Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

At the Center

Academic journal article The Hastings Center Report

At the Center

Article excerpt

Finding Religion. "What does it look like, this think tank of yours?" I hesitate, aware that my fellow students at Union Theological Seminary in New York City are completing their field education placements in inner-city churches, in hospices and NICUs, in nursing homes and social service agencies. Many of them are training for parish ministry; I am studying theological ethics, but must do "field ed" all the same to qualify for my masters of divinity, which I began more than ten years after earning a doctorate in English literature. Field ed is intended to prepare us for the pastoral as well as the intellectual challenges of our future work as clergy or theologians. Little do my classmates know that the view from my desk at The Hastings Center is, quite literally, pastoral.

Eventually, I confess: it's gorgeous. Not only the rambling buildings, the gardens, and the splendid view of the Hudson Highlands from the porch, but also the train ride up from the city. In spring, in the early morning, I may see the Columbia University crew team on the Harlem River. Then the tracks bend north, the city drops away, and the train enters the Center's landscape.

The Center has a long tradition of inclusion with respect to the theological voice in bioethics. For me, this is not a voice that can be reduced to dogma, to an entrenched position unable or unwilling to apprehend other perspectives: the either/or implied in the cliche "science versus religion." Rather, it is thinking about the relationship between science and religion, what theologians call the "both/and" perspective. It is exploring, during meetings of the Center's Patient Safety project, how a patient's faith may inform his or her understanding of medical error, and how to reconcile patient and physician in ways that promote justice. …

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