Christopher Hitchens tells us that “religion poisons everything” as he points to what he takes to be grave missteps by the likes of John Calvin, Martin Luther, Jerry Falwell, and Pius XII. But then, what about the atheist Jared Lee Loughner, who shot six to death in Tucson, including a nine-year-old girl? (You may have seen the YouTube video, where he declares that he “won’t trust in God.”) Might we Christians use Loughner’s case to retort that “atheism poisons everything”? And could we throw in Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber,” and Timothy McVeigh, the “Oklahoma City Bomber,” for good measure? Not really. This tit-for-tat won’t get us far. Instead, we need to go broad brush for comparisons.
Take hospitals, for instance. I recently visited a church attendee under care at Chicago’s Swedish Covenant Hospital, founded by the Evangelical Covenant Church. As for myself, I’ve have tests or treatments at Lutheran General, out near O’Hare, and Evanston Northwestern, with some Methodist roots. Also, a few years ago, I had to rush a church softball team member with a broken nose a few blocks to St. Francis Hospital (part of Resurrection Health Care).
Back when I taught at Wheaton, I would pass Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s on the drive into Chicago on the Eisenhower. And in those days, our middle child was born at Good Samaritan in Downers Grove.
In 2008, when I broke my wrist in a Southern Seminary basketball game in Louisville, we had the choice of two nearby hospitals, Baptist and Norton, the latter with historical connections to the Methodists, Episcopalians, Catholics, and Presbyterians. Had we gone west rather than east, we could have used Jewish Hospital at the downtown curve of I-65.
Certainly, there are public hospitals associated with municipalities and universities, as well as for-profit hospitals across the land, but the absence of professedly-atheist hospitals is remarkable, given the atheists’ posture of moral superiority. Where is the Voltaire hospital, the Nietzsche clinic, the Bertrand Russell out-patient service? Maybe Bill Gates (atheist) can team up with Warren Buffett (agnostic) to build a hospital in honor of God-denying David Hume or Jean-Paul Sartre, but it’s hard to see how those old skeptics could stir one’s eleemosynary impulses. Maybe the atheists could name one for Castro or Che Guevara, whose Cuban healthcare system Michael Moore praised in the movie, Sicko. The problem is that these enemies of the Church had to kill and imprison a bunch of people to establish their “revolutionary” setup, such as it is.
In contrast, those Swedish Covenant Christians with a healing ministry down in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood did it all without coercing or being coerced. Not surprising, since nothing could be more natural for believers than to build a hospital honoring the Great Physician, who restored sight to blind Bartimaeus, who raised Lazarus from the dead, and who gives eternal life to all to turn to Him in repentance and faith.
–Mark Coppenger (Southern Seminary) for BibleMesh