What are intellectual, ethical, and spiritual outcomes of encounters between religion(s) and medicine(s)? How can religion be used in constructing ways of coping with illness, creating motivations for charitable and just medical service, and generating, challenging, and policing boundaries of acceptable healing practices? My dissertation, tentatively entitled, “Human Bodies in Pain as Spiritual Battlefields: Christian Illness, Medicine, and Healing in Early Modern Thought,” examines ways in which similar questions were engaged in the past, by investigating religious responses to illness, healing, and medicine during the Protestant and Catholic Reformations in sixteenth-century Europe. By interrogating this scarcely-studied subject, my dissertation advances current discussions between historians of early modernity about approaches to suffering, embodiment, and healing in that era. By putting the findings of this historical analysis in conversation with theorists of modernity, health care ethicists, and contemporary African theologians, my dissertation concludes with a constructive proposal towards making contemporary medical practice more spiritually vital, globally conscious, and distributionally just to allow for a greater alleviation of human suffering.
The highly interdisciplinary nature of my project requires both cross-disciplinary intellectual insight and accountability supplied by diverse publics. These publics include historians of the Middle Ages and early modernity, constructive Christian theologians, ethicists, scholars of global Christianity, clinicians, as well as non-academic audiences interested in the intersections of religion and medicine. The series of seminars, events, and the end-of-year forum for the Martin Marty Center fellows provide a well-designed format for engaging in structured interdisciplinary interactions with representatives of many of these publics, both within and outside the academy. I look forward to both receiving and offering intellectual insight and accountability in conversations with other fellows for the enhancement of our respective scholarly pursuits and pedagogies, as well as public understandings of religion.