A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that the percentage of Americans who “think” that religion plays a role in solving important social problems “has fallen significantly” in the past fifteen years.
In 2001, 75 percent of those polled said that religious institutions played such a role in our society. By 2016, the percentage had dropped to 58 percent.
Now what’s changed? There’s no evidence that religious institutions have reduced their efforts in addressing the problems around them. Pew suspects that the drop has something to do with the rise of the so-called “nones,” the religiously unaffiliated.
I think part of the problem is that the religious contribution to the common good is so woven into the fabric of American life that most people these days just take it for granted and never stop to think about how prevalent it really is.
So today I want to talk about one such contribution: religious hospitals. As Wikipedia tells us “Greek and Roman religion did not preach of a duty to tend to the sick.” The idea of the hospital grew out of the “Christian emphasis on practical charity,” especially towards the sick.
Thus, as historian Roy Porter wrote in his book “The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity,” “Christianity planted the hospital.” Or stated differently, without Christianity, there would be no hospitals, at least not as we understand the idea.
That’s why, again quoting Wikipedia, the Catholic Church is “the largest [non-governmental] provider of health care services in the world.” How large? “It has around 18,000 clinics . . . and 5,500 hospitals, with 65 percent of them located in developing countries.” By one estimate, the Catholic Church “manages 26 percent of the world's health care facilities.”
So unless folks don’t consider providing health care in the developing world as “an important social problem,” the 42 percent who answered Pew’s question in the negative could not be more wrong.
But in the off chance that respondents interpreted the question to mean “important social problems” just in the U. S., well one in six hospital beds in our country is located in a Catholic hospital. In at least thirty communities, the Catholic hospital is the only hospital in a 35-mile radius. This doesn’t even take into account hospitals run by other Christian bodies such as Baptists, Methodists, and especially Seventh-Day Adventists.
Now for many progressives, this is a bad thing since these hospitals do not, because of their “commitment to the sacredness and dignity of human life from conception until death” define “women’s health” in the same way they do. To them, the spread of Catholic hospitals just means fewer abortions, and of course, that’s bad.
For someone actually sick and in need of medical care, this is completely irrelevant, if not perverse.
And speaking of perverse: many also have the strange notion that if Christian institutions got out—or as some would prefer, were forced out—of the health care business, government would just somehow pick up the slack.
This highlights the foolishness of the pro-abortion ideological crusade against Christian professionals and organizations in health care. As we’ve talked about before on BreakPoint, Washington State is already forcing Christian pharmacists (who by the way got no help from the Supreme Court) to choose between their faith and their careers. If states or the federal government attempt to force Christian hospitals to perform abortions, and those hospitals close their doors, the results would be catastrophic.
As I said earlier, the Christian commitment to caring for the sick, and other acts of compassion, are such a part of American life they’re taken for granted. So over the next few months, we’ll be talking a lot about these contributions that Christians make to American life every single day. You’ll want to stay tuned and share these stories with your friends.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: July 28, 2016