Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Faith to Move Away

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By Sarah McDaniel, Class of 2017

When my family moved to Alabama in 2009, my sister and I thought the south was all hillbillies, football, and endless pine forests. On our way to our new home, we passed a Hardee’s restaurant. I asked my dad why that place called Hardee’s had the Carl’s Jr. logo on it. He told me that Hardee’s is the southern version of Carl’s Jr. My first thought was these southerners were going to be weirder than I thought. But things kept changing as I lived here longer. Nobody had really ever heard of Red Robin, a popular restaurant in Colorado; there were no stucco homes, only brick; it was even rare to find sidewalks; and it was always really hot. Whenever I met someone new at my first school in Alabama, they always asked me “are you an Auburn or Alabama fan?” and based their opinions of me solely on the answer I gave. However, I quickly learned the city was not filled with rednecks or trucks. And not everyone listened to country music. I’m still learning things about Alabama. As I meet more and more people, I realize that some of them were born in Alabama, live in Alabama, and plan on dying in Alabama. Most of the time it’s because people are afraid of change. I know I was. Change is difficult and extremely scary, but if you put your faith in God, he can take you places you never thought you would end up.

The Painful Truth: How Pain Management Professionals are Being Undermined by Vague Laws

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By Jack Stein, Class of 2015

Everyone has a different tolerance for pain.  Some people can have a dangerous injury and either not notice it or think that they can handle it on their own.  Others find themselves in great pain with every knock or bruise and think that they need drugs such as OxyContin to cure it.  As a result, it is almost impossible to judge objectively the level of pain that a given individual is in.  The common way doctors attempt to judge a patient’s pain is a 0 – 10 scale (0 being no pain at all, 10 being absolutely unbearable).  However, each person’s scale is subjective to their experience of pain in the past, making it almost impossible to have a consistent ranking of pain for the same injury suffered by two different people.  Because of this ineffective means of identifying pain, many exploit the system and trick their doctors into prescribing more drugs than are needed for the pain.

This subject is explored in Tina Rosenburg’s New York Times article “When is a Pain Doctor a Drug Pusher?” which discusses the dilemma doctors face when treating a patient as to how real their pain is and what dosage to give the patient.  She argues that there is a problem in the way the law allows doctors to prescribe opioids.  One doctor may prescribe an unhealthy, even fatal amount of opioids to a patient without breaking a law.  Another might be scared to prescribe a reasonable amount for fear of the patient misusing them, which could result in the doctor being arrested. Federal law for the distribution of pain medication uses imprecise legal definitions of terms, and Rosenberg argues that this allows for confusion between real patients and addicts.  It is this very law which thousands of addicts try (and often succeed) to break for personal benefit.  Basically, the law puts the distribution of opioids in the hands of the doctors, some of whom are far less educated about pain than one would hope and expect.

Rosenberg cites the case of Ronald McIver, a pain management doctor with an aggressive style of treatment.  He often prescribed double the amount of opioids usually recommended, sometimes even sixteen times the recommended amount. Because pain can only be measured subjectively, McIver always overcompensated in his treatments, aiming for the pain to be a 2 instead of 5 on the 0 – 10 scale.  However, McIver’s style led him into some serious problems.  Some of his patients would fake pain to use the drugs for their ad

dictions.  Others would sell the excess drugs on the black market.  Some patients would drive hundreds of miles just to see McIver, who attempted only weakly to investigate the reality of their pain.  Even before all the  forms were filled out from the patients’ previous doctors, McIver would still prescribe an unusually high amount of drugs.  In cases of doubt, McIver always erred on the side of giving too many pills rather than not enough.

oxycontin-withdrawal-symptoms-addiction-treatment

Rosenberg’s main argument is that the laws about pain management and medication are too vague.  In fact, many jurors and investigators could not find an exact law that McIver broke, despite a clearly harmful and dangerous method for giving prescriptions for opioids.  Many doctors are being prosecuted for stepping over a line that has not even been established, and with pain education being taught in so few medical schools, it is likely to continue like this for some time.  Rosenberg maintains that misconceptions dominate public opinion.  Many doctors live in fear of prosecution for prescribing controlled substances for pain. This needs to be resolved sooner rather than later, says Rosenberg, because real patients are living in pain.  Despite the potential for abuse, opioids such as OxyContin help thousands of pain victims get back to their normal lives.  As it stands, the laws about opioid distribution fail to account for the benefit of such drugs, and as a result many legitimate pain patients have no where to go and no hope for successful recovery.

Rosenburg states that a huge part of the problem as it relates to pain management is the general ignorance of the problem and a proper solution.  Because of this, she is able to form the argument from a legal perspective, examining what approaches are and are not allowed.  Ultimately, she makes the right call based on the evidence provided.  According to the facts that she presented, I agree that the government should do a better job of defining its terms of pain medication and increase its awareness across the country. The medications that are being prescribed today are real and dangerous, especially for those who underestimate their power.  In order to understand the dilemma faced by thousands of pain doctors, it is crucial to remember the purpose of medicine in its most basic form: to help the victims of pain and suffering.  Anything other than that should not be legal, and all attempts to avoid the illegal distribution and abuse of the drugs should be punished harshly.

Pain is debilitating, and often the only solution is for doctors to prescribe heavy drugs.  Abuse is rampant and unavoidable, and often the good drugs are misused for bad results.  Doctors are facing persecution for giving their honest opinion, and pain victims are the collateral damage when the doctors get scared away.  After reading Rosenberg’s article, one is left with an uneasy feeling of pessimism as to the way out healthcare system is being run.  The article touches on many of the flaws in the legal system, and it leaves the reader to determine whether or not it should be amended.

Busch Gardens: Good Friends, Good Physics

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by Patrick McGucken, Class of 2015

Next to the Grand Tour, the junior’s field trip to Busch Gardens is the most anticipate event of the Westminster experience. The trip allows students to ride some world class roller coasters in Florida, bond together as a class, and see some of our physics lesson put to use in real world applications.

The trip began on Thursday, December, 5, 2013 when our class began the ten hour drive down to Tampa, Florida. By the time we arrived, most of us were ready to ride. After spending a night learning about the physics behind some of these coasters, we woke up the next morning to go into the park. The class spent the entire next day riding roller coasters in the park and making some great memories.

One of my favorite roller coasters was named Kumba, a fourteen story tall steel coaster known for its ferocious roar as the cart speeds through the track. Located in the back of the park, Kumba can be heard and seen from most anywhere in the park. Kumba provides the riders with seven inversions and a max g-force of 3.8. To put this in perspective, the G’s felt on this ride are roughly double that felt by the crew during the space shuttle’s launch.

Busch-Gardens-Tampa-Cheetah-Hunt

Another great coaster that all of us enjoyed was Cheetah Hunt. Cheetah Hunt is the newest of the coasters and is known for its 60mph launch and its zero G’s barrel roll. The purpose of Cheetah Hunt is to resemble what it feels like to be a cheetah hunting its prey. The coaster is fast and smooth with banked curves resembling the tail of the cheetah. The coaster is a great ride for both thrill seekers, and not so enthusiastic coaster riders. Cheetah Hunt provides a fun, high paced ride that gives the riders a feel for being a cheetah.

I personally, have both a love and fear of roller coasters. I like to ride coasters, but I still get nervous before I ride any one, and have even talked myself out on some of them. Without the encouragement of my classmates I probably would have not ridden any of the coasters at Busch Gardens.

The bonding during the trip is what made it so memorable to me, going alone just would not have been the same. I thoroughly enjoyed riding the coasters along side my friends, and having the opportunity to make some great memories along the way. The trip to Busch Gardens provided the class with an opportunity not just to learn, but to get closer as a class and have a good time. I would recommend to any upcoming Junior to strongly consider going on this trip, even if you do not like roller coasters. There is a lot more to get out of it than you might realize. Overall, this trip to Busch Gardens was a wonderful opportunity, and the memories that my friends and I made will last for the rest of our lives.

Lewis and the Proof of Prayer

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by Ethan Shaw, Class of 2015

cslewisPrayer has been on the minds of Christians since the inception of the church. The ultimate question one asks regarding prayer is whether man plays any role in ordering the affairs of God (that is, the fate of the universe). Although certainly a baffling question on the surface, this is one that naturally arises in the conversation between philosophy and theology. Boethius, a sixth century Neoplatonist Christian philosopher, notes the following: “The hopes which we rest in God, and the prayers addressed to him, are not in vain; when they are righteous, they cannot be ineffectual.” Following a lengthy attempt at reconciling divine foreknowledge with human free will, Boethius supposes that man possesses certain free will which enables him to produce righteous and effective prayer. Even so, he rigorously maintains an understanding of complete divine foreknowledge. Boethius’s central assertion to this end is that a partnership exists between the divine and human wills because God exists in an eternal present moment while man does not, allowing the two conflicting realities to exist simultaneously. To a less philosophical end, C.S. Lewis also examines the divine-human relationship by way of prayer in his essay “The Efficacy of Prayer.”At the start Lewis takes up the question of whether the efficacy of prayer can be empirically proven at all. For our purposes, prayer can broadly be defined as the means of communication in which man comes into agreement with God’s will. Lewis is centrally concerned with whether this communication, then, actually produces the desired effects. Following several anecdotes regarding miraculous occurrences, he notes, “Even if the thing were indisputably miraculous it would not follow that the miracle had occurred because of your prayers.” Lewis thus stresses it is impossible to prove a causal link between prayer and subsequent events, miraculous or otherwise. Furthermore, he notes that prayer is by nature request and therefore will not always necessarily be granted. After demonstrating that any attempt to truly test the efficacy of prayer is doomed to fail, he concludes that “empirical proof and disproof are…unobtainable” (380). Effective prayer, Lewis argues, must be sincere. Therefore, true prayer must be grounded in personal relationship and conversation with God.

From this point, Lewis puts forth a number of key arguments that can largely be divided into two categories: the nature of prayer and its general purpose. Regarding the nature of prayer, Lewis observes, “Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person” (381). Put simply, if prayer has any real effects at all, then these must exist in a very personal and relational sense. Lewis further states that the idea of prayer is much more of an all-encompassing category than is typically assumed. Next he thus defines prayer’s central purpose as a cooperative effort: “‘God,’ said Pascal, ‘instituted prayer to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.’ But not only prayer; whenever we act at all He lends us that dignity.” Lewis maintains that prayer is merely one facet in which God cooperates with man toward the execution of His will. This comprises the “dignity of causality” described by Pascal. In closing, Lewis draws out the implications of prayer on the divine-human relationship as a whole. He specifically illustrates the inherent paradox visible while Christ prays during his final hours at Gethsemane. God, he argues, clearly has no so-called court favorites when it comes to answering prayer. Altogether, considering Lewis’s statements on both the nature and inherent purpose of prayer are valuable in ascertaining his position.
man-in-prayer

A discussion of the nature of prayer provides the foundational basis for reaching a verdict on its efficacy. Lewis rightly places this first in the structure of his essay; and, as aforementioned, he focuses on the relational component of prayer. He then notes the diverse aspects which prayer entails: “Prayer in the sense of petition…is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and enjoyment of God its bread and wine. In it God shows Himself to us” (381). Here Lewis marks prayer as a revelatory act on God’s behalf and an act of communion on behalf of man. He rightly identifies prayer as a multi-faceted reality that defines all aspects of communication with God. Thus it cannot be seen as a mere robotic function but rather as a living and active discourse in which God brings man into agreement with His purposes. The idea that God answers prayer still remains as a corollary; however, this relational understanding replaces it as the central criterion for determining effective prayer. Lewis persuasively and logically articulates this theologically sound recasting of the age-old query “Does prayer work?” by shifting the focus from perceived temporal results of prayer to divine encounter.perates with man toward the execution of His will. This comprises the “dignity of causality” described by Pascal. In closing, Lewis draws out the implications of prayer on the divine-human relationship as a whole. He specifically illustrates the inherent paradox visible while Christ prays during his final hours at Gethsemane. God, he argues, clearly has no so-called court favorites when it comes to answering prayer.

The second critical step remaining is a proper consideration of the cooperative purpose of prayer. In quoting Pascal, Lewis depicts prayer as God’s way of granting His creatures active participation in determining outcomes. Like Boethius he seems to accept free human will to a certain extent; thus Lewis claims that this view of prayer should come as no surprise when it is seen in the same light as other human actions. Lewis further remarks that such prayers “have not advised or changed God’s mind—that is, His over-all purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of his creatures” (381). Much like Boethius, Lewis seeks to reconcile the coexistence of God’s sovereignty with human action logically. He does so by contrasting what he calls “a sort of divine abdication” with our human propensity “to wield our little tridents.” However, the language of this latter comment has an uncanny resemblance to that of Boethius; this is later found when Lewis describes how “God makes something—indeed, makes gods—out of nothing.” Although prayer certainly involves a substantial measure of divine power granted to man, Lewis seems to go too far in borrowing the Neoplatonist language of Boethius to describe this. God seeks to cooperatively partner with mankind through prayer, not simply to pass all divine power into the hands of mortal men.

C.S. Lewis’s exploration on the effectiveness of prayer provides a much-needed emphasis shift. In truth, understanding the effectiveness of righteous prayer (as detailed by Boethius) does more to illustrate God’s relationship with man than the way in which the world works. Prayer cannot simply be understood through the lens of a cosmic machine, simply because God is fundamentally relational. Therefore prayer, as His means of communication, must be a fundamentally relational activity. By keeping the relational God as our focal point, it becomes much harder to get lost in the vain quest for universally answered prayer. Despite this deeply personal aspect of prayer, it can still fairly be said that prayer does not depend on the person praying. Ultimately God has no “court favorites” because prayer is ultimately about aligning oneself with the will of God. Lewis clearly demonstrates this paradox through the example of Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane. He remarks, “When God becomes man, that Man, of all others, is least comforted by God, at His greatest need” (382). Ironically, greater spiritual strength thus seems to lend itself to being further forsaken by God, at least on the surface.

Reference List

C.S. Lewis. “The Efficacy of Prayer.” The Essential C.S. Lewis. Ed. Lyle W. Dorsett. (New York: Touchstone Books, 1988).

Boethius. The Consolation of Philosophy. Trans. P.G. Walsh. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

Lower School Spotlight: A Field Trip to Remember

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By Evelyn Godfrey, Fifth Grade

In October of this year I had the opportunity to visit the Veterans Affairs hospital. It is a medical center for veterans who have served or are serving in a branch of the United States military. It was a wonderful experience for me as a student at Westminster. It was an opportunity to engage with the veterans and talk to them about what they have been through. It was surprising to see how much it meant tothem for a group of kids to visit. I think it is important for students to recognize people who have served our country.

At the hospital, we got to show our thanks and love to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us. While we were there, we sang the “Armed Forces Medley” that we sing every year at the Grandparents Day/Veterans Day assembly. During the song, many veterans sang along or clapped. Afterward, we were able to pair up and ask the veterans questions about their rank, how they served in the war, and what the experience was like for them. I loved hearing about their stories. For example, one man was a tank operator and got injured three times in World War II!

The visit to the Veterans Affairs hospital will be with me for years to come. It taught me about honoring others. To honor someone means to have high respect for them. My respect for these veterans grew because I got to know them personally and understood how much they gave up for me. The experience showed me that veterans love for children to come, talk to them, and honor them for their service to our country.

 

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