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    linocut of a man running with a book in his face

    The Effective Samaritan: A Parable

    A Tradcath, an exvangelical influencer, a mainliner, and a conservative megachurch pastor star in this retelling of Luke 10:30–37.

    By Phil Christman

    May 23, 2023

    Available languages: Español

    • Paul Nedelisky

      Given the logic of the parable, anyone depicted as stopping to help would thereby be neighbor to the victim, however improbable or contrived, whether they were Samaritan, Effective Altruist, or Kanye West. Nevertheless, ethical commitments matter, and in reality a consistent Effective Altruist would be the least likely of the passers-by to help, given the signature rationalization that one's time and money secures greater overall benefit if donated to non-local causes, like prevention of improbable distant future existential threats to humanity. Yet I suppose that while with man this story is impossible, with God all things are possible...

    But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor? And Jesus answering said,

    A certain man went down from Athens to Atlanta,footnote and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

    And by chance there came down a certain conservative megachurch head pastor that way. Now this pastor had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses, and a ten-thousand-person auditorium, and much gyms. He had also seven sons and three daughters, for unto him was a smokin’-hot wife named Cyndi. She did teach yoga, but she sinned not, for she called the class Stretching Our Faith and never used Sanskrit words.

    linocut of a shocked clergy member

    R. O. Hodgell, The Confrontation. Used by permission from Pat Hodgell.

    And when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side, and he said unto himself, “This is what comes of woke politicians. Slimy dirty people everywhere. A decent person can’t even ride the bus. The Uber drivers always want a tip…” And he passed by on the other side.footnote

    A while later there came likewise an mainliner. And he did see the man. And he said: “Looks sketchy. It’s always better to give directly to charity.” And he did make a mental note to donate twenty-five dollars to Oxfam; and he felt well pleased with himself, and he passed by on the other side, but he made not the donation.footnote

    And lo, time passed, and there came again an exvangelical influencer who, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and he thought, at first, Poor guy. And his bowels were moved, and he thought, I should help this man. It is a sin not to help him. But then he thought in turn, Is not sin a toxic concept? Have I not talked about “should statements” with my therapist? Did she not give me a script? And he did say to the man: “Hey! I’m so glad thou reached out! I’m actually at capacity/helping someone else who’s in crisis/dealing with some personal stuff right now….”footnote

    There came then in his turn a Tradcath. And he was so mad about many things that he did not see the man. And he passed by on the other side, mumbling, “Bergoglio, Bergoglio, it is all thy fault.”footnote

    And then there came a liberation theologian, a compassionate man, and he was minded to help him: but then he remembered that some did say that charity was a bourgeois exercise, a distraction from justice,footnote and reasoning thus he passed by on the other side.

    And he did say to the man: “Hey! I’m so glad thou reached out! I’m actually at capacity/helping someone else who’s in crisis/dealing with some personal stuff right now.”

    And finally there came two Duke Divinity School postliberals – for there was in those days in that city a theology conference – and they saw him and were moved to pity, and one went to help him. But his friend said unto him, “Ho. Consider and be sure: Art thou moved by the charity that is from the LORD, or doth thou proceed from the superficial liberal humanitarianism of the Enlightenment?” And the other paused, and did bethink himself, for he did not want to proceed from the superficial liberal humanitarianism of the Enlightenment, lest the LORD wax wroth with him. And at last he did say unto his friend, “Look, this man suffereth, and wouldst thou be treated thus? Consider that if thou wert this man, thou wouldst want the most for the least of these.” And his friend replied, “Whoah, buddy, thou soundest like Rawls,” and they did argue, and growing distracted did pass by on the other side.footnote

    All of them had their reward.

    linocut of a man running with a book in his face

    R. O. Hodgell, Academic Pursuit. Used by permission from Pat Hodgell.

    But a certain disenchanted liberal technocrat, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him, and did exchange with him Reddit handles. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, “Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” And the host did say, “The doctors say he needeth a new kidney.” And the man was sore afraid; but he was an effective altruist, and he said, “Lo, I have an extra one that I’m not using, and hoarding it would be irrational under the circumstances.” And he gave the man his kidney, and being recovered, he went back to his job as a “consultant.”footnote

    And great was his reward in the kingdom of God, if he would allow himself to know it.

    Which now of these, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?


    1. Hat tip to Clarence Jordan, The Cotton Patch Version of Luke and Acts, 1969.
    2. See for example Edward Luce, “A preacher for Trump’s America,” Financial Times, April 18, 2019.
    3. See for example “Tithing at 40-Year Low in Mainline Churches, Study Finds,” Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 14, 2011.
    4. I’m Actually At My Emotional Capacity,” Know Your Meme, November 20, 2019.
    5. See Joshua P. Hevert and Thomas Lecaque, “Is the Growing Anti-Pope Rad-Trad Community Poised to Become Qatholics?,” Religion Dispatches, December 1, 2021.
    6. See Cihah Tugal, “Faiths With a Heart and Heartless Religions,” Rethinking Marxism 28:3–4, 418–437.
    7. See Ben Davies, “John Rawls and the ‘Veil of Ignorance,’” Philosophical Thought, ed. Heather Wilburn, 2019.
    8. See Gideon Lewis-Krauss, “The Reluctant Prophet of Effective Altruism,” the New Yorker, August 8, 2022.
    Contributed By PhilChristman Phil Christman

    Phil Christman teaches first-year writing at the University of Michigan and is the editor of the Michigan Review of Prisoner Creative Writing.

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