is we humans love to distance ourselves from others using all kinds of reasons for our behaviour.
Into this world rides a Jesus who tells the story of the Good Samaritan. He is the one who talks by a well with the Samaritan woman, crossing centuries of racist sexist divides. He is the one who trusted women with his first resurrection appearances and commissioned them to be witnesses. His anger on arrival in Jerusalem was unleashed against the religious hypocrisy, both in the temple, and in the religious practises around it.
So, it seems, paradoxically, that, although we proclaim we hate social distancing, what we love is to be socially distant from those we consider to be different to us. But the Carpenter from Nazareth invites us to consider another approach. We are blessed if we reach out to those who are different, poorer, or even opposed to us.
Perhaps it would be useful today to reflect on how many socially distant behaviours we employ which divide us from those who are different to us. It seems the Christian manifesto invites us to cross divides rather than create them.
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