What The United States Could Learn from the U.K.
The appointment of Lindsay van Dijk as the leader of a team of chaplains at the Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust would usually not be picked up by major news networks.
The critical difference is that van Dijk is a humanist. She is not a member of any organized religion but instead focuses on providing emotional and spiritual help to individuals that are agnostic or atheist or are unsure.
This will be the first time a humanist has led a team of religious figures. The NHS Buckinghamshire Trust is made up of 3 Christian chaplains and 24 volunteers, including a Buddhist priest, a Catholic nun, and a Baha’i member.
This matches the growing number of people in the U.K. who do not follow a particular religion. More than half the population do not believe in any religion, and seven out of ten think there should be services for those in a hospital who want support but do not want it associated with any particular faith.
This serves as a lesson to the United States. Having a Humanist chaplain at a major hospital seems unlikely in the United States. Having a Humanist as a leader of chaplains sounds like something that would be seen as another example of the “war on Christians.” There is no significant public outcry. People are completely fine with the arrangement. In the United States, where a quarter of individuals are non-religious, it becomes increasingly important.
Patients need support to deal with issues like palliative care. We should not be short-sighted enough to ignore what should be the top priority of any hospital: providing a diversity of care for a different population.