HOLISTIC MEDICINE CONFRONTS NEW CRITICS by Zoltan P. Rona, M.D., M.Sc. The first time I he
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
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.
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.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank