The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Standing With the Good Samaritan Against So Many “Christians”

I was brought up Christian—baptized Anglican and enrolled in Roman Catholic Sunday School. That was my mother’s bargain: dad could chose the baptism, but mum got to choose the Sunday school. Smart woman.

I can’t say I’m Christian anymore, though I still have a ton of respect for Jesus from those early days. Like most schools for beginners, my Roman Catholic Sunday School concentrated on the basics. The basics I received were:

  • God is Love
  • Jesus wants you to take care of those less fortunate than you
  • Love Thy Neighbour as Thyself.
  • Do Unto Others As You Would Others Do Unto You
  • Better to be a Good Samaritan than a Pharisee (i.e., better to not believe and do good deeds, than to believe and not do good deeds)

Now, I’m no theologian, and unlike with some other disciplines I know I haven’t read enough to have a really informed position. But I do know a few things, a few simple things. I know that when Jesus talked about judgment, he said this:

35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,

36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37″Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?

38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?

39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40″The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Whenever I read these words I think that Jesus is a man I could love and respect. And whenever I read these words I am saddened by how few of his followers today are worthy of the word “Christian.”

Marx once said “I am not a Marxist”. I wonder if today, Jesus would say “I am not Christian”.

Oh, certainly there are many good Christians, like the priest who taught me so many years ago, or the priest who regularly visited me when I was in hospital even though I wasn’t one of his flock. Many, many Christians feed the hungry and visit the prisoners and the sick.

But so many seem to suffer from the sickness descended from Calvin, this diseased thinking that to be Christian all you have to do is believe in Christ, that belief and not works matter more. Once “saved”, once “reborn”, well, after that you can do whatever you want: be a Pharisee and still call yourself a Christian.

I stand with the Good Samaritan. I’ll take my chance with God, and Jesus, for that matter, with all my doubts, but at least understanding that it’s my deeds in life that mattered and that what I did to help the least of Jesus’s brothers is what I’ll be judged on, not whether or not I “believed” the correct piece of doctrine about who Jesus was, or what the after life is like, or whether being gay is bad.

Because I’m not a Christian. But I hope I’m a good Samaritan.

And if Jesus is God’s son, I hope he’ll recognize me as such when that time comes when I have to account for the life I lived.

Originally published in 2008, at FDL.



Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – April 17, 2022


The Petrochemical Age In Context


  1. Willy

    I think of Trump impersonator James Austin Johnson. He described his own Christianhood, noting how the Promise Keepers gatherings he’d known had gone from being about happy spiritual things, to about angry political things. These people are clearly angsty about something. And then there’s that scary part where they’re turning towards worshipping incoherently babbling demagogue grifters selling angst-curing snake oils.

    I’m just throwing this out there. Everybody knows about the Fox Newsie tribal groupthink. But there may be a rational (for them) impetus behind all that.
    Maybe white conservative evangelicals just want whatever it is they nostalgically remember growing up with. Like Mrs. Brady and Alice serving up deviled eggs and tang to a mostly happy gang of white kids returning home from a mostly happy white school, with the lone unhappy kid distressed about who to invite to her slumber party.

    Fast forward 50 years. A modern day Brady Bunch might have Greg being harassed by well-armed Hispanic gangs, Peter worried about scholastically competing with all the immigrant Asians, Marsha getting beaten senseless by black chicks, Sam’s struggles with meth… You get the idea. Be enough to make a paranoid Christian parent wanna home school.

    I myself, remember the discomfort I felt revisiting the distant Santa Anita mall, realizing that I was in the minority in both appearance and language, while recalling the more “familiar” demographic I’d known as a kid. Then the same thing happened in my own suburban hometown, with admittedly a bit of angst myself. And I’m the guy who thought he enjoyed diverse environments.

    I can only imagine an angst about uncertain futures being much, much worse, for people who actually, seriously worried that the 0.5% of Muslim Americans could declare Sharia Law, or that the 4.0% of LGBTQ Americans could actually convert their beloved Brady kids into little Ru Pauls. Maybe that’s why things have gone from the happy spiritual to the angry political?

    It’s ironic that the politicians and policies they supplicated have caused much of this, behind the scenes. And now pop-thinkers ranging from Hedges to Andrews are declaring that conservative evangelicals are moving into magical thinking desperation to try and cure all their worry woes.

  2. different clue


    Among all the millions of words that Hedges has written was an article which I have never found again after reading it the one time. It is about how people he interviewed before the Clinton Administration were culture-conservative Christians but kept voting for Democratic Congressional Representatives because those Reps kept voting against Republican Free Trade Agreements.

    When President Clinton achieved the Great Double Cross and sold America to the Free Traders in return for personal millions of dollars after leaving office, the culture-conservative Christians had no more reason to vote for Democratic Reps, since their “oppose Free Trade” positions had been rendered obsolete by Bill Clinton’s Free Trade Coalition of Republicans and Pelosi Mandarin Democrats and New Yuppie Scumocrat Clintonites.

    Hedges saw some of these culture-conservatives move into magical thinking way back then. He predicted that many millions of Americans would move into magical thinking because the Clintonites had destroyed their lives and destroyed reality for them. And since the New Clintonite Reality would never ever have anything to offer them ever ever again, magical thinking was the only hope they had for mental escapism from the poisonous reality that Clinton turned their lives into.

    Hedges used the phrase ” Clinton’s children” for these coming tens of millions of recruits to Christianoid Devangelicalism, and Hedges was exactly right. They are all Clinton’s gift to the future, the Clinton gift which keeps on giving. And these were/are people living where there are few or no violent anti-white attackers.

  3. Adam Eran

    A couple of things: First, during Jesus time, the Samaritans were reviled. There’s evidence they colluded with the Babylonian conquerors who exported a significant portion of the Jewish population to Babylon at ~600 BCE. So Samaritans were Vichy Jews, i.e. traitors. Then, Samaritan scriptures contain none of the post-exile prophets (Isaiah, etc.), so they didn’t even have correct scriptural authority–just the Pentateuch and Psalms. In other words, not only were they traitors, they were heretics. They were so reviled, you can find passages advising Jews not to marry Samaritans.

    The idea of a “good Samaritan” was pretty radical when Jesus told the story. Roughly like the idea of a “good Muslim” in more recent times. (Islam didn’t come along until much later.)

    Second, you quote one of the “Great Commandments” (love your neighbor as yourself) but omit the first one (love God with all your heart, mind and soul). I’d suggest the passage that follows, saying that those two commandments embody all the law and the prophets is significant too.

    In my view, a better translation of “commandment” here would be “proclamation.” These are not so much directives as observations. If you don’t love yourself, you’re unlikely to be too loving to your neighbor. And that thing which inspires your devotion is your God. It’s human nature to have an object of devotion, even if it’s the Oakland Raiders.

    Obviously it’s more theologically correct to be devoted to the “ground of being,” or possibility, or potential beyond some earthly presence, but the idea that there are actual atheists is pretty far fetched in my experience. Even Marxists worship at the altar of historical inevitability.

  4. Feral Finster

    At least as the priests and monks in Russia and Ukraine taught me, better to be a Good Samaritan than a lousy Christian.

    That Jesus had many choice words for the rich, the powerful, the hypocrites, but that we should first judge ourselves.

  5. terrified renter

    Just thought you should know that this re-post brought comfort on a particularly painful day (April 18th). I’m not at all a regular poster or reader here, nor a social media™ user (have disliked social media™, avatars™ and selfies™ from day one, particularly the clearly teen suicide inducing facefiend) and I am increasingly having to keep a distance from the few remaining blogs for both stunningly insensitive posts and comments in such horrid times for so many, particularly the ever exploding homeless, those who’ve never owned a home through no fault of their own, and those at continual risk of foreclosure through no fault of their own.

    Anyway, I’m guessing that I’m not at all the only one who found some comfort from your post, and very much appreciate it. One of the things that has always disturbed me about blogs is how they don’t at all capture the full effect of the conversation[s] on others, like an in person gathering would, where the group can’t get away so easily with insensitivity and ignoring the most vulnerable. For instance it pains me no end when I read a comment someone makes about their current despair, particularly surrounding homelessness, and their comment is either totally ignored, or responded to as if the person had said they had caught a cold versus the actual horror and helplessness the person surely feels.

    I will never forgive those who’ve run for office under the pretense of actually being a public servant, yet never addressed Renters – who are exponentially increasing -centuries long mistreatment as unworthy non-property owners. Had they highlighted those issues they might have had an incredibly powerful constituency due to the multitudes of them.

  6. Willy

    I’ve debated on blogs with people who lost their Democrat faith after some Clinton policy had ruined them personally. I get the part where convincing “authorities” visited and persuaded the economically naïve Clintons to enact policies which historic common sense had declared disastrous. But yeah, there’s that part where the Clintons still seem to appear unrepentant.

    @Adam Eran
    I’ve heard the atheists take. Since practically all of them say they’d believe in a God after some kind of physical evidence was provided, maybe it’d be more accurate to say that they worship at the altar of physical evidence?

    I’d think that Jesus said those things for practical reasons. A believer once told me that most Christians lose their faith because another Christian did something to them once, and when they went to their authority for answers (be they parent, elder or priest), the answer they received back was inadequate.

    Today most people rely on the internet for both their news and their answers. They’ll learn of Christians behaving badly, contrary to Christ, to then find atheist answers which can be very rational and compelling. At least that was one guy’s explanation for the ongoing rapid decline in faith.

  7. Soredemos

    @Adam Eran

    “It’s human nature to have an object of devotion”

    As with most claims of ‘human nature’, it’s actually not.


    Before we even get to the issue of evidence, I’d like to hear a definition of god which is actually coherent, and not just poetic gibberish.

  8. Ché Pasa

    The God-botherers, Christianists, Dominionists, Rapturists, exploitative Fundies, Doomers, and Apocalypticists and Xtian Nationalists appear to be the dominant force in US/North American society, culture and politics. Those of us who are unbelievers, disbelievers, contrarians, or rational thinkers (ha!) would do well to take heed. We may be a distinct minority in many areas, a plurality at best in others, and that can lead to more than a little unkindness from strangers.

    “Believers” are conditioned to see themselves as divinely ordained to hold dominion over the Earth and all peoples. The rest of us are subject to them. We see these themes running through much of what passes for mainstream thought and action, so don’t think it is somehow on the fringes.

    Sadly, Good Samaritans they generally are not. There are exceptions. But they seem to be rare. “Judge not” is not among the chief admonitions of the tribe…

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