Taking Our Meds Faithfully? Christian Engagements with Psychiatric Medication
How might Christian thought and practice inform the way that psychiatric medications are prescribed and consumed?
March 3-4, 2017
Click here for video from the 2017 conference
Pharmaceutical prescribing is itself widely varied in different disciplines and clinical contexts, and must be addressed with credibility and precision. We begin the series by examining the particular and controversial context of psychiatric medication prescribing. Despite the many questions surrounding the use of psychiatric medication, very few scholars have engaged this theologically. Furthermore, psychiatrists and (especially) primary care physicians have very few published resources, apart from medical texts that wholly embrace medical narratives, to guide their prudential use of psychiatric medications.
In this conference, titled “Taking Our Meds Faithfully? Christian Engagements with Psychiatric Medication,” we ask two primary questions. First, how can Christians understand the relation of the body, the person, and agency in a way that informs appropriate use of psychiatric medication, avoiding both reductionism and unhelpful forms of dualism? Second, what are the theological and moral goods toward which psychiatric prescribing should be directed, and what are its roles and limits?
What does it look like to prescribe and to take psychiatric medications wisely?
June 7-9, 2018
Drawing on the results of the first conference, the second conference will move beyond a specifically Christian context to the broader world of healthcare. In this conference, we seek to produce practical resources for both prescribers and consumers of psychiatric medication regarding how these medications might be used wisely, in a way that is attentive to the best medical research, to moral/ethical questions, and to social, political, and historical context. This conference will include thoughtful and well-respected psychiatric leaders, scholars who share concerns about the limits of medical narratives within psychiatry and who seek to place psychiatric medications within a larger social, political, and historical context, and persons who identify as consumers of psychiatric medication.
Theological Approaches to Pain and Its Management
This third conference of the collaboration considers the contemporary opioid crisis through a theological lens in order to develop faithful and fitting resources for both churches and healthcare practitioners.
The conference has two primary aims. First, we will bring theologians and healthcare practitioners together to address a moral question: In light of the opioid crisis, how should clinicians, pastors, and support networks of friends and family respond to those who suffer pain? This is no easy question, as the opioid crisis has complex theological, philosophical, socioeconomic, and institutional roots. By setting our contemporary approaches to pain and its management in theological context, we can better understand the multifaceted nature of the opioid crisis and so develop fitting responses. To that end, the second primary aim coming out of the conference is to generate new resources that help clergy and clinicians overcome barriers that keep them from partnering together to address the opioid epidemic.
This project will produce scholarly manuscripts as well guidelines for clinicians to help them understand how to interact effectively with religious communities, and also will produce resources to help clergy and congregants better understand their roles in coordinating support with trained and experienced professionals. These resources will not be merely clinical primers, but will be oriented toward helping them help themselves and others to address the pressing moral question: In light of the opioid epidemic, how should I respond to my neighbor (my congregant, my patient, my friend) who is experiencing pain?
2020 | “Do not be anxious about your body:” How is medical management of risks to future health compatible with Christian discipleship?
This fourth conference of the collaboration will venture beyond psychiatry into broader theological engagement of the use of pharmaceuticals for risk reduction. Drawing on scripture and Christian tradition, we will ask: How do we live into the truth that God cares for us and for our bodies in the face of anxiety about risk of future disease, death, or disability? How might such medicalized anxiety respond to the truth that we do not have the power to secure our future? How does it enable or hinder us from serving the God who gives us our bodies and their health?
We will ask what it might look like for patients and clinicians to apply the exhortation to seek first the is kingdom of God, and to not be anxious about tomorrow. We will ask what it might look like for medicine to respect Jesus’s maxim: Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
2021 | Is pharmacological risk management good medicine?
In the concluding year, we will reach beyond a specifically Christian context to identify points of convergence with critics and leaders of healthcare who share concerns that pharmacotherapy is being used uncritically to manage risk of disease. We will seek to articulate a constructive framework for the judicious use of pharmacotherapy for risk management, and will create practical resources to guide prescribing clinicians.
This gathering has three primary goals. First, we seek to clarify, in concise terms, what we know scientifically about both the effectiveness, and the burdens and side effects, of long-term administration of different pharmaceuticals to prevent complications of chronic disease. Second, we seek to articulate how the management of risk relates to the goals of medicine, and particularly the goal of preserving and restoring health. Third, we will identify a framework for patients and clinicians seeking wisely to make use of pharmaceuticals to prevent disease. How can clinicians practice preventive medicine in a way that respects the limits of pharmacotherapy to prevent future illnesses, acknowledges the side-effects and other burdens of using such medications chronically, and does not equate fullness of life with maximal reduction of statistical risk of future disease?