Thursday, September 09, 2004

Back Seat to Science

Science is eating away at the soul. It seems that with every new discovery there is less and less need for faith in a creator. Biochemistry, DNA and pharmacology explain the mysteries that are built into belief systems. When I announce in team meetings that this or that is happening with a patient, the reaction from the medical staff is that the medication is working, period. They are well trained and adept at using chemistry and skill to heal and the work of God in the patient’s healing is crowded more and more to the corners. I often feel like a second-class member of the team, or the middle child who is always struggling for validation and approval.

This is a problem for people of faith in all religions in our time and it’s a problem for our patients. It seems that the knee jerk response is to throw one baby or the other out with the bathwater. Fundamentalists and conservative Christians pick through science and throw out according to how much it threatens their beliefs. Scientists often throw out religion as superstition or fairy tales. Of course there are degrees of both of those on either side. While the nurses that I work with are practicing Christians, they usually don’t integrate their faith and medical science as well as they could. Perhaps it's because no one has suggested it or, for that matter, the church is so stuck in past eras that its leadership is unaware that there is a need.

It seems safer to maintain a schism between religion and science because nobody is healing the rift between the two. The church is responsible for the split between science and religion and in this day, it is either yielding too much ground to science or denying its place through sentimentalism and irrational thinking. The fear of Darwin’s theory is quite paranoid and irrational just as one example. To attack scientific inquiry as if it were itself an attack on God is ludicrous. It’s as if God were some Greek mythological character that needs protection from his enemies. Such anthropomorphic and thin concepts of God are probably at the base for why some scientists scorn religion in the face of rational thought at the start.


At Sunday, 12 September, 2004 , Blogger Marjorie said...

I'm sorry for the obstacles you face on your team -- that must be very frustrating. I agree with everything you've said, especially the part about pharmacology.
I'm currently reading (at an exceptionally slow pace) Morton Kelsey's Healing and Christianity and he talks of this schism between health and religion in the minds of many. He notes in one meeting with health professionals and clergy that it was the health workers who were interested in the religious aspect of healing but not the clery (p.3).
I have no answers, only agreement with you and hopefully, through that, encouragement.
Perhaps Larry will pop up on this one, I think he has an interest in this issue as well.

At Sunday, 12 September, 2004 , Blogger Larry said...

A good Quaker rant, Ken. Certainly a universal problem, though subjectively presented. The relationship between scientists and religionists is extremely variable. For example take Munroe Regional in Ocala; it happens to be the best cardiac hospital in FL. It was my good fortune to land there 4 years ago for a new aortic valve and "5 bypasses". On the night before the surgeon came in, when he found I was a retired minister, he almost went to his knees; he prayed a beautiful prayer: for me, for my wife, for himself. Then he left; then Ellie left for the night, and I'm lying there contemplating the future. After a while I felt ready to pray: "Lord", I said; "it's okay". Then I felt like a million dollars.

Well that was a digression. The point is Munro is an absolutely spirit filled place. I began visiting the cardiac to meet and pray with the patients-- among the most creative ministries I've experienced in years.

The other day a young nurse virtually insisted I visit a poor woman in isolation-- in bad shape physically and quite agitated.
Reluctantly I went in (I usually avoid the isolated patients) and was able to bring to her a measure of relief.

BTW I'm guessing that you work at the Winston-Salem hospice.
Incidentally my son, Paul, who lives in WS was highly involved with the financial dimension of that place several years ago.

Did you train at Baptist Hospital? I have a bit of history with that place also.

Finally, I somehow carry the impression that you have Quaker interests. Maybe that was somebody else; but if not I should like to share with you at that level.

Best regards.

At Wednesday, 15 September, 2004 , Blogger Anne Zelenka said...


My friend Sparky recommended your blog. I volunteer at a hospice as a patient care volunteer, so I find your blog very interesting.

I think you are absolutely right that "anthropomorphic and thin concepts of god" cause many scientifically-minded people to scorn religion. I myself am exploring Buddhism because I haven't been able to get beyond the old-man-in-the-sky version of Christianity.

- Anne

At Friday, 01 October, 2004 , Blogger Nurse Mia said...

I'm sorry to hear of your struggle with bringing spirituality to the medical setting. Don't lose hope. I heard recently of a study - I believe out of California - that shows that people who are prayed for have better health outcomes than those who are not. If this study is continued and gets better coverage, this may be just what is needed to ensure spirituality is incorporated more seriously into health care.


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