(This pro-faith-healing article in a California newspaper calls Christian Science medically useful and supports “insurance plans that reimburse spiritual care and treatment.” At the bottom of the article’s Web page, two out of the three reader-feeback comments are positive. If you’ve ever taken the time to click on a newspaper’s yes/no poll about an issue, please add a few of your own words to this article’s reader feedback—Josh.)
Just what do Christian Scientists know about health care?
Eric D. Nelson
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
http://www.losaltosonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=18014&Itemid=60 (or http://tinyurl.com/lwa5vu )
“What can a Christian Scientist possibly know about health care?” This was the question asked of me recently by one of the editors of this newspaper. At least that’s how I took it. What he actually said was, “Asking a Christian Scientist to tell me about health care is like asking the Amish to tell me about car repair.”
While I certainly appreciate the humor, the analogy is not accurate. My guess is that the editor’s remark stems from the widespread misconception that because they choose to rely on prayer for healing, Christian Scientists have nothing but disdain for doctors, stubbornly refusing medical care of any sort, even in life-threatening situations.
As a Christian Scientist myself, I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.
While my interactions with medical doctors may be limited, I have nothing but respect for those who devote their lives to the health and well-being of others. And just because reliance on prayer is my first choice doesn’t mean that going to a doctor is never a choice. My decisions are my own, never dictated by my church or its officials. And I would never expect to be judged or ostracized by this church for choosing one form of health care or another.
Which reminds me of a question confronting just about everyone these days: Who’s to decide what’s best for our nation’s ailing health-care system?
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have the answer. However, I do know that an important component of any health-care system is allowing people access to whatever responsible form of health care they’ve found the most effective. Not only does this approach reflect an essential dose of compassion for the individual in need, it also honors that individual’s ability to discern and determine what’s best for herself or himself.
For me, the best approach has always been prayer. This is not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of health challenges. I’ve had colds and the flu. I struggled once with debilitating back pain. As a teenager I was confronted with medically diagnosed internal bleeding. However, in these and many other instances, I was cured through spiritual means alone.
If nothing else, my experience has taught me that there’s more than one reliable approach to maintaining one’s health. It’s important to keep this in mind, especially in light of legislation such as state Sen. Mark Leno’s SB 810 - a reintroduction of the universal health plan originally proposed by former Sen. Sheila Kuehl.
Which brings up another question: What exactly do we mean by the term “universal”? Do we mean simply medical care provided to everyone or a health-care system that takes into account the needs of all participants, including those who choose to rely entirely on prayer for healing? Unless we’re talking about the latter, I’m not so sure we can call it truly universal.
Fortunately, there is a long history of insurance plans that reimburse spiritual care and treatment - including private insurance companies as well as programs such as Medicare, Medicaid (Medi-Cal) and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Package. Of course, special care is warranted to avoid any constitutional church/state issues in enacting provisions allowing for such care.
While it may seem that these provisions benefit only the very few, certain surveys suggest that this segment of the population is growing. For instance, a recent Pew study found that 36 percent of all Americans had experienced or witnessed a divine healing of an injury or illness (“US Religious Landscape Survey,” The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, February 2008). Christian Scientists have been experiencing and witnessing just such healings for more than 140 years.
This trend and this track record is significant, especially as we consider how best to meet the needs of a very large and very diverse population - a population that continues to demonstrate and demand that there be more than one approach to health care.
Eric Nelson of Los Altos serves as both media representative and legislative liaison for the Christian Science Church in Northern California. The Los Altos Christian Science Reading Room is located at 40 Main St.