Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Late, Great, New & Improved Dr. Doctrine: Chapter One

I recently wrote a little story as a favor to a friend. He went another way, so I thought I'd post it here.

This little story goes way against type for me. My friend and I think very differently about, among many other things, the way the Christian faith is best propagated in the world. In brief, self-serving terms: my friend believes that God's wrath is the clearest expression of the gospel; I think that when the apostle John wrote that "God is love," he meant that love ought to be the key characteristic of the gospel message and the church's mission.

That being said, I've lately been feeling the need to put myself in more direct conversation with the people who disagree with me, even with the people I find disagreeable. It helps that my conversation partner in this respect is a friend; once again, love starts, surrounds and sustains the stories we find ourselves in.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this little parable. And I hope you don't take it any more seriously than I do. It is, after all, only a story.

~~~

To be born again, it’s been said, first you have to die. That sounds horrible, but some deaths are more sad than horrible; they happen over time so subtly that we don’t so much acknowledge the death as forget the life. Some births are like that too—taking place in hidden places, passing the notice of the many. Sometimes the only ones that notice either death or birth (or rebirth) are the doctors that take note of them.

Dr. Doctrine was one such doctor. He’d been around a long time. An anchor of the community, he knew the families in this place intimately. He had treated their illnesses and made difficult judgments concerning their care, judgments that sometimes hurt for a moment but always served their overall health and protected the broader community. Dr. Doctrine was as wise as he was gracious, and the community depended on his help to stay healthy—even to know when it was sick.

You might be surprised to hear it, but even doctors fall in and out of favor. One day Dr. Doctrine unlocked the door of his office, turned the faded sign from “closed” to “open,” and sat at his desk to read the latest issue of the local paper. He had lived long enough and seen enough of life that nothing in the paper surprised him—nothing, that is, until he turned to the editorial page, at which point he promptly spilled his coffee and nearly choked.

“Dr. Doctrine Is No Friend of Patients” read the headline on the left. He had heard such mutterings in the street, on occasion, when circumstances had forced the occasional quarantine, or when saving the life of a patient had meant amputating a limb, or when patients were unready to hear the hard truth of his diagnosis and left his office in tears, untreated. To the untrained eye, particularly the untrained eye of the skeptic, such care often seemed unfeeling and even hurtful. But here, emblazoned in print, seemingly reflecting the will of the people, was an indictment that cut to his heart.

Dr. Doctrine read on as Dee Constructionist, a local purveyor of “holistic care,” wrote at length about the hubris of modern medicine and the body’s natural capacity to heal itself. She’s right, in a way, he thought. The human body was created to be healthy, and much medical care is simply getting the things we do to ourselves out of the way so that God, the Great Physician, can bring healing. But she was also wrong, Dr. Doctrine knew firmly and passionately. A patient who simply assumed that his body would heal itself was ignoring, either unconsciously or willfully, his own culpability in his sickness. A patient who rejected medical intervention wouldn’t find himself feeling better; he’d ultimately find himself dead.

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John said...
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