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Sandra Glahn

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Sandra GlahnHitting the Shelves:
Professor Sandra Glahn Talks about Her New Novel

He found a breakthrough discovery to prolong the life of AIDS patients—but will it destroy his family?

Informed Consent, the newly released novel of Sandra Glahn, adjunct professor in Christian Education and Pastoral Ministries, tells the story of Jeremy Cramer, a medical doctor researching infectious diseases. When he accidentally infects his colleague and his negligence allows his son to contract a life-threatening disease, he has to decide between saving his son’s life and losing his medical license. 

Several years ago one of Prof. Glahn’s friends and DTS graduate, Hank Drewfs (M.A.[BS], 2000)—who then directed one of the largest international aid organizations—surprised her by saying that the most encouraging work he saw God doing in the world was through Christians in their response to AIDS. On the other hand, other friends reported negative and judgmental responses from believers. Fiction opened the door for Prof. Glahn to address the issue.

Judging AIDS patients is “not only an un-Christlike response, but it’s also misguided,” Prof. Glahn said. “Partners get HIV from unfaithful spouses; kids get it from their moms; medical people contract it by accident as they care for sick patients, as is the case with the nurse in Informed Consent; lots of people get HIV from lots of ways that have nothing to do with sin or homosexuality. But even if it did…,” she said. “The contrast between the North American response and the African response deeply troubled me. So I gave this wasting disease to a Christian character so that people would rethink their stereotypes. A graceless response to tragedy is a serious offense,” she said, adding that if Jesus had reacted in kind, none of us would be saved. “A lack of grace is a lack of imagination—the inability to imagine how it would feel to be in someone else’s shoes.”

While addressing AIDS and end-of-life ethics, Informed Consent also touches on evangelism, which Prof. Glahn said involves moving unbelievers closer to faith just as much as it does seeing them fully surrender to Christ, an idea which she credits to former student and best-selling author, Greg Smith (aka David Gregory, Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, M.A./CE, 2001).

“Sandi’s supervision, mentoring, and editing assistance while I wrote Dinner with a Perfect Stranger was invaluable,” Greg said. “I can honestly say that apart from Sandi, I might not be a professional writer because I didn’t consider that as a path before Sandi’s influence. Now I’m amazed at the doors God has opened to impact countless lives. I am forever indebted to her.”

Prof. Glahn, in this way, shows her ability to teach as well as be teachable. When writing Informed Consent, she was also taking a Ph.D. class in novel writing “with a bunch of sharp people, only two of whom I sensed were Christ-followers. They all read my work and wanted to help me succeed,” she said. “Some gave me great feedback in how to communicate Dr. Cramer’s character arc in a way that would make them want to think more about Christianity—to enter into and agree with his point of view. So I listened.” 

Prof. Glahn, who earned a Th.M. at Dallas Seminary and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. degree from the University of Texas at Dallas in Aesthetic Studies, credits her seminary education for adding richness to her writing. “My theological training, which included a great education in Hebrew narrative stories, actually intersects quite well with the issues I explore,” she said. “In Informed Consent I wanted to explore the importance of patient autonomy. It’s one thing for my child to need a heart transplant. It’s quite another to demand that I allow the harvest of my own child’s heart for someone else’s child if my child is—God forbid—killed in an accident. At that point, choice becomes really important in the mix. Now, I’m pro-life, but I don’t get there the way a lot of people do. It comes back to how we argue our positions. I wonder at the wisdom of saying life is a higher value than choice. God allowed sin to enter the human race and life to result in death, presumably because choice was so important,” she said. “Story is a great vehicle for exploring complex issues that have no easy answers. So in that sense storytelling and theology are the perfect combination.”

Dr. Reg Grant, professor of Pastoral Ministries and director of the Media Arts program at Dallas Seminary, mentored Prof. Glahn in the art of combining faith with the arts. His student, though, he said, went on to teach him: “Sandra Glahn has taught me a lot. Like courage. Like faith. Like tenacity. She’s been more than a colleague over the years. She has been an inspiration. She manages to blend her dedication to the disciplines of the writer’s life with her devotion to her family,” he said. “There’s no bluff in Sandi. No tricks. No nonsense. Just a straightforward style that cuts across your heart like a shard of Texas lightning. She injects her books with the essence of her own personality: a peppery concoction of humor, grit, love, and wit. I am honored to be her student. I’m proud to call her friend.”

Prof. Glahn teaches Christian Journalism, The Role of Women in Ministry, and Expository Teaching for Women, and supervises independent studies in writing at Dallas Seminary and serves as editor-in-chief of the Seminary’s quarterly magazine, Kindred Spirit. She is also the author of the Coffee Cup Bible Study series and the coauthor of seven books, which include three medical thrillers with Dr. Bill Cutrer (M.A.[BS], 1993).