Q&A with Scott Morris, author of
How People of Faith can Respond to our Broken Health System
1. Why did you write this book?
I came to Memphis in 1986 to open a faith-based health ministry because historically it was one of the poorest cities in America. I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I needed help from people who knew and loved their city, and Church Health opened in 1987. We saw 12 patients the first day. Now we have over 61,000 patient visits per year. Even more, we’ve seen that the faithful around the country are looking for ways to engage in their communities because they see the need for
health ministries that make a difference. It seems like a daunting task. And it is. But there are so many inspiring stories to tell, not only about Church Health in Memphis but also the faith and health movement more widely. This book tells stories not only about patients who have taught me so many things but also many others who have taken up the call in their own communities. I hope that will inspire readers to consider what actions might be possible in their settings.
2. How has your experience as a person of faith shaped your experience as an advocate for providing health care for those often left in the margins?
John Wesley is most famous as a minister and the founder of Methodism, the beginnings of the Methodist Church I have belonged to all my life. What is less well known is that Wesley practiced medicine from the age of nineteen until he died. This was part and parcel of his ministry and his view of the world, particularly in the health care he offered to the poor. Factors other than the doctor affect health outcomes, such as quality of education, income, available nutritious food, safe housing, reliable transportation, and health insurance. Seeing the dignity and image of God in all people calls us to help change inequities that lead to disparities. Jesus’ life was about healing the whole person. Jesus’ message is our message. Jesus’ ministry is our
ministry. As a community, then, how do we look at the eyes of our neighbors, listen to their stories, and together seek the solutions that invite everyone into God’s wellness?
3. What is the connection between faith and health care that many people do not see?
Faith-based medical care is an expression of our fundamental belief that all people are created in the image of God and loved by God. We honor God when we care for them. We want the highest level of health and the best outcomes for all people because these are people whom God loves. This means focusing our efforts on addressing inequalities we can avoid in access to care and quality of care so that outcomes do not depend on where you live, how much money
you have, your race, or any other socioeconomic factor. We were created body and spirit, and faithful health care should care for the whole person in body and spirit. Rather than accepting an artificial barrier between faith and medical care, we should be tearing down that barrier to bring body and spirit together.