“As part of this ceremony, women bake their heads in small ovens for about an hour.” This quote is from the article, “Body Ritual among the Nacirema,” published in The American Anthropologist in 1956. In the article, anthropologist Horace Miner describes the Nacirema, a people with a lifestyle centered on the obsessive belief that “the human body is ugly and…[the] natural tendency is to debility and disease.” Miner recounts the roles of medicine men, listening witchdoctors, herbalists, holy mouth-men, and vestal maidens. He details torturous rites for curing sickness at temples and describes in-home shrines for charms and magical potions, body secrecy practices, and sex as taboo behavior. The myriad descriptions are fascinating and disturbing.
The standard interpretation of the parable of the Good Samaritan is about having compassion and charity for those in need, without expectation of reward. But what if we think about it slightly differently?