A Theology of Hand Washing
A Theology of Hand-Washing
I recently had the opportunity to do some internet research on the subject of the history of hand-washing. While reviewing a number of articles on the subject; http://www.accessexcellence.org/AE/AEC/CC/hand_badckground/php; it was clear that the perception of the history of hand-washing is generally thought of as starting about 1843 with Oliver Wendell Holmes who advocated hand-washing to prevent childbed fever.
In the late 1840s the history shifts to the work of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis. He was working in a hospital in
In the 1870s it appears that Louis Pasteur drew the same conclusions as Dr. Semmelweis had done. He also saw the connection between hand-washing and reduction of infection and attempted to influence doctors to draw the same conclusions as he had done. His efforts were also ridiculed.
In 1910, Josephine Baker M.D. started a program to teach hand washing techniques to child care providers and a group of doctors protested this sending a petition to the Mayor “that it was ruining their medical practice by …..keeping babies well.” Again, this response was an interesting response by people claiming to want to help others stay well.
None the less, it appears that through the devoted efforts of many people hand-washing, and the philosophy thereof, seems to be the accepted philosophical practice in the hospitals and among health professionals. There is even general agreement that hand washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection. With this thought it mind it is interesting to note that even though most people agree that hand-washing is the first line of defense against the spread of infection, yet the statistics indicate that modern hospital professionals only have around a 45-50% compliance rate, and the CDC, Center for Disease Control, reports that in some places the rate goes as low as 29%.
The above statistics are staggering when one thinks of the fact that the CDC indicates that there are 1.7 million cases of hospital based patient infections, resulting in 50,000 to 90,000 patient deaths. This is basically death from a disease that one did not have when they went to the hospital. So the place of safety and health produces a lot of disease that could be radically reduced if all followed through with what they philosophically agreed to.
Now that we have a little idea of the problem let us briefly discuss the theology of hand-washing. In Leviticus 15:11 we find the following counsel from God: “And whomsoever he toucheth that hath the issue, and hath not rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.” So even though the internet is able to push the idea of hand-washing back to 1843, in actuality God had spoken to this issue long ago in the health laws given to the Jewish nation. God wanted His people to role model to the world what following God’s counsel would do for them in the physical realm as well as the spiritual realm. So, as it has always been, God knows what He is doing and all of those who are willing to follow Him in the great things, and the little things, will be blessed by a better way of life.
In conclusion, most everyone in the