Book Reviews

Review: The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked A Parable

The Political Samaritan: How power hijacked a parableThe Political Samaritan: How power hijacked a parable by Nick Spencer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a well-known passage of the Bible, familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Christian scriptures. Those who might not be aware of the biblical origins are still aware of the basic thrust of the phrase ‘good samaritan’; the term has even found its way into legislation.

Nick Spencer, writing on the subject of the Good Samaritan and the way it has been used and misused in public political discourse – particularly in that of the United Kingdom, provides a wonderful resource in his book The Political Samaritan. Showing just how easy it is to draw the parable into political speeches, Spencer looks at the way in which it has been used by many people from across the political spectrum, and the way the parable has often been subverted to political ideology rather than being the source of a moral imperative.

The four chapters in the book are well worth reading in and of themselves – particularly, from my perspective at least, the third chapter that looks at the parable itself in its context as a piece of Christian scripture away from any political perspective. When brought together, however, Spencer’s work reminds the reader to be careful in approaching the Parable of the Good Samaritan, least they misuse it for purposes that might not be in keeping with the original intent of Jesus.

This is a well-written and scholarly approach to a well-known tale. I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes to deepen their understanding of scriptural passages, but also to any student of public discourse where references to this parable seem to ‘pop up’ in places and ways that are both interesting and challenging.

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