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Nick Spencer discusses politicians’ use of the parable of the Good Samaritan for Prospect

Nick Spencer discusses politicians’ use of the parable of the Good Samaritan for Prospect

From Thatcher to Corbyn, why are politicians so fond of the Good Samaritan? Nick Spencer explores the politicisation of Jesus’ parable

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There’s not much that unites Jeremy Corbyn and Margaret Thatcher. Beyond the fact that neither was expected to lead their party, it is hard to see what the hard left, national–anthem–dodging, vegetarian, teetotaller has in common with the hard right, free–market–fundamentalist, patriotic carnivore.

But there is one more thing. In spite of their religious differences—Corbyn, who says his faith is a “private matter,” has little in common with the loudly Methodist Thatcher—they are both partial to the parable of the Good Samaritan. Indeed, both have referenced it in high–profile political speeches.

Why is this story so popular?

The true reason might lie in the parable’s moral authority. Every politician likes to think they are doing more than counting and redistributing beans. They like to imagine that politics is about the big picture—the clash of worldviews and all that. And, in spite of what it might feel like being on the EU Justice, Institutions and Consumer Protection Sub–Committee, they are right. Politics is about defining the contours of our common life and it cannot help draw on deep moral visions in doing so.

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 Image by Nheyob at, available under this Creative Commons licence

Nick Spencer

Nick Spencer

Nick is Senior Fellow at Theos. He is the author of a number of books and reports, most recently The Political Samaritan: how power hijacked a parable (Bloomsbury, 2017), The Evolution of the West (SPCK, 2016) and Atheists: The Origin of the Species (Bloomsbury, 2014).

Posted 9 November 2017


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