The least of these

Mar 212007

A few days before Spring Break, I was driving north on College and about to turn west onto Prospect. As I neared the intersection, only one of the two turning lanes was occupied by traffic. The turning light only lasted a few seconds, and a long line of impatient drivers piled up.

The inside turning lane was completely wide open except for one car that sat motionless at the edge of the intersection. Standing on the median was the driver of the car, talking on his cell phone and motioning for the oncoming traffic to file into other lane.

I probably idled in the turning lane for five minutes before I slowly pulled even with the man. I assumed that one of the many cars who had driven by him surely had asked if he needed help, but something inside me said I should I ask if he needed help, just to be sure. I rolled down my window to offer this man a hand of humanity.

The man smiled and said, “Oh, yeah! That would be great.” After a few more minutes, I had parked my car and had run back over to him.

He told me his wife was on her way to get him but she would be a while longer. I asked how long he’d been here, and he said for at least 20 minutes. He wasn’t sure what had happened to his car, but it had died on him just as he was about to turn onto Prospect.

“People have been driving by screaming and cussing at me,” he said. “I don’t understand; I mean, it’s not like I killed my car on purpose.” Then he looked at me. “You’re a lifesaver.”

He said his car still had power steering, so when the next green turning light came, he opened the driver door, steered and pushed, and I pushed from the rear. I don’t know how many people sitting at that intersection watched us struggle to move the car from the street. It was an awkward feeling, and I wondered why no one else cared to help.

We made the turn smoothly, but as soon as we got through the intersection and onto Prospect, we hit an incline and started losing steam. I was barely able to keep my feet churning when two other guys came from my right to help push. Now they were the lifesavers. “Bunch of jerks,” one of the guys said about the throng of people who were watching us toil. Soon we had navigated the car into a gas station parking lot. I shook hands with the two guys who had helped, then talked for a while with the owner of the car. He thanked me profusely and we exchanged phone numbers. We shook hands and parted ways.

Like Bill Cosby, I tell you this story to tell you something else. We hear from John Edwards, among others, that Americans are selfish and greedy and don’t care about doing good deeds and that Jesus would be disgusted with Americans. But we see what we seek, and if we believe that we as Americans are self-absorbed machines of capitalism, then, sure, we will find examples that match that description. But what if we sought selfless, good-Samaritan examples?

Christians, then, have also earned themselves some bad PR. Some of it is justified and some are stereotypes promulgated by the media and films like “Saved!” We, and I include myself in this Christian category, are thought of as prideful, self-righteous goody-goodies who are too absorbed in our prayer groups and too concerned with being “hip” to be living out our faith.

And to an extent, that’s true. We also don’t help ourselves when some Christians climb atop rocks in the Plaza and rain down damnations and judgments upon all the “fornicators and sinners.” Yeah, that sounds like a religion I’d like to convert to; they look like they’re having fun.

Not all Christians are guilty of smugness, pride, and the “I’m-a-saint-you’re-a-sinner” attitude. But if more Christians sought to be as selfless, compassionate, and loving as Christ commanded, then maybe our public image would change; then maybe our Gospel would be a little more desirable and a little less hypocritical.

Yet many Christians get caught up in being right that we forget about the one thing Christ told us to be all about: love. Love can take on many forms, but in truth, it’s not about us being right and everyone else being wrong; it’s about pointing our friends, colleagues, students, and whoever else towards a God of truly real hope.

When I write about creation and evolution (in my previous two columns), my goal is to further Christianity and to provide a different and profound critique of evolution and postmodernism. It’s fascinating to me that in this age of “tolerance,” any belief system and worldview are given air space and acceptance except Christianity.

Treat Christianity like that movie some of your friends saw and said it wasn’t any good and go see it for yourself. Test it; ask questions; dig for answers – because they’re out there. I try to offer some of those answers.

I also try to present my side as factually, entertainingly, and persuasively as possible. But if you don’t find my arguments credible, or if you don’t want to hear anymore about real Christianity, that’s all right. We can agree to disagree.

And I won’t even call you a fornicator.

Trevor Sides is a senior speech communication major. His column appears every Thursday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to

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