Wearing a clerical collar makes the difference

11 March 2016

bible society

MEMBERS of the public, filmed by a hidden camera, were found more likely to respond when asked for help by a man wearing a clerical collar, compared with the same man looking as though he had slept rough, in an experiment for the Bible Society to see what makes a Good Samaritan today.

The Revd Sam King, a Baptist minister from Calne, was filmed on the streets of Reading asking if he could borrow a mobile phone from passers-by to make an emergency call to a friend. Seemingly, without fail, members of the public stopped and let him borrow their phone. Yet, when he dressed as a rough-sleeper, on the same street later that day, only one in ten of those he stopped was willing to help — even though this time he even offered to pay them for the telephone call.

Mr King said that he had found the experience moving, and that it had challenged and changed his own responses.

“Even putting on the clothes to be a rough-sleeper and looking in the mirror, I felt a sense of low self-esteem. And people just didn’t want to engage with me. It was a very humbling experience. . . I came out of the experience very emotional, and now, I will always stop for people, even if I can’t give them what they want. I won’t ignore anyone.”

The three members of the public who offered him the use of their mobile phone when he was dressed as a rough-sleeper were all black British. One lady, when thanked by Mr King for trusting him despite his appearance, said: “It’s only a phone. It doesn’t matter what somebody looks like; it doesn’t matter.”

A YouGov poll of almost 3000 people, commissioned by the Bible Society, found that only half of those asked would stop for an old lady crying in the street, one in four wouldn’t give a stranger money for a train ticket in an emergency, and a third of people said they wouldn’t lend their mobile phone to anyone, even an elderly lady in distress.

The Society’s report, The Good Samaritan in Modern Britain, released today, is part of the Bible Society’s “Pass It On” campaign. Launched in 2014, the campaign is designed to ensure that classic Bible stories are kept alive for future generations.

Question of the Week: Would you lend your phone to someone who looked homeless?

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