Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2009

Publication Title

Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics






A theological bioethics needs, first, a theological politics. The thesis of this essay 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 (PIH) and its cofounder, Paul Farmer. Farmer and PIH, I argue, live the théologie 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.


Author Posting. © Georgetown University Press, 2009. This article is posted here by permission of the Georgetown University Press for personal use, not for redistribution. The article was published in the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, Volume 29, Issue 1.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.