America is sick, and the Christian call to compassion obligates the faithful to act. Chronic pain and illness now affect tens of millions of Americans, and in many cases the cause eludes the brightest medical minds. To fight these ailments, Americans have been prescribed mind-altering anti-depressants, highly addictive pain relievers and opioids, and all manner of legal substances with a list of side effects so long that drug commercials feel like “Saturday Night Live” shorts.
Christian ethics has long taught that the faithful must take an active role in caring for the ailing among us. The New Testament repeatedly commands the people of God to engage in “healing the sick,” an act that plays a central role in Jesus’s ministry in all four Gospels. In fact, one of Jesus’s most famous parables, in Matthew 25, lists humans’ willingness or failure to care for sick people as one of the chief criteria upon which they will be judged by God in the afterlife. And in at least one instance, the Apostle Paul, who wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else, encourages his protégé Timothy to use a potentially harmful substance for the sake of health and healing. “No longer drink water exclusively,” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 5:23, “but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”