Friday, June 09, 2006

Of Christians, Illness, and Healing

I wonder sometimes why some Christians deny God the possibility of healing human beings through medical techniques. We see such healings all the time, healings that twenty, fifteen, even five years ago would have been considered miraculous. As a Christian, I believe God is ultimately the source of such healing. It is God who gave scientists brains, inspiration, and the natural tools from which all other tools, medicines, and techniques derive.

Relatively few of us tell insulin-dependent diabetics that if they only prayed harder, they'd be cured through extramedical means by God alone. However, comments like that are common in Christian circles when the illness is depression, schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and other types of mental and emotional illness. There are clear clinical causes for many of these disorders, yet some Christians still cling to the old "wisdom" that says if you're sick, it's because you sinned...or maybe your parents did. Jesus, however, had a clear response to this error in thinking:

As [Jesus] walked along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." When he had said this, he spat on the ground and made mud with the saliva and spread the mud on the man's eyes, saying, "Go, wash in the pool of Siloam" (which means Sent). Then he went and washed and came back able to see. --John 9:1-7, NRSV

After a lifetime of blindness, this man wanted to see. After months or years or a lifetime of mental/emotional illness, people want to feel better. What if the man's friends had told Jesus to stay away with his mud cure or kept the blind man away from the pool? "He'll be fine, he just needs to pray harder." I don't think so. We go to our physicians and therapists, accept their ministrations, and many of us find marked improvements or cures.

I'm of the opinion that we presume too much upon God's prerogative when we dictate to the Almighty, "I will accept improvement or cure from you only through prayer. Take my refusal to consult a healthcare professional as proof of my faith in you." Doesn't God have the right to use human hands and knowledge to effect better health for us?

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