Virtual Voices

Protecting patients from Jesus

Religion

This week I read about a British doctor censured by a government medical licensing board for discussing his faith with a patient. According to one news report, the patient, a young man, saw the doctor for what appeared to be mental health problems. After securing his patient's permission to talk about their shared, professed Christian faith, the doctor did so.

The young man's mother, upon hearing about this, filed a complaint with government authorities. As an aside, when a 24-year-old man's mama is inclined to get offended on his behalf because someone talked to him about Jesus, that may well be a clue into not only his problems, but also the decline of manhood across Western civilization.

Because the doctor won't take a slap on the wrist, this is becoming a bigger issue, and he may lose his license. From his point of view, he offered his patient something that may well cure his ills.

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Though I'm sorry for the doctor's trouble, I love this kind of case because it flushes out into the open folks who want to imagine that our faith is something that can be confined to the private sphere and still retain meaning. If our faith is anything other than a talisman worn around our necks, then it is applicable-indeed, essential-to our well-being. To imagine that all problems confronting patients can be resolved by adjusting something in the body or the brain is to reconceptualize man as machine, which is something I suspect even many of my atheist friends won't embrace.

Man has a soul, or sometimes we might say "a heart," and by this we mean something more than a blood-pumping muscle. This heart can be dreadfully sick, indeed can be dying, and often is. No pills or physical procedures can fix this, because it is rooted in the disconnection from God that has plagued him since the Fall.

I have a friend-a very successful businessman-who went to his doctor years ago plagued by depression. After doing a physical exam and taking a personal inventory, his doctor told him his problem is spiritual. He wrote down on a prescription pad the name of a good pastor.

My friend went to see the pastor, and after some time came back into the Church he had abandoned years ago. Today he is immersed in a prison ministry, reaching out to some of the most broken people in society. He is transformed, and this great change is spilling over into the lives of his wife and his children. All of them are being rescued, and if we are to describe the Christian life in any way, we must describe it that way, as a great rescue from despair.

I understand why a proselytizing doctor would make some people uneasy. He might abuse his authority, after all. In the same way he might overprescribe medication, or misdiagnose an illness, or molest a vulnerable patient. We, of course, tolerate and manage all those risks because the alternative is to eviscerate the ability of doctors to heal. Why then, in light of those risks, are we so worried that someone might talk about Jesus to his patients?

Because deep down we are convinced that Jesus is irrelevant to the state of a patient's health, and that any doctor who doesn't agree is inherently unfit.

All of which makes me think that it's not the doctor who is incompetent in this case but British medical authorities who imagine man has no soul.

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