Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Emory University Hospital, Ebola, and the Parable of the Good Samaritan

William Hogarth, The Good Samaritan

I have the conclusion written about the etchings of John Everett Millais on the parables, and I will post it later tonight or tomorrow. A lot of great images to share.

First, though, I want to make a couple of comments about the two patients with the Ebola virus coming to Emory University Hospital.

I work at Emory University, and I am very proud to be associated with an institution so dedicated to ethics, compassion, and healing. I also am a Senior Faculty Fellow at Emory's Center for Ethics, and I want to recommend this article by Paul Root Wolpe, the Director of the Center for Ethics, which, in part, decries the dangerous epidemic.

No, not (just) the ebola epidemic. He actually decries the (even more) dangerous epidemic of "the spreading lack of compassion." 

It is not an accident that the parable of the Good Samaritan was connected to many hospitals. I was born, in fact, at Good Samaritan Hospital in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. It is also not an accident that both Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol serve with Samaritan's Purse (H/T +Joel Willitts ).

The parable's connection to compassion and healing also led to images of the parable being created specifically for hospitals, such as the painting by William Hogarth (see above). Others include the images by Richard Dadd (Bethlem Royal Hospital, London) and Jean Restout (Hôpital de la Charité, Paris).

I understand the concern about bringing people with the Ebola virus to the United States. There are often dangers involved in extending compassion to others--this one more serious than most--but the parable of the Good Samaritan does not seem to me to limit the compassion we are to extend to other human beings. The Samaritan in the parable, in its first-century contexts, did a number of what would have been considered by most people to be very foolish things.

This act of compassion of bringing Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol here to Atlanta is a wise choice. Emory University Hospital is excellent, and the CDC is just down the street.

The Good Samaritan parable ends with the Lukan Jesus saying "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37). 


  1. Here's another good article, this one from the head nurse at Emory. The Atlanta paper reported that two nurses actually cancelled vacation plans so they could stay to help: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/08/06/im-the-head-nurse-at-emory-this-is-why-we-wanted-to-bring-the-ebola-patients-to-the-u-s/

  2. You're welcome, Deanna. It means a lot that one of my all-time favorite students is still reading my stuff after all these years. Thank you!


What are They saying about the Parables? (Chapter 4 , part 5): More contributions from Ruben Zimmermann

Zimmermann’s single-authored book, Puzzling the Parables of Jesus , introduces his “integrative method” to English-speaking audiences in ord...