Heal Thyself: Spirituality, Medicine, and the Distortion of Christianity

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In recent years, a movement stressing a causal relationship between spirituality and good health has captured the public imagination. Told that research demonstrates that people of strong faith are healthier, physicians and clergy alike urge us to become more religious.
The religion and health movement, as it has become known, has attracted its fair share of skeptics. While most root their criticism in science or secularism, the authors of Heal Thyself, one a theological ethicist, the other a physician, instead challenge the basic precepts of the movement from the standpoint of Christian theology.
Heal Thyself argues that popular culture's fascination with the health benefits of religion reflects not the renaissance of religious tradition but the powerful combination of consumer capitalism and self-interested individualism. A faith-for-health exchange misrepresents and devalues the true meaning of faith.
For Christians, being religious does not mean enlisting faith as a vehicle to get what we want—be it health or wealth—but rather learning by faith to want the right things at the right time, and to live with a spirit of gratitude and hope.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"I commend this book as a key marking point in the current debate regarding the relation of faith and health." —Journal of Pastoral History

"The authors have sounded a clear call for the church to reform its speech and action that should be read by clergy and laity alike."—Religious Studies Review

"That many North American Christians uncritically welcome claims that 'faith' or 'spirituality' might serve as an efficient cause of wellness is hardly surprising, given the current cultural soup of theological semiliteracy, individualist utilitarianism and anxiety over the fetish called health. What is surprising is that until now, no serious book-length theological critique of this phenomenon existed. That is why the contribution by Joel Shuman, a former physical therapist with a Ph.D. in theology, and Keith Meador, a psychiatrist with postgraduate theological training, is so welcome."—America

"We have long needed a book like Heal Thyself, and it is interesting to ask why it has not been written. At least one of the reasons is that to write a book like this is such a daunting task. Theologians seldom know enough about medicine to write a book like this and physicians, even if they are Christians, seldom know enough about theology. That is why it is so important that this book is jointly authored by a doctor with theological training and a theologian with training in the care of the body (physical therapy). Keith Meador and Joel Shuman have joined forces not only to write a book that helps us understand the power medicine exercises in modern society and the effect that power has on our lives as Christians, but also to make an argument in this book with implications that reach far beyond medical care." —From the Foreword by Stanley Hauerwas

"Medicine has discovered 'religion,' yet doesn't quite know what to do with it. Everyone's chattering about 'spirituality' these days, though nobody seems to know what it means. Shuman and Meador know very well. Heal Thyself is incisive, prophetic, and constructive—a delightful theological critique, theoretical genealogy, and cultural analysis rolled into one truly important argument. Deserves a very wide reading in medicine, in the church, and among scholars of 'religion.'"—Christian Smith, Department of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

"Heal Thyself is a wise, often deeply moving book, a work of extraordinary craft and conviction. Shuman and Meador teach us the subtle ways in which the therapeutic sensibility transforms religion into an instrument for medicine, or even worse, just another shop in the mall." —Carl Elliot, MD, PhD, Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195154696
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/12/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 5.70 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Author of The Body of Compassion: Ethics, Medicine, and the Church, Joel James Shuman is Assistant Professor of Theology at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Keith G. Meador is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at the School of Medicine, and Professor of the Practice of Pastoral Theology and Medicine and Director of the Theology and Medicine Program at The Divinity School at Duke University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: With Eager Longing 3
1 Strange Bedfellows?: Reflections on a (Re)emergent Trend in American Healthcare 19
2 Christian Reflections on the Birth of "Religion": A Downward Spiral toward a Generic Spirituality and an Instrumentalized Deity 44
3 Religious Belief as Commodity Fetishism: Individualism, Therapy, and the Market 71
4 The Faithfulness of the Cross and the Idol of the Therapeutic 94
5 Satisfying Our Eager Longing: Toward a Christian Politics of Sickness, Healing, and Caring 115
Notes 137
Bibliography 161
Index 169
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