Tuesday, May 21, 2019
How Long Can Christians Genuinely Hold to Christian Convictions and Stay in the Medical Field?
As we're watching the society around us, one thing has become increasingly clear, and that is that as we look at the collision between Christian conviction and the larger culture, one of the touchpoints is going to be the professions. Indeed I've often predicted that one of the hardest questions that will come to Christians in coming years, is whether or not we and our children can actually, with Christian conviction, enter several of the most lustrous and mainstream professions in the United States.
We are talking here about profession, such as law, and medicine, architecture and engineering. We're looking at that inevitable collision between the moral revolution and religious liberty, and we're looking at the fact that there are some very hard days ahead. Why the attention to the professions? Well, let's just back up and consider for a moment, that the rise of the professions is one of the hallmarks of the modern age. If you just look at the profession of medicine, you have to understand how fairly recent modern medicine is, and as we are thankful for modern medicine, we have to recognize there's a massive historical chasm between the barber surgeons of medieval Europe and the modern surgeons or doctor that practices medicine today.
There is some continuity no doubt in the intention of the profession of medicine looking over the last say 500 years. When to comes to the actual practice of medicine, there is very little continuity. You have to go back 200 years and consider there was then no germ theory, there was no understanding of how disease spread or even what disease was. Also lacking was the basic understanding of the human body and the way that it worked, basic anatomy and physiology that seems almost impossible that we have to remember, that until the late 18 century, it was considered wrong to conduct an autopsy or to dissect a human body. By the way that is the way modern medical education begins with an intimate knowledge of human body by dissection. That wasn't the case as you're looking at Europe and the United States, even into the late 1700s. By the time you get to the 1800s, the 19th century and beyond, things are beginning to change. But they did change rather slowly.
By the way, one of the literary indications of the fact that that change came slowly is when you consider that novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, the strange tale of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. What made Doctor Jekyll respectable, even in the 19th century, is that he didn't have to do with dead bodies. What made Mr. Hyde disrespectful, was that he was the caricature of a figure who was known in Britain at the time, a so-called body man, someone who dealt with bodies in the underworld of London. There was virtually no understanding of viruses and germs, even in to the early years of the 20th century, it was not unusual for a physician doing surgery, to move from patient to patient without even washing hands.
You have to look at the twenties century as you consider the practice of medicine really moving into the modern age, the development of anesthesia as we know it in modern surgery, antibiotics, an entire array of pharmacological wonders. You have to look at the ability to diagnose by imaging and other technologies. You have to look at the fact that issues such as radiation became known—huge advances in medical knowledge that are now simply taken for granted. The rise of the professions was not just about medicine, it was also about law. There is greater continuity in the practice of law looking over the centuries than of medicine. But what made law and medicine, in particular, so important in the development of the professions, is that in the modern age, they became secular professions marked by the fact that there was a particular educational requirement.
There was a particular certification, that came from within the profession, the profession became largely self-defining and self-regulating. The logic on this would appear to be clear, but it's important to note it really wasn't during the time when the emergence of the professions. The logic is that you really want doctors defining and regulating the right practice of medicine. You really want lawyers defining and regulating the right practice of law. We take that for granted now, but it was the rise of modern professions that made that standardized or normal. And of course, it wasn't just law and medicine. The original three professions were law and medicine and ministry, theology in particular. But the certification through theology was in the purview of the church.
That define the professional standards for clergy and for theologians. But in contrast, medicine and law emerged as modern secular professions with the new norms of what it meant to be a profession and they were joined by other professions. Overtime, you had groups such as architects join together in a professional guild, also with professional standards and professional understandings of ethics. Engineering—you can go down an entire list now. But even as society came devalue the professions, it came with that understanding that the profession had a social obligation to define themselves and the rightful practice of that profession and the appropriate ethics.
But here's where the explosion is about to happen. When you have a moral revolution taking place, in our society, as we have just over the last two decades in particular, when you have basic issues such as sexuality and gender and marriage and human social organization thrown into the mix, with a new morality. Well in order to fit in the society, the professions begin to conform to the larger societal norms. To say, the matter bluntly, what we're looking at is the fact that law and medicine as professions are under enormous cultural pressure, by the new powers that be, morally speaking in the culture, to completely abdicate to the LGBTQ revolution and not only to as practices, but it's logic. You see this in medicine with doctors being told this is the new morality of medicine, this is the new understanding of medical ethics.
And this raises a huge question, not only in medicine but in other professions inevitably. How long can Christians genuinely holding to Christian conviction continue in some of these professions? I want to point to two very ominous headline articles in the recent media, just over the last several days, the first comes from Canada. National Review ran the article by Wesley J. Smith, the headline: “Canadian Court: Doctors Must Euthanize, Abort, or Refer.” As Wesley J. Smith writes, “The culture of death brooks no dissent. In Canada, doctors have been ordered to bend the knee. Here’s the story: The Canadian Charter (Constitution) guarantees ‘freedom of conscience and religion.’”
He says that it's stronger and more explicit protection of religious liberty than our First Amendment. I'm going to stop there and say it is sort of in expansive language but it is actually less so in the actual operation of the Canadian charter. But he continues, “After the Supreme Court created a right to euthanasia, Ontario passed a law requiring doctors to kill legally eligible patients who want to die or provide an ‘effective referral’ if they have moral objections — i.e., procure a doctor known by the dissenter to be willing to euthanize patients.”
Now let's just stop there from the article and recognize that what Smith has telling us is that the Ontario government is now telling doctors that they must euthanize so called legally eligible patients or they have to at least become complicit in the death of that patient, by referring the patient to a doctor they know is willing to kill the patient. Some doctors driven by Christian conviction went to court saying that the new Ontario government policy violated their constitutional rights, their rights according to Canada's charter.
And what has have note here and most ominous is the fact that a Canadian court, now affirmed by court of appeals, has found that the doctors did indeed have their charter rights infringed. The court acknowledged the violation of religious liberty. But Smith tells us the court also ruled that there is now a right, which is nowhere mentioned in the charter to equal and equitable access to legal and government fund medical interventions and as he said the court ruled that this tramped doctors freedom of religion.
Now, as we think about it, this is exactly what's happening in the United States in the form of the argument. There is some the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution inexplicit guarantee of respect for religious liberty. There is no mention whatsoever, of sexuality in the Constitution of any right to sex or to sexual orientation or to sexual identity or to sexual behavior. But the court invented that right, as one of the keystones of the sexual revolution. And what will you seen in the American and now on the Canadian parallel, is that the rights that are in invented out of the constitution or charter are now being used to tramp the rights that are in explicitly enumerated in both.
I looked at the document that is the decision recently handed down by the court of appeal for Ontario, and to say it's ominous is in extreme understatement. We are looking here at the court acknowledging that the new policy violates the religious liberties of Canadian doctors there in Ontario but nonetheless saying that there is another right not even mentioned in Canada's charter that tramps that right. And that is this new right to equal and equitable access when it comes to medical care.
But here you see the huge problem. If this law is sustained, and it looks like it will be, then every single physician in the Canadian province of Ontario is at least by the law and policy of the province, responsible to conduct euthanasia or physician assisted suicide or to at least become complicit in helping patients that that doctor will not serve by conscience with another physician who will kill them. There's no way to put a finer spin on this.
One of the most important paragraphs in Wesley Smith's article at National Review is this: “Not only that, when most doctors got into medicine, euthanasia was a felony!” He continues, “But who cares? Times change and doctors must change with them because patients are ‘vulnerable.’”
The point being made by Smith is that it is the religious liberties of the doctors that are now vulnerable, because physicians are told that even as the court acknowledges that their religious liberties in conscience rights are being trampled upon, there's a new right which isn't enumerated in Canada's charter. And it is at least very important to note, that euthanasia was a felony when many of these physicians entered the practice. But now they're being told, it is a requirement of what it means to be a physician in Canada. But just in case you wonder if the court understood this logic, let me read to you from the appeals court decision, "The appellants,” that speaking of the physicians, “they have no common law proprietary or constitutional right to practice medicine. As member of regulated and publicly funded profession, they are subject to requirements that focus on the public interest rather than their interest. In fact, the fiduciary nature of the physician patient relationship requires physicians to act at all times in their patient's best interest and to avoid conflicts between their own interest and their patient's interest.”
What you're looking at there, is the absolute category called unconditional denial of conscience rights to physicians in Ontario. You're also notice something else that is central to this moral revolution. It is the patient who is now telling the doctor what is in the patient's best interest. The doctor is just now, a facilitator of what the autonomous individual declares to be best practice.
A Dark Warning: The Culture of Death Now Argues that Physicians who Oppose Abortion on Religious Grounds Should Not Enter Obstetrics and Gynecology
But I said there were two headlines, so draw no comfort in the United States that that story was from Canada. This is an op-ed piece that run just days ago in the New York Times. It's by Sandeep Jauhar, identified as a cardiologist, a contributing opinion writer and the author of a recent book entitled Heart: A History. The headline of this opinion piece, remember in the New York Times, is this: “Should Doctors Refuse to Treat a Patient?”
Now when you look at that headline question, should doctors refuse to treat a patient? That certainly appears to be a question that should be answered, no. One of the central obligations of the medical profession is to treat a patient. But that seems to be non-controversial, so the fact that this is an opinion piece in the New York Times, tells us there's more here than is in that headline. But what's behind this is the redefinition of abortion as we have seen as reproductive health, a woman's reproductive health. And writing against the new conscience provisions announced by the Trump administration, Doctor Jauhar writes "It also invites a larger question. What should doctors do when a patient request runs counter to their moral convictions?”
“In medicine,” he writes, “we often talk about a patient's right to refuse treatment, but what about doctors right to deny it?" He goes on to say that this question has not been fully answered yet even by a group such as the American Medical Association. As he says the association right now is "somewhat ambivalent on the issue.” He points out that the current code of ethics of the medical profession in the United States says that, doctors are responsible "to place patient's welfare above their own self-interest,” but at the same time that same code of ethics recognizes that "physicians should have considerable latitude to practice in accord with well-considered deeply held beliefs, that are central to their self-identities."
As he says, that provision is not unlimited. The direction that Doctor Jauhar is taking becomes very clear when he begins to write these words, "Conscientious objection can also promote outright discrimination. Christian medical associations, for example, have argued that providing treatment to transgender individuals can constitute “cooperation with evil.” In some cases conscientious objection may be motivated by rank prejudice as opposed to religious conscience — a distinction that can be hard to parse in practice.”
What we're really don't have to parse those words very hard, because he has indicated that Christian doctors who are unwilling to move ahead with something like sex reassignment surgery, they must be driven by what is at least functionally equivalent to what he calls ranked prejudice.
The direction of the profession that he wants to see, is very clear with these words, "Doctors have an obligation to adhere to the norms of their profession. In my view, as long as treatments are safe and approved by medical organizations, doctors should have limited leeway in refusing to provide them. Patients’ needs should come first.” And to avoid such conflicts, note these words following very carefully please. I go back, "And to avoid such conflicts, medical students who foresee problems of conscience should steer clear of certain fields, such as obstetrics-gynecology, when making career choices. Broad conscientious objection of the sort the Trump administration is defending could lead to chaos in health care.”
So we have seen that it leads to some medical colleges and Canada are arguing that incoming students should agree to perform abortions, otherwise they're not agreeing in advance to perform the entire spectrum of medical care. If they're unwilling, they shouldn't enter medical school. Now you have these physician arguing in the New York Times that medical students who are unwilling to perform abortions should steer clear of the specialization such as obstetrics and gynecology. Now let me back up for just a moment, and state what is the obvious or at least should be the obvious. If it's not obvious we are in a horrifying situation. We want people to enter the medical specializations of obstetrics and gynecology in order to save the lives of babies, not to kill them in the womb.
We want doctors to enter those specializations because they want to care for women who are pregnant and see their pregnancies through to a safe delivery and a healthy baby. And to also state what we should note very clearly, this won't end with obstetrics and gynecology. It also won't end with medicine. It won't end with medicine and with law. Eventually this kind of moral coercion is going to be normalize throughout all of the major professions. In which case, religious conscience rights are simply going to be considered too expensive, and less expendable because of the higher mandate of the moral revolution.
So now we've had just some recent days a one, two punch of developments: an appellate court decision devastating in Canada and a very dark warning coming in an opinion piece that ran in the New York Times, both of these developments within just a few days, on both sides of the Canadian-American border.
Moral Relativism on Display in the Public Library as Drag Queen Reads at Storytime: Even the Library Is Not a Safe Space for Christian Parents and Children Anymore
But next, we shift to Louisville Kentucky right here, where the moral revolution is also extremely clear in the kind of news story, that attracts attention and is meant to attract attention and that's actually part of the story, headline article from the Louisville Courier Journal: “Storytime: A Tale of Two Sides.”
What's the story time? It was an event that took place just in recent days at the free public library major cultural institution here in Louisville, and what was it? It was drag queen story time. Now on The Briefing about two years ago we talked about the emergence of this movement that took place, in which you have very young children not only school-age children but preschoolers read stories by drag queens in costume. Now, it's hard to talk about something like this at times. We are really looking at something that just a few years ago, would have been incomprehensible.
We should simply reflect upon the fact that this moral revolution has proceeded so quickly, with such remarkable velocity that this is the kind of thing that's now on an inside news page in America's major newspapers. Here in Louisville it did make news and Matt Mencarini, who writes the article for the Courier Journal says that it reveals the cultural conflict right here in this town. That's the headline: “Storytime: A Tale of Two Sides.” The story begins by telling us that about 100 parents and children had gathered at the downtown library location "dancing and listening to stories.” At the same time he tells us, “Two groups stood outside, separated by barricades and with police presence.”
Inside, Vanessa Demornay led the library's first drag queen storytime. Outside, the American Family Association of Kentucky held a prayer vigil in opposition to the event, but were outnumbered by those who came to support the event and cheer on the families who walked into the library. The drag queen of the center of this story whose real name we told is Mikhail Schulz wasn't worried about those outside protesting and stressed the importance of the event.
"The biggest message for me was the same message I wish I had gotten as a kid, which is exactly what we shared with kids today. It's not how you want to dress or what you put on your body that determines who you are. I just wish he said I had that eye opening experience of meeting someone so different and knowing that that it is okay and acceptable." The story is read by the drag queen to the children and their parents included books entitled Not All Princesses Dress in Pink and also My Princess Boy. You can't make this up. The leader of the library explained that the event was being held, because "this is something that public libraries all over the country have been doing. It's consistent with the values that public libraries have traditionally held in cities all across America."
Now just hold on a minute. What are those traditional values that had been held for so long by librarians? Where were the drag queens ten years ago? You have to ask these librarians. Well the fact is of course they weren't reading story books in public libraries ten years ago. It's a moral revolution that’s taken place and you have a statement here from a professional librarian—here's a profession again— indicating that the public library and its librarians want to make very clear they are now enthusiastically for the moral revolution and if they had only thought rightly, evidently, there would have been drag queens story time decades ago.
But of course there wasn't. It's because, what you're looking at here is a moral relativism that reveals the real dynamic of the sexual revolution. The librarian went on to say, "We're about openness, acceptance of the diversity of the population we serve. Everything we do, whether it's books or movies or DVDs, we try to provide something that appeals to all of the difference elements of the community." That's some of the new laying bridge of the moral revolution, “difference elements.” The local library union—there's the profession again—responded, "Libraries are meant to be safe community spaces for everyone no matter their class, race, sexuality, gender or origin." There's something else here we simply have to not a moral incongruity. It's not an irony. It's a downright contradiction of terms. You have a larger society celebrating the Me Too movement and opposing the sexualization of women.
But just to state the matter as carefully and delicately as we can, the whole idea of a drag queen is a male dressing up as a highly sexualized version of a female. How exactly does that fit in in the new moral revolution except for the fact that individual personal autonomy is now the ultimate good, the only idolatrous principle of the modern age. But it’s also important that Christians and parents in particular, understand that the library, in particular a public library, is no longer in so many cases rightly defined as a safe space for Christian families, and especially for Christian children.
Now Starring in the Latest Box Office Sensation? Man’s Best Friend
Finally, yesterday we looked at the significance of the end of the ‘Game of Thrones’ series on HBO, but now I want to turn to another very interesting observation about us and our entertainment preferences. Another headline story, this one in the New York Times: ‘A Box Office's Best Friend.” Here's the subhead: “Movies with dogs as a main character generally earn a lot of money if not critical raves.” The article is by Gregory Wakeman, and what he writes about the fact is that movie critics really don't like movies in which dogs are central characters, but it turns out that the people who buy movie tickets really do.
The article helpfully quantifies this "A remarkable 70 live-action films with dogs central to the plot have been released theatrically since 1974, and together these have grossed more than $2.2 billion at the domestic box office.” The editor of box office mojo said "There is a timeless, enduring quality to the relationship between people and their dogs, and people of all ages like seeing this reflected on screen.”
Later in the article there are some interesting observations for one thing, Americans want to go to movies to see an every dog. Not some kind of spectacular dog, but the kind of dog they might have known or the kind of dog they might know well as their pet even now.
They want an every dog, as the article says, even like American's like actors like Tom Hanks, the every man. Multiple dogs turn out to be good for the movies. Therefore, the remake of ‘101 Dalmatians’ grossed 518.5 million dollars. It turns out that Americans also like talking dogs, but not on a live movie. They would prefer their talking dogs be animated dogs. It's just an interesting observation about the culture but it is telling that the glory of God's creation even in that strange relationship of affection and loyalty between human beings and dogs it is so central to the human story the human beings will pay billions of dollars for tickets to go see those movies.
But maybe the most important thing to recognize is that dogs might actually rightly be described as man's best friend, and are friend to our children too. And one thing's for certain, you never have to worry about your dog dressing up in drag.
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