By Gary Gunderson
How do the institutions of faith and those of science fulfill their promise of well-being for a world God so loves? Both science and faith are focused on the possibilities that might happen next. Chastened by the deaths of thosefrom COVID-19, we might forget how far we have come, how much we have learned.
What if faith and health were not on speaking terms at all? What if the Episcopalian women who started the two tinyhospitals in Charlotte (that became Atrium Health) had just knitted and prayed in the abstract? What if the Baptists didnot bother creating their children’s home and the hospital in Winston-Salem? What if that same practical committee work did not happen in nearly every city in the United States? What if nobody noticed that the scientists had discovered the virus that causes tuberculosis (TB) and that it was preventable? Nobody held TB Sundays, HIV/AIDS Sundays and now interfaith services for all the COVID vaccine drives in thousands of church parking lots.
No nurses working in churches, no chaplains helping people navigate their last hours, nobody praying for healingministries to stretch one more mile to the end of the road. None of the tens of thousands of faith-based food pantries, much less food banks or gardens. Almost no counselling centers for the anxious or institutions for the mentally ill. Rarevisits in the jails and support groups for those trying to break their dependence on the substances and behaviors that holdus down. And little political support for science-based policies undergirded by the spirit of justice and mercy.
Only a century ago, a human life expectancy was 53 years in the United States and far less in most of the world.That could still be so again if we do not keep science and faith close as twins, both gifts of a loving God. For nearlyall of human history, pain and suffering had its way with our mothers and children, easy prey for what we now knoware preventable conditions. A sacred trust we hold; not normal at all.
Thank God we live in these days of such possibility.