Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Gerald May on Spirituality and Health


"So is spirituality good for your health? For me, the answer is unequivocally yes and no! Religious belief and faith community can support physical and mental wellbeing. Some spiritual practices can lower blood pressure and help handle stress. The power of prayer is unquestionable for those who have experienced it. And I myself have no doubt that miraculous healings do occur. In all these senses, spirituality can certainly be good for your health. However, one cannot ignore how faith may not only fail to help physical and mental illnesses but also sometimes even seem to invite people into greater disease, disorder, suffering and death."

"If you reflect on the physical and mental health of the holy people of history and the ones you've known personally, you may find yourself inclined, as I am, to suggest that every Bible come with a warning from the Surgeon General.Things would, of course, be simpler if the spiritual life clearly led to better health. Then we could treat the life of the spirit, to quote the Christian Century editorial, "like a nutritional supplement or a leafy green vegetable." But things are obviously more mysterious than that. In my own lived faith, I feel certain that God does not want people to suffer, not now, not ever. So how is it that authentic spirituality can sometimes be bad for your health? My hunch is that it has to do with something that the contemplative strands of all the great religions proclaim: the ultimate meaning of human life is not health; it is love". --
From Shalem Newsletter Winter 2000

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