In his 2009 essay, “Finite Care in a World of Infinite Need” (CSR 38.3 [Spring 2009]: 327-333), Stanley Hauerwas suggests that, given the unlimited health care needs and limited health care resources in the U.S., Christians need to imagine an integrally Christian practice of medicine, which may include refusing potentially life-saving treatments. In this response essay, David C. Cramer argues that Hauerwas’ suggestion is best understood in terms of the Christian practices articulated by John Howard Yoder in his work Body Politics. As with Yoder’s practices, so the Christian practice of dying is both a religious act of the church and a public act with concrete, observable social implications. Mr. Cramer, formerly Adjunct Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Bethel College, Indiana, is now pursuing his Ph.D. in Religion at Baylor University.
In his recent CSR article, “Finite Care in a World of Infinite Need,”1 Stanley Hauerwas states quite pointedly that, given the United States’ unlimited health care needs and the financial and resource limitations of the health care industry, “we may well have to imagine as Christians that there may actually be something like a Christian practice of medicine.”2Hauerwas writes of such a Christian practice of medicine: “The attempt to get more resources to serve the poor is to be welcomed. But more important is the possibility that Christians may have to learn to deny themselves forms of extraordinary care that medicine seems determined to develop.”3 In other words, Hauerwas suggests that the church needs to recover the Christian practice of dying.4
According to Hauerwas, the problem of health care is not as much a political or financial one as it is a theological one.5 “The problem is quite simply that medicine has been put at the service of cheating death by a people who no longer believe our deaths have any meaning.”6 But, argues Hauerwas, Christians are supposed to be “a community of people who have learned that their deaths are not an unmitigated disaster. Even more important, they are or should be a people who have learned that service to one another is more important than life itself.”7 Hauerwas thus concludes by
suggesting that Christians must recover our sense of care and concern for one another as a resource for helping us better understand why everything we can do to prevent our own death may not be done if such a project makes it impossible for the weakest member of our community to be cared for. Only when we recover that sense of ourselves will we know what we are about when we call for a society to employ the scarce resources of medical care in service to one another.8
Hauerwas’ suggestion is characteristically provocative, but without further explanation it runs the risk of being misunderstood. Those who read Hauerwas as offering a “solution” to the massive health care crisis in the U.S. might find his proposal rather underwhelming. Surely what is needed is a unified Christian voice on health care. What is needed is more discussion on how to address the concrete costs of health care insurance and coverage. Christians on the political left might then argue that what is needed is a more just and equitable national system that allows equal access to all, while Christians on the right might respond that what is needed is rather a system that maintains individual choice in one’s health care decisions. Such debates are not unimportant, but I would argue that they miss the deeper point of Hauerwas’ proposal.9 Rather than offering a specific solution to the health care crisis, I suggest that Hauerwas is attempting to open Christians’ imaginations to an entirely different way of conceiving of and approaching such controversial public issues as health care in the first place. Hauerwas is not endorsing any particular health care option. He is rather raising the question: When approaching issues such as health care, what difference does it make that we are or are not Christian?10 For Hauerwas, what Christians who approach questions such as health care need are not better arguments but more integrally Christian practices. In order to clarify and develop Hauerwas’ suggestion further, then, I propose comparing it with the account of Christian practices developed by Hauerwas’ longtime colleague and friend, John Howard Yoder, particularly as Yoder articulates the meaning and significance of Christian practices in his brief work, Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community before the Watching World, to which we now turn.
John Howard Yoder’s Body Politics and Christian Practices
While John Howard Yoder is known best as the twentieth century’s leading defender of Christian pacifism,11 he seems just as concerned throughout his career with the question of how the church is to relate to society.12 Indeed, as Yoder himself acknowledges, his pacifism is unintelligible without his ecclesiology.13Though Yoder never claimed to have finally answered the question of how the church should relate to society,14 his short book Body Politics offers perhaps his most compelling – though not uncontroversial15 the church. Yoder begins by noting that it is often assumed by both conservative and liberal Christians that “there is a vast qualitative distance between the realm we call ‘politics’ and the one we call ‘church.’”16 As such, the primary disagreement between liberals and conservatives is how to “bridge that chasm between ‘church’ and ‘politics’ or between ‘worship’ and ordinary life.”17 But, according to Yoder, such a dichotomy between “church” and “politics” is problematic on two counts: (1) it relegates worship to an apolitical, spiritual realm, and (2) it thus considers the values of the political realm largely autonomous or “known otherwise than through revelation or worship.”18 While Christians might use broadly theistic or even specifically Christian language in political discussions, the fundamental axiom of political autonomy from the church goes largely unchecked. How a president, senator, congressperson, or even a banker, realtor, or medical professional is to carry out her duties is determined by her particular “office” or “vocation” rather than by the practices of the church body of which she is a member. In contrast to such ecclesial/political dualism, Yoder argues,
The Christian community, like any community held together by commitment to important values, is a political reality. That is, the church has the character of a polis (the Greek word from which we get the adjective political), namely, a structured social body. It has its ways of making decisions, defining membership, and carrying out common tasks. That makes the Christian community a political entity in the simplest meaning of the term.19
Naturally, this raises the question: What are the church’s ways of making decisions, defining membership, and carrying out common tasks? In other words, what are the church’s specific political practices? To answer this question, Yoder looks to the New Testament and discovers “five practices of the Christian community before the watching world,”20 all of which share a common underlying logical framework.21
Yoder first discusses the practice of binding and loosing, described in Matthew 18 and more succinctly in John 20, as the process of dealing with conflict within the church.22 What Yoder finds particularly striking about Jesus’ teaching here is the insistence that with this particular practice, the church’s “activity would at the same time be the activity of God. ‘What you bind on earth is bound in heaven,’ [Jesus] said (Matt. 18:18).”23 Clearly, then, if any biblical practice could be considered a “sacrament,” it would be binding and loosing. But binding and loosing is also a concrete social practice of conflict resolution. Yoder thus argues that binding and loosing “is one specimen of the expectation . . . that the way God wants believers to live together should be a model as well for other social relationships. . . . We see here . . . how the church models for the world what both are called to be and to do.”24
Secondly, Yoder discusses the practice of breaking bread together, described in Acts 2:42–46. According to Yoder, this basic act of breaking bread together – sharing a common meal – is what Jesus was referring to when he told his disciples to “do this in remembrance of me” as he broke bread in their presence at the Last Supper.25 While Yoder acknowledges that the Eucharist has a number of dimensions, including an accompanying prayer of thanksgiving, a celebration of Passover, and a memory of Jesus’ feeding the crowds in the desert,26 he argues that the first dimension “is the simple social fact, undeniable in the record but often not taken to be important, that men and women left their jobs, homes, and families to constitute with Jesus a new ‘family,’ a community of consumption, in which he exercised the role of head-of-household.”27 Thus, Yoder argues that at its core “the Eucharist is an economic act. To do rightly the practice of breaking bread together is a matter of economic ethics.”28 Sharing together a common meal relativizes social hierarchy and thus privileges the poor and those without means for provision. Furthermore, by relativizing social hierarchy in light of the gospel, breaking bread together also, by extension, relativizes the claims of the Christian’s particular “office” or “vocation” by submitting them to the claims of Jesus on the Christian’s life. Yoder writes:
If we reclaim the doctrine of vocation in the light of the practices and social vision that we are studying, then the specific ministry of the Christian banker or financier will be to find realistic, technically not utopian ways of implementing jubilee amnesty; there are people doing this. The Christian realtor or developer will find ways to house people according to need; there are people doing this. The Christian judge will open the court system to conflict resolution procedures, and resist the trend toward more and more litigation; this is being done.
Technical vocational sphere expertise in each professional area will be needed not to reinforce but to undercut competently the claimed sovereignty of each sphere by planting signs of the new world in the ruins of the old. Baptism is one of those signs, and so is open housing. The Eucharist is one, but so is feeding the hungry. One is not more “real presence” than the other.29
Yoder then turns to the practice of baptism, arguing that its
concrete, social-functional meaning . . . is that the inherited social definitions of who each of us is by class and category are no longer basic. Baptism introduces or initiates persons into a new people. The distinguishing mark of this people is that all prior given or chosen identity definitions are transcended.30
Baptism, as with binding and loosing and breaking bread together, is thus properly sacramental in that it is at the same time an act of God and a practice of the church. As Yoder states, “baptism is the formation of a new people whose newness and togetherness explicitly relativize prior stratifications and classification. . . . We start with a ritual act whose first, ordinary meaning is egalitarian.”31 But while baptism is a ritual act of the church, it is also a public act with political implications that can be witnessed by the world. By forming a “new humanity” out of previously antagonistic groups, baptism witnesses to the equality of all human beings, the possibility for reconciliation, and by extension even “the power of nonviolence . . . that . . . gives operational shape to our permanent readiness to see our adversary as able to change.”32 Moreover, since for Yoder baptism is an uncoerced, voluntary act, it also witnesses to “authentic religious liberty.”33
Yoder discusses two further New Testament practices: the fullness of Christ, “in which every member of a body has a distinctly identifiable, divinely validated and empowered role,”34 and the rule of Paul, in which every member in the assembly is given the opportunity to speak until consensus is reached. However, for our purposes his description of these first three practices – binding and loosing, breaking bread together, and baptism – should suffice. Yoder develops the underlying “logical parallelism” among these practices, noting that of each of them:
a) it is formally said in the New Testament that when humans do it, God is doing it;
(b) it is the case that the practices are ordinary human behavior;
(c) it is further the case that doing them is what makes a group what it is;
(d) it is described in the New Testament as derived from the work of Jesus Christ;
(e) it is true that they have a social meaning at the outset; and,
(f) it is true that they constitute procedural guidelines.35
Having described these practices and the distinct political approach they represent, Yoder concludes by comparing his approach with more standard Christian approaches to political involvement. Whereas standard approaches view the “real world” as beyond the church, for Yoder, “the modern world is a subset of the world vision of the gospel, not the other way around.”36 Whereas standard approaches often involve imposing one’s Christian ethic onto the structures of the state, Yoder argues that we should “[r]espect the world’s unbelief,” and therefore, “we can serve the world but are not called to rule it.”37 Nevertheless, the practices Yoder describes “are visible; they are not opaque rituals. They lend themselves to being observed, imitated, and extrapolated.”38 They embody the good news of the gospel and refuse to relegate Christian ethics to any other realm than the gospel of Jesus. However, for Yoder, “this makes them no less public” than an ethic derived from nature or reason.39
Yoder continues: “In contrast to the standard approaches, these practices do not make the individual the pivot of change. . . . The fulcrum for change and the forum for discernment is the moral independence of the believing community as a body.”40 Moreover,
all of the five practices spell out in different ways the fundamental decision of Jesus to accept the conditions of suffering servanthood as the shape of his messiahship. . . . The authority for these practices is revealed; it is part of the intervention into history which we call the incarnation or redemption. Jesus told us to do them. . . . That transcendent mandate is why . . . the label sacrament could be appropriate . . . Yet . . . they are not “ritual” or “religious” in any otherworldly sense (any more than the humanity of Jesus was). What they are doing can be spoken of in social process terms, which can easily be transposed into nonreligious equivalents that a sociologist could watch. People who do not share the faith or join the community can learn from them.41
With Yoder’s description of these Christian practices in hand, I believe we are in a better position to understand Hauerwas’ call to recover the Christian practice of dying, to which we may now briefly return.
The Christian Practice of Dying
The Christian practice of dying, as articulated by Hauerwas, seems to conform well to the “logical parallelism” of the five practices described by Yoder. If any practice exemplifies Yoder’s points (a) and (b) above, it is dying. Dying is an ordinary human behavior – indeed, common to all humans – yet is at the same time in God’s hands according to Christian belief. And, while in American society death is often an isolated, individual act, the Christian practice of dying – especially as it involves privileged Christians voluntarily refusing treatments for the sake of the underprivileged – would be a corporate act helping to shape and define the Christian community itself.42 At the same time, the Christian practice of dying will present a clear social alternative that could be observed by those outside the church. Thus, this practice conforms well to Yoder’s points (c) and (e) above.
Regarding Yoder’s point (d), dying on behalf of others is at the core of the Christian story, derived from Jesus’ work on our behalf. As Yoder notes, it is the primary way in the New Testament that Christians are called to imitate Jesus.43 Jesus states to his disciples: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny them-selves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”44 Centuries of pietistic sermons have caused Christians to read this passage as referring to surrendering one’s desires, ambitions, and ego to Jesus and to bear with daily discomforts in order to inherit eternal life.45 While such interpretations may have some pastoral value, the concrete political meaning of Jesus’ call to his original first-century hearers would have been literally to be willing to sacrifice their lives for Jesus and the gospel, as the legacy of the early Christian martyrs (including most of the original apostles as well as New Testament authors James and Paul) illustrates.46
Finally, in regards to Yoder’s point (f) above, to call for a Christian practice of dying is to call for certain procedural guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. Pastors would do well to teach their congregations about the possibility of refusing potentially life-saving treatments; nevertheless, serious illnesses and other end-of-life situations in the church will need to be approached with care and sensitivity on a case-by-case basis.47 The witness of laying down one’s life for others is diminished if such decisions are coerced or mandated by others, whether church leaders or governmental agencies.
As mentioned above, those looking for Hauerwas to provide a solution to the health care crisis will be disappointed with this proposal. But I do not think we should fault a theologian such as Hauerwas for failing – or refusing – to provide a detailed proposal for health care reform. That project is perhaps best left to politicians, legislators, and medical professionals. Rather, by calling for a recovery of the Christian practice of dying, Hauerwas is providing a way for Christians – despite their political differences – to offer a corporate witness to the watching world. By accepting our own death for the sake of others, we take up our cross and thus embody the gospel of Jesus Christ. And by refusing to live as though death is the worst thing that could happen to us, we offer witness to the fact that death is not the final word – resurrection is.
Finally, it should be noted that, while Hauerwas’ proposal is admittedly radical, it is not entirely idiosyncratic. Recently an increasing number of theologians, philosophers, and medical professionals from a range of theological perspectives have begun advocating similar proposals.48 However, at the popular level, such perspectives have been overshadowed by “right to life” or “culture of life” teach-ings. While these Christian social teachings are essential, especially as they pertain to the most vulnerable among us, for those of us Christians with relative power and affluence – which likely includes everyone reading this essay – a necessary correlative of our right to life is our Christian duty to refuse it.49
Cite this article
- Stanley Hauerwas, “Finite Care in a World of Infinite Need,” Christian Scholar’s Review 38 (2009): 327–333. See also Hauerwas, God, Medicine, and Suffering (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990).
- Hauerwas, “Finite Care,” 332.
- I use the word “recover” because, as Paul J. Griffiths explains, there is a long history of Christians reflecting on and practicing the art of dying. See Paul J. Griffiths, “The Catholic Ambivalence Towards Death,” opinion, ABC Religion and Ethics, 6 July 2010, <http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2010/07/06/2946279.htm> (originally published as “Death & Dying,” 8 June 2010, <http://pauljgriffiths.com/2010/06/08/death-dying/>); Griffiths, “Defending Life by Embracing Death: Caring for Health by Recovering the Ars Moriendi,” Crane Scholars—Conyers Scholars Lecture, Symposium on Faith and Culture, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, 30 October 2010.
- Hauerwas, “Finite Care,” 332. Hauerwas is here following Paul Ramsey, The Patient as Person: Explorations in Medical Ethics (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970).
- Hauerwas, “Finite Care,” 332.
- Ibid, 333.
Indeed, the title of Hauerwas’ article, as well as some of the statements within the article, suggests that rationing of resources is unavoidable in almost any conceivable system. In a government-controlled system, resources will be rationed inevitably in attempts to stretch limited resources further. However, even in a completely unregulated system, resources are “rationed” based on one’s ability to pay. But, argues Hauerwas, the principle of supply and demand at the heart of capitalist economics breaks down in a system in which supply is “finite” and demand is “infinite.” One way or another, people will be denied the care they need. (See “Finite Care,” 329–330.) At the same time, Hauerwas’ call for Christians to forgo potentially life-saving treatment voluntarily seems to assume some level of individual choice in the system.
- See Stanley Hauerwas, With the Grain of the Universe: The Church’s Witness and Natural Theology (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2001), 231: “The problem for Christians and non-Christians alike is the Christian inability to live in a way that enables us to articulate what difference it makes that we are or are not Christian.”
- See, for example, John Howard Yoder, Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution,eds. Theodore J. Koontz and Andy Alexis-Baker (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008); Yoder, The Politics of Jesus: Vicit Agnus Noster, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994); Yoder, The Original Revolution: Essays on Christian Pacifism (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2003). See also my essay, “Evangelical Hermeneutics, Anabaptist Ethics: John Howard Yoder, the Solas, and the Question of War,” in The Activist Impulse: Essays on the Intersection of Evangelicalism and Anabaptism, eds. Jared S. Burkholder and David C. Cramer (Eugene, OR: Pickwick), 379-405.
See, for example, John Howard Yoder, The Christian Witness to the State (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2002); Yoder, The Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984); Yoder, The Royal Priesthood: Essays Ecclesiastical and Ecumenical, ed. Michael G. Cartwright (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1998); Yoder, For the Nations: Essays Evangelical and Public (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997); and Yoder,Body Politics: Five Practices of the Christian Community before the Watching World (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001) to which we will focus most of our attention.
- See John Howard Yoder, Nevertheless: Varieties of Religious Pacifism, rev. ed. (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1992), 133–138.
- On this point, see Mark Thiessen Nation, “The Politics of Yoder Regarding The Politics of Jesus: Recovering the Implicit in Yoder’s Holistic Theology for Pacifism,” in Radical Ecumenic-ity: Pursuing Unity and Continuity after John Howard Yoder, ed. John C. Nugent (Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 2010), 37–56, esp. 48–51.
- The major issue is whether or not Body Politics presents a reductionistic view of Christian practices. The reductionistic reading has been argued even by sympathetic Yoder scholars such as Harry Huebner, Thomas Finger, and Paul Martens as well as others. See, for example, Paul Martens, “The Problematic Development of the Sacraments in the Thought of John Howard Yoder,” Conrad Grebel Review 24.3 (August 2006): 65–77; Thomas N. Finger, “Did Yoder Reduce Theology to Ethics?” in A Mind Patient and Untamed: Assessing John Howard – approach to political engagement by Yoder’s Contributions to Theology, Ethics and Peacemaking, eds. Ben C. Ollenburger and Gayle Gerber Koontz (Telford, PA: Cascadia Publishing House, 2004), 318–339. However, see also Branson Parler, “Spinning the Liturgical Turn: Why John Howard Yoder Is Not an Ethicist,” in Radical Ecumenicity, 173–191, who argues for an “expansionist” reading of Yoder as op-posed to a reductionistic one. See also my essay, “Inheriting Yoder Faithfully: A Review of New Yoder Scholarship,” The Mennonite Quarterly Review 85 (2011): 133–146.
- Yoder, Body Politics, vi.
- Ibid., vii.
- Ibid., viii; italics in original.
- As the subtitle of Body Politics reads.
- Yoder hopes to circumvent debates about “sacraments” or “ordinances” by choosing the “neutral” term “practices.” However, he notes that even this term has now developed a technical meaning in some circles, thanks to the work of Alasdair MacIntyre (Body Politics, 88, nt. 76). Recently, theological ethicist Glen Stassen has argued that Yoder’s use of “practices” might prove to be more helpful than MacIntyre’s (Stassen, “Practices of Incarnational Discipleship, Following a Thicker Jesus, Calling Us to Continuous Repentance,” plenary address to the Evangelical Theological Society Midwest Regional Meeting, Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, 19 March 2010). See also Stassen, “Jesus and Just Peacemaking Theory,” in Must Christianity Be Violent? Reflections on History, Practice, and Theology, eds. Kenneth R. Chase and Alan Jacobs (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2003), 135–155, esp. 137–138.
- Matthew 18:15–20; John 20:21–23. Interestingly, the only other time where Jesus uses the word ecclesia or “church” outside of Matthew 18:15 is also in the context of a reference to binding and loosing: Matthew 16:18.
- Yoder, Body Politics, 1.
- Ibid., 11, 13. For a more extensive treatment of this practice, see John Howard Yoder, “Bind-ing and Loosing,” in The Royal Priesthood, 323–358.
- Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.
- Yoder, Body Politics, 19–20.
- Ibid., 18.
- Ibid., 27.
- Ibid., 28.
- bid., 33.
- Ibid., 41.
- Ibid., 47.
- Ibid., 44–46. Some wording has been slightly altered from Yoder’s list. Yoder further develops this logical parallelism in his essay, “Sacrament as Social Process: Christ the Transformer of Culture,” in The Royal Priesthood, 359–373.
- Yoder, Body Politics, 74.
Ibid. Elsewhere Yoder offers a rather humorous anecdote that highlights the difference between his approach and more standard approaches: “In an ecumenical conversation circle in Evanston, we were discussing what might be the Christian responsibility for the racially segregated housing picture in that town. The self-evident need, from the point of view of some of the participants in the conversation, mainstream Protestantism, was for the ministers of the community to ask the mayor and city council for municipal administrative measures in favor of open-housing practices. This would be the church operating, in the person of the ministers, to discharge her social responsibility. The conversation was brought into some disarray when one of us asked whether the real-estate dealers and the sellers of houses were not mostly members of the Protestant churches in Evanston. The answer was that they probably were, but that the preacher was powerless to get his [or her] own members to take Christian ethics seriously on the grounds of their faith, without appealing to the coercion of government to get ‘the church’ as membership involved in lay professions to be less unchristian” (John Howard Yoder, “The Biblical Mandate for Evangelical Social Action,” For the Nations: Essays Evangelical and Public [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997], 188, italics original).
Yoder, Body Politics, 75.
- Ibid., 76.
- Ibid., 76.
- Ibid., 76, italics original.
- For example, a crucial aspect of the Christian practice of dying will be community discern-ment within the church over whether an individual should pursue treatment or refuse it. Thanks to Matthew Eaton for this suggestion.
- Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 131.
- Mark 8:34–35 (TNIV). See also Matthew 16:24–25; Luke 9:23–24.
- Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 129–131. See also Nekeisha Alexis-Baker, “Freedom of the Cross: John Howard Yoder and Womanist Theologies in Conversation,” in Power and Practices: Engaging the Work of John Howard Yoder, eds. Jeremy M. Bergen and Anthony G. Siegrist (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2009), 83–97.
- 6Indeed, Yoder perceptively notes that Jesus’ call to his followers to take up their cross and follow him was given before his crucifixion and resurrection. So, while modern readers can read this call in light of his crucifixion, his original hearers would have understood the call to take up one’s cross in literal, political terms. See Yoder, “The Price of Discipleship,” chapel address at Fuller Theological Seminary, January 1978 (unpublished).
- Of course, refusing care need not be limited to life-saving treatments. Christians might also give up other expensive treatments, such as certain cosmetic or dental ones, for similar reasons. Thanks to Kyle Silveus and Matthew Eaton for this suggestion.
- For recent treatments of dying from a range of theological perspectives, including Men-nonite, Catholic, evangelical, and even secular – all with which Hauerwas’ proposal shares affinities – see John D. Roth, Practices: Mennonite Worship and Witness (Scottdale, PA: Her-ald Press, 2009), 108–109, 120–122; Griffiths, “The Catholic Ambivalence Towards Death”; Griffiths, “Defending Life by Embracing Death”;John Dunlop, “A Good Death,” Ethics & Medicine 23 (2007): 69–74; Rob Moll, The Art of Dying: Living Fully into the Life to Come (Down-ers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010); Stephen Kiernan, Last Rights: Rescuing the End of Life from the Medical System (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006). See also the following recent collections: John Swinton and Richard Payne, eds., Living Well and Dying Faithfully (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009); C. Ben Mitchell, et al., eds., Aging, Death, and the Quest for Immortality (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004).See also my review of Roth’s Practices in Reflections: A Publication of the Missionary Church Histori-cal Society 11 (2009): 53–55, and my review of Kiernan’s Last Rights in Ethics & Medicine 24 (2008): 63. For a practical treatment of how Christian funerals might themselves serve as a Christian practice, see Thomas G. Long, Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral(Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2009). Thanks to John Dendiu for suggesting The Art of Dying and Accompany Them with Singing.
Special thanks to Joel Boehner, Andrea Cramer, Matthew Eaton, Kyle Silveus, and two anonymous reviewers for providing helpful input on earlier drafts of this essay. This essay is written in loving memory of my father, Dennis L. Cramer (1955–2010).