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The Poverty of Liberal “Pastoral Care”

March 26th, 2008
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This is an amazing video that shows the absolute poverty of much of what passes for "pastoral care" these days. What a great teaching tool. We can, and must, show great empathy, sympathy and care and let people talk. "Active listening" is a great tool, but too often it becomes the goal and focus of pastoral care, when it must be followed by "active proclamation." So many are, like this man, looking for forgiveness, a "real God" not the emptiness shown here.

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  1. March 26th, 2008 at 23:28 | #1

    Thank you for sharing that video clip. I’ve seen that “chaplain” on ER before and she’s always given me the creeps. I’m not sure what agenda the writers/producers had in mind with this scene, but I agree that it really does serve as an excellent teaching tool and a reminder of what our primary role is as pastors (or Lord willing, those soon to be like myself). As you said, there’s a time and a place for active listening, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of proclaiming Jesus Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins.
    On the other hand, we also mustn’t forget to attend to the 1st Article needs of our people. An example a prof. used in class was that it’s not very helpful to simply say “Well, Jesus loves you and forgives you” to a parent who’s wondering what to do with their child who is rebelling. I realize that’s not what’s being suggested here, but I just thought I’d add that in. Again, thanks for posting the video. It was a most helpful reminder!

  2. Monte Meyer
    March 26th, 2008 at 23:36 | #2

    I actually saw that episode when it aired on ER. What a POWERFUL moment, and I’m glad they shot it in this fashion. I don’t think they realized how poignant that moment was – they were showing the struggles of a young chaplain when she meets a Kooky guilt stricken man. I thought the same thing as you did Paul. Thanks for posting this.

  3. Don Crow
    March 27th, 2008 at 07:32 | #3

    WOW!! To think this was on network TV. The Church couldn’t have done a better job of showing man’s need and the shortcomings of liberal theology if it tried!

  4. Gleason
    March 28th, 2008 at 00:47 | #4

    Very cutting comment by the actor. Recently, in visiting one our our members who died the following morning, I related that she was indeed in the body of Christ. She was such a precious individual that visiting her raised my spirits more than my visit improved her spirit. But, I have visited others who were afraid and I used reflective listening to let them express their fears and then to share the Gospel.
    Someone told this woman in ER to treat the patient’s feelings rather than tell whole man that he was indeed a sinner whose forgiveness was won on the cross. Ignoring that a person may have intense clarity about the sins of their life as they die, is crass antinomianism. It leaves the visitor with no understanding of the depth of the fears.
    Thanks for the refresher course in this clip.
    In Christ,

  5. March 28th, 2008 at 01:10 | #5

    It’s hard not to be strongly reminded of the first part of “The Hammer of God” when watching this.

  6. Marty Porter
    March 28th, 2008 at 10:34 | #6

    Pastor McCain – Stunning. I witnessed this kind of “pastoral care” firsthand at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne – not as a patient, but when I was part of the CPE (Clinical Pastoral Care) program there. My “class” consisted of the four resident chaplains and myself. I was the only Lutheran in the group. My classmates were kind and thoughtful people, but were very much like the chaplain in the video when it came to providing “pastoral care.”
    Lutheran Hospital is a very large, very modern “big city” hospital. In my time there, I was called to many crisis situations, and more than once, visited with people just like the man in the video.
    As part of the program we would gather together to talk over our days (or nights)- discussing the situations we had been called into. We were required to “log” each emergency call. After a few weeks of relating my “calls” to the group – they mentioned that they noticed I always spent part of my time with the patients reading from Scripture and praying – they wanted to know why I did that, (and yes…they were serious, they wanted to know…)
    They were very reticent to talk about heaven and hell, sin and forgiveness, and certainly would not talk about such things with
    patients. Of the four resident chaplains at the time – only one thought heaven and hell were real.
    Thanks for posting this.
    As the previous post stated so well -
    “The Church couldn’t have done a better job of showing man’s need and the shortcomings of liberal theology if it tried!”

  7. Susan
    March 29th, 2008 at 06:48 | #7

    Interesting as well, how much of herself is invested in the wisdom the pretty chaplin offers. And her response to his increasing demand takes her even more inward; she’s not moved to compassion for his plight, but to self-defense, and self-justification.

  8. April 2nd, 2008 at 02:17 | #8

    Susan– that also reminds me of The Hammer of God.

  9. Steve Newell
    April 2nd, 2008 at 06:39 | #9

    This video should be shown to any pastor, or anyone for that matter, who doesn’t believe that the Gospel is what that is needed. When there is real sin, there can only be the real Gospel. The reality of sin cannot dealt with in any other way.

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