The Salvation Project - The Secularization of Christian Narratives in American Cancer Care

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats



People have been dying ever since there have been people. Yet even if we can count on death as a constant, humanity’s response to death remakes itself time and time again. In our contemporary moment, leaps and bounds in biomedical research have made possible a new form of death: the technical one. Cutting-edge treatments and state-of-the-art technologies can give us years of life, but they also allow us to postpone death and prolong dying in ways no previous culture has ever known.
How do we decide? What determines how we choose to die? Our decisions are informed by cultural narratives, stories that circulate in our societal subconscious. Narratives manifest themselves in the way we speak and write and think about the world, and if there is any subject for which humans have always constructed narratives, it is the subject of death.

This paper will explore one of these narratives. The advances of biomedicine make possible a crusade for unlimited life and secular salvation, an endeavor that echoes Christianity’s promise of eternal life. Dominant Christian narratives recast in the medical space may begin to explain aggressive treatment at the end of life, lack of appropriate conversations about palliative care and hospice, and an overall cultural inability to accept death as a natural part of life.This essay explores the extent of these secularized Christian narratives in American culture by performing a close reading of the rhetoric and imagery that surrounds doctors and disease.



Winner of the 2013 Aptman Prize; Honors thesis




Streid, Jocelyn (2013). The Salvation Project - The Secularization of Christian Narratives in American Cancer Care. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.