Saturday, October 13, 2007

First Do No Harm

Just under a year ago, Dr. Esam Omeish, President of the Muslim American Society, could be heard here defending the stance that moderate Muslims are the majority in this country, while denying the claim that extremists are making it their mission to recruit for the cause of jihad in American prisons. Fair enough. Because of his moderate stance, and because he is "a respected physician and community leader," Omeish was appointed by Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to the Virginia General Assembly's Commission on Immigration. Great ... until last week when he was forced to resign.

Here and here are a couple of speeches Dr. Omeish has given, one as recently as two weeks ago. Quite the "moderate," eh? Forget the political question concerning how it is possible that this guy could be on a panel that advises anyone on official U.S. immigration policy. That is not the point I want to address. What blows me away is this "respected physician's" call for "the jihad way."

Consider this. In July, the world watched as Scottish police unraveled a failed bomb plot by eight doctors in Glasgow. The leader of the radical Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, who was recently killed in an Israeli raid, was a trained pediatrician. Theodore Dalrymple, in his National Review piece, "Cutthroats In White Coats," reports on a few other infamous cases:
Dr. Petiot is suspected to have killed 60 people in Paris under the occupation, promising to arrange their escape to South America in return for 25,000 francs, which he pocketed while killing and incinerating them;

Dr. Shipman of Cheshire, England, is thought to have poisoned upwards of 200 patients during his career as a general practitioner, for motives that remain, and will probably forever remain, unclear.

Vera Figner, one of the assassins of Czar Alexander II, and a founder of the terrorist organization Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will), was a doctor.

The role of doctors in Nazi Germany and Japan during the Second World War was not such as to give the profession much cause for pride.

Dr. Ernesto “Che” Guevara took an excessive pleasure not only in revolution itself, but in post-revolutionary executions.

Osama bin Laden’s deputy, after all, is a surgeon.

George Habash, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and a man of unstintingly violent opinions and inclinations, trained as a pediatrician.
Admittedly, these are an infinitesimally small number of the actual doctors who have served humanity well. And Dr. Omeish has not committed any violent act. But recent events show us that the jihad he has been promoting has, shall we say, led to a little violence here and there. What strikes me as a little weird though, is that so many of those trained to "first do no harm" have also been some of the most violent criminals in history. Why would that be? In the same article, Dalrymple (a retired doctor, I might add) has some ideas.

First, he points out, "doctors must train themselves to be dispassionate in the face of suffering, and be prepared to do things that might cause their patients discomfort and even pain, for the purpose of the good of the patients." One need look no further than the infamous abortionist Dr. George Tiller of Kansas, to see this tendency incarnated. Tiller is the doctor who has (perversely) perfected the late term abortion procedures with which we have all become so familiar. Tiller's motivation?
"Specialists in 2nd Semester elective and 2nd/3rd trimester therapeutic abortion care" ... We have a national and international reputation for providing the highest quality abortion services in a safe and caring environment. Kindness, courtesy, justice, love and respect are the cornerstones of our patient-provider relationships.
... He's doing it for the women. Tiller, blinded by the "tree" of protecting a woman's "right to choose" what she does with her own body, fails to see the "forest" of a complete lack of regard for demonstrating "kindness, courtesy, justice, love and respect" to the pre-born human beings he destroys every day.

Second, Dalrymple says, this numbness to pain and suffering must be attached to some kind of ideological cause that can lead to a terrorist mindset. History has proven that such an ideological call is, almost without exception, appealing to the highly educated among us. Though the uneducated masses may carry the banner of some such cause, it is the highly educated who lead it. Add these two traits together and ...
Solzhenitsyn pointed out in a different context, it is ideology that allows people to commit the most terrible acts in the belief that they are bringing about a better world.
This is not to pick on doctors (after all, some of my best friends are doctors). The tendencies at play here exist in every human heart. But because they have demonstrated a unique, and highly public, proclivity for perpetuating evil acts, doctors offer us a unique example of the promise and danger inherent in the apologetic project.

Our ability to argue for the superiority of the Christian worldview lies in how successful we are at appealing to the ideological passion of society's leaders. Paul knew this. Though many of us have a picture of Paul wandering the desert preaching the Good News to John and Jane Doe, the Bible tells a different story. Paul went into the synagogues, sought out the cultural leaders, argued toe-to-toe with the elite philosophers on Mars Hill, and won each of them to the cause of Christ. Only then did the crowds get with the program.

Paul's success teaches us that ideas have consequences and that those who combine intellectual acumen with passionately held beliefs can be the most successful -- or the most dangerous -- people on earth. Paul spent some time in each of those camps.

It follows that we who claim to be apologists for the Christian worldview are morally and eternally obliged to determine the truth in the ideas we espouse and their ability to cohere with the way the world was designed to work. A failure to do so creates people, like the doctors listed above, who are dangerous to all that is good, and beautiful, and true. Success in the endeavor creates movements that are dangerous to the self-centered notion that man is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong. That is a sickness for which no human doctor could ever offer a cure.

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