Paige Patterson, Donald Trump, and Theological Malpractice

As Christian leaders have defended Southern Baptist leader Paige Patterson over this past couple of months and President Donald Trump over this past couple of years, one is reminded of . . . the opioid epidemic.

The connection may not be obvious at first, but it’s an instructive one.

The New Yorker recently ran an article exposing the tactics of Purdue Pharma, a privately owned company best known for producing OxyContin in 1995, the most popular form of the opium-derived drug oxycodone. OxyContin was originally developed as a long-lasting narcotic that could help patients suffering from moderate to severe pain, especially after surgical procedures. What it became, however, under the relentless and ruthless marketing of Purdue Pharma, was a “treatment” for all sorts of maladies.

OxyContin is one of the most egregious examples of what is known in medical circles as “off-label prescribing.” This is practice of using a drug that has been officially approved to treat a certain problem in a certain population in a certain way for something else: for an unapproved problem or in an unapproved age group, dosage, or mode of administration. Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs can be prescribed this way and often to good effect by knowledgeable physicians. But in the wrong hands applied to the wrong situations, the drugs can have baleful effects quite different than originally intended.

OxyContin is one of those drugs, of course, as is fentanyl—originally formulated as a veterinary painkiller for large animals. These and similar drugs have ruined many, many lives because they are not being used as intended. They instead are being exploited for illegitimate and harmful use by people who ought to know better.

This brings us to the theological defenders of Patterson, Trump, et al.

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