In a recent chapter I read, he wrote about a cultural phenomenon known as "medicalization." Here's how he defines it: "The simplest definition of medicalization is when previously nonmedical problems become defined (and ultimately treated) as medical problems."
Sometimes this is good, he argues. Like for childbirth. He explains: "Childbirth, for example, has historically been a nonmedical experience and still is for many. Yet the use of the medical principles of hygiene and sterility has prevented numerous infections at this crucial moment of life, showing how a judicious application of medicalization to a common condition can produce broad benefit."
But there are other cases of medicalization that, arguably, aren't so good. Like depression. Or ADHD. Suddenly, things that historically have not been physical problems to be treated by doctors and medicine now are.
When this happens, Cutillo writes: "The number of people taking daily medication skyrockets, with greater risk of side effects from the treatment used to solve the medicalized problem. All of this explodes the need for professional care, whether to prescribe pills, offer therapy, or deal with the side effects of treatment."
But there's more. Our cultural medicalization hasn't just changed how we treat people in the health care system. It's changed how we view and understand people (and ourselves) as individuals.
Cutillo says this: "Much of human difference is no longer absorbed within a broader social context but stands apart as undesirable and stigmitizable characteristics of the individual. Individuals struggle to fit or belong based on the new categories of normal and abnormal. The label of 'abnormal' or 'diseased' changes self-perception, with new identities formed that are heavily defined by the medical diagnosis."
What Medicalization Teaches Us About Engaging with Cultural Change
We live in a rapidly changing world, where social, psychological, and technological advances are making serious impacts on our lives. That's what Cutillo reminded me of through his explanation of medicalization.
It is deeply vital for Christians to engage with emerging cultural shifts and movements in a Christ-focused way - whether we're talking medicine, the arts, technology, education, economics, or politics.
This means approaching them with a biblical framework and an analytical eye. It means not being too slow or too fast to embrace change. It means lining everything up against God's Word and recognizing it as the supreme standard. Then it means acting in a way consistent with truth - even if we're unpopular. Rather, especially if we're unpopular.
It does not mean hiding from the culture or burying our heads in the proverbial sand. It means standing for what we believe is right in the time and place God has us in. He has put us here for a reason. He is not surprised by the moves and shakes of culture. And He wants us to obey, follow, love, and trust Him in this day and age.
No matter what culture says.