I got a call the other day from Eurie Hwang, a journalism student at the UO. She wanted to do a couple of pieces on healing thru prayer. She did an excellent job–got an A on each one! They’ve since been posted. I’m not sure how long they will stay up, so I’ve pasted the written piece to this blog as well.
Christian Scientist: A Profile
Posted on March 12, 2012, 9:26 am
Clear your mind. Detach the pain. Remove the fear. These are the fundamental steps that a Christian Scientist goes through to be healed without the use of medicines – even when the pick of an ice axe has been stabbed into an eye socket.
It happened on a snow hike in Canada, during a summer camp for Christian Scientists. While climbing up a hill, one of the younger counselors lost control of his axe and the sharp end jabbed into his left eye. Velvet thick blood gushed out as the dozen students and fellow counselors stared, bewildered and horrified. As the only Christian Science (CS) certified healer within the group, James Shepherd knew that CS teaches fear to be the first thing that keeps people from healing. They believe that physical senses deceive us, and that pain is only in our material mind. So, he led them in prayer. No one dialed 9-1-1. No first aid treatments were given, except for a butterfly Band-Aid. Such a substitution – using prayer instead of medical remedies – is a familiar scene in Shepherd’s own CS private practice in Eugene. No matter how this may sound to other people, Shepherd believes that praying helps his patients heal, along with making them feel better, and that is all that matters to him.
When a patient walks into the office, he or she will notice that even more appeasing than the modest rectangular room, are Shepherd’s pale blue eyes. They seem to whisper his inner most desire, which he says is “to help others find comfort, healing, and cure from whatever ails them.”
Even though prayer healing has not yet been scientifically proven to be true, it is the most popular form of alternative medicine in the United States. In a national survey by the Department of Health and Human Services, 55 percent of Americans say they have prayed to heal themselves or others, but not many are Christian Scientists. Their motive for prayer is to calm and soothe the body and mind that are stressed from the illness and medical treatments. This sort of prayer says Cindy Clague, another CS healer in Eugene, is different from CS prayers that she and Shepherd administer. She says that when CS healers pray for their patients, “You see him or her as healthy and that image of them is what they experience.”
The healings that these Eugene practitioners do might seem small compared to major surgeries and medical treatments that doctors conduct on a regular basis. After all, almost all the prayers that Shepherd and Clague do are for minor earaches, back pains, sore throats, and the like. Nevertheless, Shepherd says, “To our patients, those small pains are severe enough that they seek medical help. There may be no proof that the pain is an actual disease; there may be no proof that there is an actual healing, but to the patients who feel better after our prayers, it means a lot to them. And that is what is important to me.”
After all, it only takes an open heart and a little change in thought toward accepting the possibility that there can be a way of life different from ours, which progresses us toward understanding prayer healing.
To Shepherd, the practice of healing sicknesses is just a means of demonstrating and proving the power and science of God to men. Christian Scientists do not focus on the problem of an illness, as much as they focus on the solution for it. People tend to go to doctors and say, “Doctor, what’s wrong with me?” Whereas when they come to a CS healer like James Shepherd, they ask, “James, what’s right with me?” The reward that comes from being a CS healer is the gratitude that the patients show after their treatments are successful. It is not about the diseases or the pains. Rather, it is about the comfort and peace that the patients receive from the healers’ prayers.