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2009 Conversations

Sara Groves

Keith and Kristyn Getty

Jesse Miranda

Heather Bland

Cathleen Lewis

Robert Leathers

Ravi Zacharias

Scotty Gibbons

George O. Wood

George O. Wood

G. Robert Cook Jr.

Michelle LaRowe Conover

Janet Boynes

Kirk Cameron

Laura Wilkinson

Melody Rossi

Randy Travis

Maylo Upton-Aames

Chuck Norris

Francis Xavier 'Chip' Flaherty Jr.

Ben Carson

Robert H. Spence

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

James K. Bridges

Manny Mill

Brock Gill

Robert Burt

Gerry Hindy

J.I. Packer

Stanley Horton

Linda Mintle

Joanna Weaver

Buck Taylor

Debra Risner

Bill Glass

Edward Gilbreath

Rob Seagears and Andy Casper

2007 Conversations

2006 Conversations

Conversation: Ben Carson

Risky brainwork

Benjamin Solomon Carson’s illiterate single mother struggled to raise him. Yet, he emerged from poverty to become a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon.

In 1985, Carson began performing the hemispherectomy, a medical procedure once abandoned as too risky because it involves removing a damaged half of the brain as a treatment for severe seizures. Two years later, Carson led a team that successfully separated the first Siamese twins joined at the back of the head. No other doctor had been willing to attempt the operation. In 2003, Carson joined a surgical team that unsuccessfully attempted to separate 29-year-old Iranian twins Ladan and Laleh Bijani, whose skulls were fused together.

As director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Carson, 56, still performs some 400 surgeries per year in between writing books and giving speeches. Carson faced his own medical challenge after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002, but is now cancer-free.

Carson and his wife, Candy, have three grown sons. The soft-spoken surgeon, whose newest book is Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk, talked recently with TPE News Editor John W. Kennedy.

tpe: You believe parenting is a great risk.

CARSON: Yes, in the sense that there’s really nothing more important that we do in life than give kids the correct foundation. The values we give them will determine what kind of people they become. That, in turn, will determine their effect on their community, their nation and the world. When parents have a couple of kids, they have within their grasp the potential to change the world.

tpe: Are dads too protective of their children?

CARSON: Certainly some tend to be overprotective and don’t let their kids experience life. That might work if parents would spend the rest of their lives with their children. But at some point children must be released to face the world.

tpe: Why is it best not to listen to well-meaning advisers who try to dissuade us from taking risks? You had a medical school adviser who urged you to drop out.

CARSON: A lot of times people mean well, but they underestimate the person they are mentoring. If you don’t think a person is capable of much, you’re not going to advise them to take on much. An adviser must look at where the person has come from, what they’ve accomplished, what they’ve overcome. If my medical school adviser had done that, he wouldn’t have told me to stop.

tpe: Regarding risk, talk about the importance of inviting God into the conversation.

CARSON: We live in a politically correct environment now. Certainly you take a risk mentioning Jesus Christ in a public setting, even though ridicule of Christianity is antithetical to the founding of this nation. The Founding Fathers were very interested in freedom of speech and freedom of thought. Political correctness tries to curtail that. In making sure no one is offended, the politically correct offend large portions of the population.

tpe: The Bible is full of accounts of men and women who took risks for God.

CARSON: Absolutely. If you look at the biblical heroes, none of them waited in their tents for something to happen. They took big risks, sometimes risks that looked impossible, but they had faith in God. To some it seems like a risk to even believe in God. I have many discussions with great scientific minds, and I’ve realized they really don’t have the answers. What they believe is a matter of putting faith in theories of men, which can’t be proven. How can you prove there was a big bang and all of a sudden the universe perfectly came into order?

tpe: Why is it better to try and fail than not to try at all?

CARSON: Because we learn a lot of things when we try. A baby falls a lot when starting to walk. But we don’t allow the baby to sit in a wheelchair forever. The rest of life is the same way. In the case of the Bijani twins, these two women felt incarcerated. I encourage people to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

tpe: Do you believe many Christians miss out on God’s blessings because they are afraid of stepping out in faith?

CARSON: Exactly. When God said to Moses, “Touch the Red Sea with this rod,” what would have happened if Moses said, “Come on, give me a break”? We tend to forget what God does for us. That allows doubt to creep in. How can God do something if we’re not willing to let Him?

tpe: Where is the line between taking a risk and acting irresponsibly?

CARSON: This is where the best/worst analysis comes in. God gave us a tremendous brain to analyze situations correctly. Youngsters who do a best/worst analysis won’t act irresponsibly. Analysis may not mean you will always find a nonrisky path, but that’s where faith comes in.

tpe: Why have you taken medical risks in situations that many other doctors deemed too dangerous?

CARSON: First, I do the analysis and, in many cases, I see there is no good outcome unless I do something. Even more importantly, I pray and ask God to give me wisdom to know what to do, whether to do it and when to do it.

tpe: If you hadn’t taken an educational risk — if you didn’t go to Yale University, the only place you applied — where would you be?

CARSON: I’d probably still be in Detroit working in a factory — or dead. At my 25th class reunion, all the “really cool guys” from high school were dead.

tpe: How will God help men with their shortcomings, such as a violent temper?

CARSON: It has to be something you want. God says, “You will find Me when you seek Me earnestly with all your heart” (Deuteronomy 4:29). God doesn’t force himself on anybody. But God will not turn His back on anyone who comes with a meek and contrite spirit and says, “Help me.”

Because God loves us, He also knows what’s good for us. It’s not necessarily wealth or power, because those destroy some people. So often we have our own concept of how God should be helping us. Are you willing to make yourself completely vulnerable and totally submissive to God’s will?

tpe: How is your health?

CARSON: It’s wonderful. I’m so grateful to all the people who prayed for me and my cancer. I think the Lord just got tired of hearing about me.

TPExtra: An excerpt from Take the Risk by Dr. Ben Carson

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