HOLISTIC MEDICINE CONFRONTS NEW CRITICS by Zoltan P. Rona, M.D., M.Sc. The first time I he

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HOLISTIC MEDICINE CONFRONTS NEW CRITICS by Zoltan P. Rona, M.D., M.Sc. The first time I heard of the attacks on holistic medicine by Christian fundamentalist groups was in October, 1987. I could not believe my ears. Here I was in Drumheller, a small Alberta town about 50 miles from Calgary, to give a lecture on holistic medicine at a New Age Symposium. The two-day event featured international lecturers from many disciplines that included nuclear physics, psychology, education, ecology, geopolitics, meditation, parapsychology and holistic medicine. Posters announcing the symposium had been put up only to be pulled down by "fanatics" who had heard a sermon given at a fundamentalist church denouncing the New Age movement as "the work of the devil." At least, this was what I was told by Norman McLeod, the founder and executive director of the New Age International Foundation (the name was later changed to 21st Century Science and Technology Foundation). Newspapers and other media refused to cover the event and the taping equipment to be used for recording the lectures had been sabotaged. I've never been very fond of conspiracy theories, so I dismissed these stories as rumors. My understanding had always been that Christian groups were not capable of such activity. About a year later, I started hearing more alarming stories about attacks on holistic practitioners by members of assorted Christian fundamentalist groups in small B.C. towns like Vernon. Vandalism and picketing of holistic practitioner clinics and offices were becoming common events in Canada's bible belt. The focus of this negativity was not an abortion clinic but holistic doctors, chiropractors, naturopaths and nurses. It seems that the growing popularity of holistic health was beginning to have an intolerable impact on the once placid community in the Okanagan Valley. When I spoke to the president of the Canadian Holistic Nurses Association, Mary Lou Johnson, we were both of the opinion that such nonsense would never happen in a big city such as Toronto or Vancouver. Or could it? Recently, two patients consulted me for nutritional therapies and expressed some concern about my use of the term "holistic doctor" and whether or not it aligned with the Christian belief system. One of them even gave me a book to read called "New Age Medicine, A Christian Perspective on Holistic Health." Although the title sounds harmless enough, the book contains a vicious attack on holistic medicine designed to scare Christians away from anything that smacks of "New Age Medicine". The teachings of the Old and New Testaments are invoked as a basis for critiquing the holistic health movement and warning of the hazards of tampering with the psychic realm. The authors of the book (Paul C. Reisser, M.D., Teri K. Reisser and John Weldon) claim that many holistic treatment modalities are rooted in an ancient metaphysical system known as Taoism. Because of this, muscle testing for food allergies, meditation, acupuncture, energy balancing, Rolfing, crystal healing, homeopathy and holistic chiropractic sessions are providing a way for people to act like mystics without realizing it. To the Reissers and Weldon, people are creatures. Supposedly they were created by an external god and should not be dabbling in anything that could possibly make them independent of that creator. Since much of the New Age movement aims at empowering individuals with god-like qualities it directly conflicts with biblical teachings. How dare we become gods! Additionally, acupuncture cannot possibly be good for Christians because most of the supportive research "has been carried out in Communist countries." Because of the belief that "energy balancers may tend to inject their mysticism into the therapy session" knowingly or unknowingly, the authors strongly urge that patients avoid "any therapists who claim to be manipulating invisible energies (Ch'i, life energy or whatever), whether using needles, touch, hand passes, arm-pulling or any other maneuver." Holistic approaches are downgraded because they have never been scientifically proven. The authors carefully avoid mentioning that nothing in the bible itself has been scientifically proven either. Instead, the reader is expected to agree with the decrees in the bible on blind faith. According to the authors, the bible "consistently declares the psychic realm in whatever guise to be off-limits for humans." This conveniently ignores the many biblical references to "the laying on of the hands" and the fact that Christ himself was a frequent user of "invisible energy" in his performance of "miracles". Like holistic medicine, the bible is, among other things, a philosophical approach to healing. The fact that it is unscientific does not invalidate any of its teachings. So why should holistic medicine be criticized on this account? On the surface this may all look like just a difference of opinion or belief systems (Christian dogma vs. New Age thinking). Unfortunately, the message does not end with only that conclusion. It goes on to say that because of holistic medicine's departure from biblical guidelines it "represents a far greater hazard than any disease which might be relieved for a season." This sort of rhetoric energizes the more unbalanced members of the community to go around picketing clinics, destroying private property and disrupting the lives of sincere individuals in the pursuit of their spiritual beliefs. Throughout the book, readers are encouraged to do exactly that. To quote the authors, " We would exhort committed evangelical chiropractors not only to shun such practices (energy channeling, meditation, aura work, Christian Science, psychic healing) but actively oppose them in their own professional community." After all, according to "New Age Medicine" and the more detailed philosophical treatise, "Unmasking the New Age" by Douglas R. Groothuis, Christianity is the one true religion. Since it is superior to the Eastern "mystical" belief systems (the bible says so) purportedly used by holistic practitioners, this gives Christians the right to trample the property of people they perceive to be doing "the work of the devil." The Reissers and Weldon are of the opinion that "Homeopathy initially was built on the foundation which more closely resembled Original Sin" and that iridology, energy manipulative therapies and psychic healing may produce hazards ranging from "theological derailment to outright occult bondage." This is debatable, to say the least. In reality it is a belief system that serves some membership control purpose for a segment of the Christian religions. Where does the data from the bible really come from? No one has ever proven that it came from some external almighty god. For all we know, the bible may have been channeled from an extraterrestrial intent on subjugating the earth. I am by no means attempting to discredit the teachings of the bible. If one is to be critical of holistic medicine on the basis of both belief and science, then it is only fair to subject any Christian writings including the bible to the same scrutiny. Unfortunately, this was not done and makes both the books in question highly biased. Near the conclusion of "New Age Medicine", the authors summarize their main thesis and advice in the following affirmation: " We are not gods, or part of God, but men and women who are estranged from our Creator. Jesus Christ has made that reconciliation possible through his death on the cross. Only after we surrender our quest for godhood to him can true enlightenment and fulfillment be experienced." I am sure all will agree that this is a belief system that has served millions of people well over the past 1989 years. But is it any more valid than Eastern or other spiritual belief systems? Is it a belief that justifies attacking all other spiritual orientations, holistic medicine and the New Age movement? To some Christians, the answer is obviously yes. To the rest of us, especially holistic practitioners, this yes answer should serve to put us on guard for attacks from the lunatic fringe. REFERENCES: 1) New Age Medicine, A Christian Perspective on Holistic Health, Paul C. Reisser, M.D., Teri K. Reisser and John Weldon; InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois 60515, 1987. 2) Unmasking the New Age, Douglas R. Groothuis; InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois 60515, 1986.


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