Saturday, February 4, 2012

Spiritual history

This post conforms to the blog rules.
As a part of Spirituality in Medicine, I took a spiritual history from a volunteer patient. A spiritual history is added to a clinical history of a new patient. It asks:
  1. Does the patient uses religion or spirituality to help cope with illness, or is it a stressor--and how?
  2. Is the patient a member of a supportive spiritual community?
  3. Does the patient have any troubling spiritual questions or concerns?
  4. Does the patient have any spiritual beliefs that might influence medical care?
The patient I interviewed considers himself a non-denominational Christian, although he has not been to church in ten years. He told me he can't see how religion or spirituality influences bodily illness or coping with it. He can't imagine any spiritual beliefs that would influence medical care. He told me religion means spirituality with a schedule, a man-made concept and corruptible. He cast some aspersion on wealthy churches.

Titian, Christ and the Good Thief
I pressed him. I asked him to imagine he had a serious diagnosis, like terminal cancer. He speculated that he might become more active in his church. Would he be more scheduled? Yes, he guessed so. And when he thought about death, he expressed a desire for pastoral care.

A few weeks ago, a video went viral on YouTube about loving Christ without religion. My parish priest had an excellent homily that week about why this makes no sense. Religion (L. religare "to re-tie") is a human virtue born of a response to God's grace. Christ calls us to Himself; we imperfectly attempt to answer. Because we keep failing, we re-tie ourselves and regulate ourselves so that we can become perfect. Religion, briefly, is the sign of love of Christ. How can we hate it? It is our cross and discipline, so that we can "run so as to win."

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