In recent years the term “alternative medicine” has received increasing exposure in the media. Bill Moyer’s mind/body PBS series introduced many to meditation and the Chinese metaphysics of Qi Gong. New Age guru Deepak Chopra has found a seemingly permanent dwelling place on the bestseller lists. Alternative practitioners point to the National Institutes of Health’s “Office of Alternative Medicine” (OAM) as validation for their practices. This past fall ABC presented an “alternative medicine” special with Hugh Downs chanting the Sanskrit “OM” to induce a state of relaxation and altered consciousness (Turning Point, September 26, 1996).

The Christian community, too, is awash with alternative medicine. Amish farmers are being huckstered with door-to-door suitcase pseudoscience (Canon and Bavley, “Hucksters Peddle to Naive Customers,” Kansas City Star, October 20, 1996). A Bible Belt ministry is offering its supporters a book promoting a bizarre theory of disease, including even more bizarre instructions on how to make a machine at home which will zap the offending parasites out of one’s body (Today, the Bible and You).

Christian home schoolers are passing out free tapes by an ex-veterinarian turned naturopath (Joel Wallach, Dead Doctors Don’t Lie) who has promoted everything from metabolic cancer treatments in a Mexican clinic, to chelation, to multi-level colloidal minerals - now telling people that the secrets to longevity can be found watching the 1930s James Hilton movie “Lost Horizon.” Christianity Today looks at Therapeutic Touch, only it can’t figure out what’s wrong with it (Joel Maxwell, “Nursing’s New Age?”, February 5, 1996, pp. 96-99), and neither can the Christian nursing professors who teach it.

A Southern Baptist magazine does a feature on reflexology, and includes addresses where one might gain more information about this New Age treatment (V. Bowsworth, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” Christian Single, August, 1996, pp. 32-34). A group of pastors and their wives in Florida produce a cassette titled “God’s Super Food,” which chronicles their enhanced (physical, mental, and most certainly financial) well being from eating blue-green algae. Professing Christians use iridology and muscle testing to sell herbs as part of “God’s provision.” A prominent Christian encourages people to seek alternative treatment for cancer and gives a recommended reading list including books that promote quackery, New Age medicine, occultism, pseudoscience, and health misinformation (Larry Burkett, Damaged But Not Broken).

Physicians with revoked or restricted licenses are given more credibility than reputable physicians with in-depth specialized expertise. Forgeries and fabrications are overlooked, and smuggling unproven drugs is seen as a compassionate form of civil disobedience. Conventional medical practitioners are frequently portrayed as victimizing the masses for the sake of money, while alternative medicine is presented as a means of “empowerment” by which one can “take responsibility for one’s own health.”

There are regular columns in the health sections of newspapers across the

Alternative Medicine in the Church
Janice Lyons
The Watchman Expositor, Vol 14 No 1 1997





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