On Faith and Being Sensitive

People of faith must often navigate mine fields to live our beliefs in our progressively more and more secular culture. Just ask Dr. Richard Scott, a Cambridge-trained doctor who practices in Bethesda Medical Centre in Margate, Kent in England. He was in a consultation with a young man who was suicidal and had several medical and personal issues. At the end of that consultation, Dr. Scott suggested that he might consider faith in Jesus Christ, a faith that meant a lot to the doctor through the years. Several months later, the young man complained (actually, it was his mother who complained) to the medical authorities that his own faith (likely Islam) had been demeaned. Dr. Scott was called before a medical board hearing, and he must now defend his actions or he could lose his medical license. “A line was crossed because Dr. Scott expressed his personal religious belief to a person who he knew was a vulnerable patient in a way that was plainly liable to cause the patient distress.” Dr. Scott responded, “He had an awful lot of problems, and the thing to know, that God loves us and Jesus loves us and you can deal with stuff in the past, in terms of hurt or guilt or fear of failure, stuff you can only really find through Christianity.”

It strikes me as ironic that Dr. Scott works at a hospital named for the place in John 5 where Jesus healed an invalid, and yet just mentioning the name of Jesus in a conversation with a patient in the context of healing got him brought up on charges!  The good doctor asked the patients permission before sharing his message of faith, and he only offered it at the very end of the medical consult. Religious faith can clearly have a positive impact in dealing with medical issues (see 1, 2, 3, 4).  If that is the case, then how is it inappropriate to offer a faith-based message as a possibility to consider.  Of course, I do understand that the patient was particularly "vulnerable" because of his illness, but it was precisely that vulnerability that caused him to need something else in his life; what he had was clearly not working for him.  The problem here was not the the doctor offered some sort of extra-medical advice to this patient; the problem was that this man of science suggested that there may be something of value in the idea of God.  And those other men and women of science who make up the medical board don't want to admit that God... or at least that they aren't God.

Christians must be sensitive in bringing up the topic of faith in a world where we can no longer assume that most people have it.  There have been more than enough uninformed and insensitive proponents of faith who act like they are spoiling for a fight as they run roughshod overs in a rush to win arguments and defend positions.  But the idea that seems to have become the status quo in our multicultural word is, "It's OK to have faith as long as you don't try to share it with others."  That is impossible for Christians to accept, because one of the tenets of out faith is "Go into all the world and preach the gospel."   Sure, we have to find ways to be sensitive as we share our faith, but we MUST still share it.