April 2020 – Drew University’s Religion and Global Health Forum, a pilot initiative to bridge the diverse worlds of faith and medicine to improve individual and public health outcomes globally, hosted a second virtual community conversation, this time on the topic of global health, theological education and COVID-19.
Dr. Kenneth Ngwa, associate professor of Hebrew bible and director of the Religion and Global Health Forum, and Dr. Arthur Pressley, associate professor of psychology and religion, co-moderated the panel of Drew Theological School faculty conversation leaders.
“We are asked to think about the air we breathe in so many ways,” said Dr. Laurel Kearns, professor of ecology, religion and society. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated seven million people die globally each year because of air pollution, which “will be multiplied by COVID-19,” said Kearns. “Air is God’s breath—a source of life. If we think about air pollution as the defilement of God breathe, how might that change our theology?”
Dr. Catherine Keller, George T. Cobb Professor of Constructive Theology, explored the deep connection between theology and health. “Theological education is not medical education, but it is certainly an education of global healers,” said Keller. While the pandemic has forced the globe into separation, many feel the separation more acutely. “We are called by the supreme entanglement to work healingly amidst all the frayed and broken intersections of the web of life,” she said.
Dr. Angella Son, associate professor of psychology and religion, suggested four ways to combat the anxiety many are feeling over the COVID-19 pandemic: receive, flow, discover and collaborate.
As theologians, Son asked the group to focus on those dealing with the greatest impact of the pandemic, “COVID-19 reveals how broken our country is, this is were we need to pay attention,” she said. “The impact is much greater on those with less resources.”
The coronavirus response slogan “Stay home, save lives,” is not a safe option for many, said Dr. Traci West, James W. Pearsall Professor of Christian Ethics and African American Studies. Specifically for the vulnerable in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, migrant and refugees at our southern borders, those in abusive relationships and children residing with sexual predators. “It suffocates the conscience of the nation and global audiences. A crucial task in the work of our joint theological education endeavor is to allow the conscience to wake-up and breathe revolutionary, liberatory life into our ritual practices, our scriptural interpretations, our administrative practices, service and advocacy,” said West.
Check it out below!
Check out the first Religion and Global Health Forum community discussion here.
For the latest information regarding Drew’s response to the coronavirus, visit the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) resource site.