Global Health

Walking Together: Paul Farmer, Gustavo Gutiérrez, and the Limits of the Modern Juxtaposition of Religion and Global Health

Mara G. Block

                Last week, hundreds of people crowded into the sanctuary of First Church in Cambridge to witness a conversation between Dr. Paul Farmer, Professor Davíd Carrasco, and MDiv candidate Lauren Taylor about Farmer’s newest book, In the Company of the Poor (2013), co-written with Fr. Gustavo Gutiérrez.  The book’s structure emulates a conversation through six essays, old and new, alternately authored by Farmer and Gutiérrez.  It culminates with the transcript of an interview with Farmer and Gutiérrez at the University of Notre Dame in the fall of 2011.  The writings in the book portray a shared humility, a mutual respect, and a deep and long-standing friendship between two revolutionary thinkers whose respective disciplines share a grounding in the reality of social suffering and a preferential option for the poor—“O for the P,”[1] as Farmer has it.  Their distinct commitments and irreducible differences never challenge Farmer’s confidence that insights from liberation theology can inform the practice of medicine, nor Gutiérrez’s conviction that the work carried out by Partners In Health bears a “deep resonance with the message of the gospel.”[2]  But what exactly is at stake in this book and in the conversations that it has inspired?  Certainly not a sudden and new realization that their work rests on common values.[3]  What’s remarkable here, I think, is less their comparable paths than the fact that they’re walking them together.