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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christian Challenges In Veterinary Medicine?

Time to delve into religion again.  Being so open about my faith brings up questions from readers from time to time.  Here's one that I received from Marie.....
I've been following your blog for the last 2 years and truly enjoy it! I'm currently pursuing a Masters in Food Safety at Michigan State-CVM while working at the USDA-FSIS, and plan to pursue Veterinary School. However, its been quite the challenge as Im growing stronger in my walk with Christ, that Im getting more road blocks and challenges from those that don't believe.
When you were in Vet School, or even now practicing...did you face opposition on your belief and relationship with God when it came to this profession? If so (which I assume yes), how did you handle it? Do you face it as an educational moment? Agree to disagree? etc.

First I have to say that I wouldn't consider myself as having been a Christian when I was in veterinary school.  Yes, I gave lip service to a belief in God, but it wasn't the personal, heart-felt relationship I have now.  I certainly did not act in a very Christ-like manner!  Even though I was rasied Lutheran, I consider my true beginning as a "Christian" as happening in 1998.  That's when I had a life-changing event that focused me on God, and I haven't turned back since.
So personally I can't speak on challenges in vet school by being a Christian.  I do know that there was at least one Christian student group, though I wasn't part of it.  I wasn't aware of any challenges they had.
I did begin to follow Christ early in my career, and I think it helps me be a better vet.  I try to remember the compassion that He wants me to have, even while I have to balance the realities of business and profit.  I try to follow the example that Jesus set as a servant-leader, where I do what I can to help my staff rather than standing above them and dictating things.  I'll still sometimes get down and clean kennels or sweep the floor if everyone else is busy. 
I haven't run into any opposition in the profession so far, even though people quickly know my beliefs if they hang around me long enough or ask me.  I've never been mocked or belittled for my faith, but I have also spent most of my life in the "Bible belt" where church and God are part of most people's lives.  The only thing I've struggled with is working on Sundays, and it still bothers me.  No, I don't think I'm sinning and don't think God is going to condemn me for doing so.  I just want to be able to attend church every week, and with my schedule I can't always do that.  Our clinic is open seven days per week, so I do work some weekends. 
I have known some Christian veterinarians who have had struggles against unethical behavior or being asked to do something that violates their religious beliefs.  I also do know that there are people out there who will get upset at someone merely because they are Christian and conservative.  I've just been lucky enough to have never faced those situations myself.
I will sometimes talk to my clients about my Christianity and how I sometimes will teach or give sermons.  I've asked some if I could pray for them.  Many of my staff have asked me to pray for their needs, knowing my beliefs.  I'm never pushy about it and only bring it up if the conversation heads that way, so most clients never learn that side of me.  But I'm also proud to be a follower of Christ and am not going to hide it.
I am also particular about some of the phrasing I use, and it can be very subtle.  For example, I'm not a believer in Darwinian evolutionary theory.  Yes, I know that's very controversial!  And I'm sure to take flack from it from some readers who would think that I am not being scientific enough.  Sorry, I've both learned evolution and taught it in college, and I have some real problems with the ideas of it scientifically, especially on a molecular level.  My disagreement with evolution can be defended without ever bringing God into the discussion.  But my faith opens me up to other possibilities, which is why I believe in Intelligent Design.  Sometimes when a client asks me "why does X happen?" I might respond "Well, because that part is designed to do Y."  I deliberately and consciously never use the term "evolved".  And I've never had anyone challenge me on the phrasing.  Would some of my colleagues look down their noses at me for my beliefs?  Absolutely.  But that doesn't bother me in the least and I just move on.
If you're going to be a loud, "preachy" Christian who drops God and Jesus into every conversation, I do think you're going to run into problems.  But that's not the kind of Christian God wants us to be!  That's exactly what Jesus fought against when he condemend the Pharises for their open but empty worship.  Instead, we should live our lives in a Christ-like manner, showing our faith, rather then telling about it.  Sometimes we are the example of Christianity people look at, so we need to be the Bible we want people to read.
And when it comes to people who will oppose us no matter what we say or do or how we act, just remember the verses about forgiveness and loving our enemies.  As Christians we will be opposed.  Jesus even promised it as a "when" rather than "if".  In these situations stand firm in your faith and act as Jesus would, with love, compassion, patience, and understanding.
Marie, I'd be happy to continue this as a discussion in the comments if you have more specific situations that you want to ask about.