Friendship with God: Anointing the Sick as a Theological Hermeneutic

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Format of Original

22 p.

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Georgetown University Press

Source Publication

Society of Christian Ethics

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A theological bioethic needs, first, a theological politics. This paper rests on the claim that the contours of a theological politics are found in the nature of sacramental practices. More specifically, a theological politics of medicine is found in the sacramental practice of anointing of the sick. Anointing provides a radically theological hermeneutic – a theologically robust vision for interpreting medicine that, if enacted, can powerfully make real God’s work in the world. Such a vision is embodied in one particular twentieth-century exemplar – the organization called Partners In Health and its co-founder Paul Farmer. Farmer and PIH, I argue, live the theo-logic and theological politics of medicine embodied in the practice of anointing. What is more, they show – against those who would accuse such an approach of being naively idealistic – that such a theological politics is possible, powerful, and can even change the world.


Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Christian Ethics, January 4, 2008, Atlanta, Georgia. Publisher link.