Here is the PowerPoint from Brian’s talk on Monday, August 24.
Here is Kate’s Welcome to Nashville Presentation. Enjoy and feel free to email us with suggestions!
Medicine as Gift, Power and Christian Vocation
by Farr A. Curlin, MD
Today’s Christian Doctor – Winter 2010
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the journal Health & Development, published by the Christian Community Health Fellowship (CCHF), information about which can be found at: www.cchf.org.
What is medicine? Is it a science? Is it a profession? Is it an industry? What has the Christian tradition to say about medicine? And does what the Christian tradition says really matter in the end? In hopes of beginning to address these questions, this essay explores three Christian metaphors which apply to the practice of medicine, namely medicine as gift, medicine as power, and medicine as vocation. For each metaphor, I will attempt to identify errors and blind spots toward which we are prone, point to resources within the Christian tradition for correcting our mistakes, and suggest some very preliminary steps toward what I hope is a way forward.
If you missed Dr. Wood’s talk this past March here is a link to watch; please forgive the not so great audio quality!
About Professor Wood: Ralph C. Wood has served as University Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor since 1998. He previously served for 26 years on the faculty of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he became the John Allen Easley Professor of Religion in 1990. He has also taught at Samford University in Birmingham, at Regent College in Vancouver, and at Providence College in Rhode Island and has spoken internationally including the Vatican and Notre Dame and most continents. At Baylor, his main appointment is in the Religion Department, but he also teaches in the Great Texts program as well as the Department of English. He serves as an editor-at-large for the Christian Century and as an editorial board member for both the Flannery O’Connor Review and Seven: An Anglo-American Literary Review.
by Dr. Wes Ely
Read that quote again. Notice that most of the world operates the other way around. We first seek to understand and then begin to believe. Indeed, absence of understanding serves as a stumbling block for so many of us in our faith journey. But the instruction above, the truth above, is to believe in order to begin understanding.
When I was a boy, my mother gave me a small bookmark with a picture of Jesus at the top. Below that she wrote, “Wes, Jesus loves you. May you know this and love and serve Him all the days of your life.” I knew immediately it was true, internalized what she had written, and never looked back. It was a Grace, clearly. As I told this story to a Vanderbilt medical student last week at the beginning of the year barbecue for the SSCD (Society of Saints Cosmas and Damian, the Catholic medical student association), she recounted how she had been similarly “gifted.” All of us who have made the choice to believe, to walk in faith, have been blessed with such a grace. Yet it must never be taken for granted, and we must nurture this faith daily.
Isaiah 7:9 is used to begin Chapter 2 of Pope Francis’s encyclical letter, Lumen Fidei. During this year of faith, we are called to dive deep into our own personal journey towards God. Fulton Sheen points out that this journey is our response to Him having initially reached down to us. Christianity, he says, is a religion in which God first reached down to man, as opposed to most other religions where man is reaching up towards God. Returning to this quote, then, what do we make of our own ability to believe even in the absence of full understanding?
St. Paul tells us, “One believes with the heart.” (Romans 10:10) and we know that ultimately our faith is a leap of the heart. It will depend not upon our understanding, or upon our “seeing” God, but rather upon whether or not we actually hear what we have been told happened 2000 years ago. Not vision, but “hearing” will be the key. Jesus cried to us, “Anyone who has ears for listening should listen!” (Mk 4:9 and Lk 8:8)
Later in the second chapter of Lumen Fidei, Popes Benedict XVI and Francis (since they co-wrote the encyclical), recount the story of St. Augustine from Confessions when he heard a voice telling him to “take and read.” He then took up the epistles of St. Paul and, having listened, began to read. Are we listening? His speaking to you won’t be a thunderbolt or an auditory exclamation that others around you can hear, but when we believe, even before we understand, we will be driven to pray and talk to our God. Such conversations, when coupled with adequate listening, will bring us a message of hope, happiness, and joy that should physically produce a smile.
Let me explore one other angle with the same ultimate point. It is known that Pope Francis loves Dostoevsky. For all of us in medicine, who understand physiology and the rheology of blood flow, Dostoevsky provides another side of belief, without understanding, in his 1869 novel The Idiot. In this story, the character Prince Myshkin, is obsessed with the painting of the body of the dead Christ in the tomb by Hans Holbein the younger, which was painted in the 1500s. The character mistakenly concludes that the visual of Christ on such a dilapidated path towards putrefaction could make one lose faith. Really?
Or is it the other way around?! Seeing that body in such a state, knowing the blood flow has clotted, the organs are filled with edematous fluid, and then believing, even before understanding, that this body was resurrected, alive, eating fish on a beach with friends… It is then, just following Apostle Thomas’s Divine declaration of our Lord (which was incidentally the first of any person in the New Testament), that the words of Christ make the most sense:
“You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20:29)… even without understanding…
“Unless you believe, you will not understand.” Isaiah 7:9
Here are the two quotes Brian used at our Bible Study of Genesis 1:26-31. They both relate to our being created in God’s image… The first, by C.S. Lewis, helps us in how we should think about and treat others and the second, by G.K. Chesterton, talks about the inconsistency of a materialist view of the world. Enjoy!
- According to C.S. Lewis “The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” – From The Weight of Glory
- “As a politician the secular person will cry out that all war is a waste of life and then as a philosopher will admit that all life is a waste of time. The secular person goes first to a political meeting where he complains that the natives are being treated as if they were beasts and then he goes to a scientific meeting where he proves that all human beings actually are beasts.” – GK Chesterton
Medical Christian Fellowship: As you may have noticed from this email we have changed our name. Medical Campus Outreach is now Medical Christian Fellowship. The name MCO has served us well over many years, and we believe that the change to MCF will build upon this rich history. Some of you have a long connection to MCO and others have only known us for a year or so (maybe less); regardless, we hope you can appreciate our reasons for implementing a name change.
First, for clarity we desire to have Christian in the name. All too often we meet students who have no idea what our group is or does. OR we have students attend events not knowing that it is a “Christian” event and they sometimes feel frustrated that the name wasn’t more clear. Having Christian will help to remove this ambiguity. Second, outreach is something we value, but it is often a word that can be easily misunderstood. One student brought up this point at a recent meeting; she felt that people unfamiliar with MCO or who are non-Christians can feel like they are the ones being reached out to, and some feel offended by that. I think this is a fair point. We truly want people to feel welcome and not like outsiders or worse, some kind of project (because they aren’t!). Third, by including the word “fellowship” in our name, we are intentionally stating our hope that MCF will be a catalyst for building and sustaining community. One of the main values for MCF is to BE a community of people who encourage and care for one another as we journey together. Finally, the new name creates some synergy with the graduate school group on campus which is named Graduate Christian Fellowship (GCF). Although this is not a primary reason for a name change, it is a nice bonus as we identify with our brothers and sisters in Christ at Vanderbilt.
We hope the name change will help to clarify and communicate the mission of MCF and that students will be drawn to join us on this journey of learning to follow Jesus. Stay tuned for information about the upcoming MCF events!