What's Faith Got To Do With It?

June 4, 2003

Dr. M. David Rudd's most recent book, Finding Hope: When Thinking About Suicide, examines the Christian perspective on suicide, an approach that will differentiate this self-help suicide book from others on the market, he says.
The book, set for publication this fall, is the result of discussions between Dr. Rudd and Dr. Todd Lake, Baylor's dean for University Ministries, both of whom came to Baylor at about the same time and soon found common ground. 
"David and I began to have some conversations about the commonalties between pastoral care and the clinical and psychological model, and the way those can be mutually reinforcing," Dr. Lake says.
The connection between suicide treatment and faith is obvious, Dr. Rudd says, because suicide prompts questions about life and death, right and wrong. Historically, though, the two fields have rarely come together, and, in fact, sometimes have been at loggerheads. On one hand, faith instruction sometimes can lead one to think that personal faith alone should be adequate to deal with feelings of despair; on the other hand, psychologists may consider pastoral counseling to be inadequate treatment for what could be mental illness, he says. 
"The hope is that this book will provide a mechanism to integrate faith with medical practice, particularly when you're talking about acute suicide," Dr. Rudd says. "That's the group we're targeting."
From the other side of the medical/theological table, Dr. Lake agrees. "Many students who come to Baylor probably have somewhere in the back of their minds the thought, 'If I'm a Christian, I don't want to seek out professional help. I should be able to pray and seek God's healing on my own.'"
When Dr. Lake read Dr. Rudd's book Treating Suicidal Behavior, an explanation of his cognitive theories and research and how they relate to suicide treatment, Dr. Lake saw exactly how the two fields could mesh. "I was astounded to see how the pastoral care approach would fit hand-in-glove with the treatment psychologists offer," he says. 
In fact, Dr. Lake says, one of many Christian social justice movements in the early 19th and late 20th centuries focused on educating people about suicide. "They tried to stop the stigmatizing of people by showing that they were not wicked but depressed," he says.
Dr. Rudd says the new book should have a broad audience. "Books make information and new knowledge accessible for review, critique and challenge," he says. "In this case, they sometimes offer a message of caring and hope to those in trouble, those in distress and in crisis."