Friday, September 7, 2007

Leviticus and Doctors

Yesterday I attended a seminar at Duke on the connection between spirituality and health. During the seminar, the speaker talked about how a project his group was involved with where they were equipping oncologists with a series of questions to ask their patients about what spiritual resources they were using in dealing with their cancer and were these resources a help or a hindrance to them. As I listened to him talk about the success of the program, I have to admit that I experienced a little professional slight. I found myself thinking, "Isn't that the realm of the minister or chaplain? Does a doctor have adequate training and knowledge to deal with such issues?"

This morning, during my quiet time, my passage for today was Leviticus 13-14. In the passage, it talks about leprosy. When a member of the Israelites was believed to be developing a skin disease, they would come to the priest and the priest would determine whether or not this skin ailment was leprosy or not. If it was leprosy, then the person was pronounced unclean. If it was not leprosy, the priest prescribed a series of actions for the person until the ailment went away. If a leper became clean, there was a ritual for welcoming the person back into the community.

As I read these words, it struck me - the priest was not only acting as religious leader, but as medical personnel as well! It struck me then that this idea of a connection between spirituality and health is not something new, and I should welcome the fact that a doctor is asking a patient questions about their spirituality. The doctor, just as the priest, should be concerned about the total well-being of the person and the community.