Faith: Both Time-Honored and Contemporary Health Instrument
Other treatment being insufficient to address his needs, the patient decides to add prayer to his treatment regimen. He is only vaguely familiar with this approach in spite of having been reared in a “religious” family. He has little understanding or past experience with faith healing. However, he is hopeful, and willing to try this.
There are numerous approaches to health maintenance around the world. The phrase complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is assigned to services that differ from the primary medical practices of the dominant regional culture. American heritage, founded upon the pursuit of business and religious freedoms (and all of its practices), minimally acknowledges many aspects of its spiritual roots. Moreover, those who provide “mainstream” medical services are educated in sciences followed by specific medical services skills training to work in the dominant medical community; excluding faith-based skills.
Faith and the practice of medicine are synergistic. Patients present to health care providers believing that their doctors are capable and have resources that will help them. Moreover, if patients follow treatment plans, they do so with faith, expecting successful outcomes. In the absence of faith in medical systems, the only reason to participate is obligation, lack of control or limited access to alternatives. Without these systemic shortcomings, patients generally have faith in their choices of health care systems and services.
The cohabitation of medicine and faith is as normal a part of life as believing that drinking water will relieve thirst. Of course, you have experienced the effects of consuming water for many years, so it takes little faith to believe that you will experience the desired outcome subsequent to imbibing the fluid. You are exquisitely familiar with the properties and abilities of water regarding its ability to quench thirst. However, you were not born with that knowledge. Rather, over the years you have learned about water by drinking it, cooling it, heating it, freezing it, cleaning and bathing in it, swimming in it, preparing food with it, and working with it to do many other wondrous things. But, you did not know all the power of water at birth, nor are you familiar with all of its capabilities even now. Your knowledge of water and your beliefs in its ability grew with time, your familiarity with it evolving with hundreds of thousands of new and repeated experiences.
You were also not born with an instinctive attraction to the culturally predominant health care practices with which you have become familiar and developed your faith. Rather, your faith in Western medicine (for example) is based upon your familiarity with it as a result of repeated experiences. Moreover, your lack of faith in CAM practices is equally rooted in cultural bias and lack of similar repeated experiences.
Consider the logic, although a knife (scalpel) is a well recognized multifunctional surgical tool in all cultures, it is only one of numerous tools and only as effective as the person who uses it. Elements of dominant medical systems often work because they are founded in and applied in accordance with Laws of Nature. However, even our most talented herbalists, pharmacologists, dieticians, psychological and manual therapists, physicians and surgeons can reach the extent of their combined abilities, facing challenges beyond their well developed abilities to manage nature. At this point, you hope that you have not reached a precipice without means to retreat. Rather, you hope that you can shift to a seventh gear, aggressively engaging the faith that you already apply to other aspects of the health care system and your life. This is robust “faith healing”. However, its effectiveness may require time to evolve (like a skill), with long term, repetitive faith experiences.
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