Sheetrock and HTML fit for a King


Things are emerging in Memphis wrapped in new sheetrock, glass and even HTML. I do love things under construction!

What? Aren’t I supposed to be reflecting on Dr. King and rampaging violence? Well, we do that pretty much every day in Memphis. I can see the Lorraine Motel from my desk. So I find myself thinking about the idea of an “implicate order” emerging through the complex dance across the years. David Bohm wrote a great book about the idea that order unfolded through the mystery and wonder at the edge of “the unlimited.” I like all that and am known for being dangerously comfortable with ambiguity. Sometimes I am accused of mistaking plane ‘ol disorder for emergent order. Fair.

Bohm was the last thing from naive, but his language implies something less than the brutal turbulence I have come to appreciate in Memphis. Here disorder fights back, actively, and does not play fair. Blood flows.

It is dangerous to think the intractable phenomenon of even the most obvious evil–race-linked health differences–will simply unfold. We must wage health with all the focus and intelligence and energy that others wage war. Our tools are not those of violence, but need to be sharp as any sword.

That is what the Center of Excellence in Faith and Health is for, especially its “innovation studio” which will be open within a few weeks. And just in time. The CDC released one more stunning report about disparities yesterday. Another 116 pages of footnotes to the most obvious intractable story. (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/other/su6001.pdf )

We saw some of this in our own our North Hospital in a study focusing on heart attack and heart disease survival rates. Those findings find an echo in the study of disparate outcomes in the LeBonheur ER for hispanic children almost as dramatic at the Black elders at North. This has brought to view information we can’t look away from–and need not.

We have the intellectual capacity to burrow through piles of unreflected assumptions sorting out the things we can do now from those we must drill deeper into. We have leadership capable of applying moral capital guided by good judgement to change the reality of gross disparities toward equity. We didn’t create disparities in health and we can’t eliminate them by ourselves. But we can think and lead, building trust and momentum in the process through transparent, non anxious systematic work, acting where the course is clear enough to do so and systematically researching where it is not. That’s what grown ups are for, especially those with the faith the size of a kudzu seed.

The pursuit of equity is not confined to religious partners. Indeed, it is the most obvious intersection between public and faith at every level in any democratic country. And the imagination of faith is not confined to health disparities, partly because all scriptures are pretty realistic about how hard it is to bend the arc of human history toward what God hopes for. But. We can do better.


The Center of Excellence will open in tough times dedicated to going right at the heart of darkness. It is only one unit in a very large organization with many partners. But for the first time we will have a place designed and committed to the work of innovation that dares hope for transformation.

This signals a long term sustained creative effort that reflects our most fundamental confidence that our institution and our community is part of God’s ever-constant action to create the Beloved Community. The space is nice, but our commitment and confidence rests not on our competence alone, flawed and fragmented as it is. We do not act alone, for we are moved by a God who is not done with us or our community.

Oh, and check out our new website, which we breathed fresh air yesterday– http://www.methodisthealth.org/faithandhealth. I hope Dr. king would like it.

– Posted on the journey

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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