Acupuncture and Christianity: Does Acupuncture Interfere with Christian Beliefs?
Over the years, I’ve heard the concern that acupuncture might interfere with people’s Christian beliefs, so I just wanted to give my thoughts on this topic.
For most people it’s a passing question which quickly leaves, but for some, I can hear the pain and genuine deep struggle in their voice as they desperately seek a medicine which they feel can help them, but might interfere with their most profoundly held beliefs.
In researching the varying views on this topic, I came across many different perspectives and some handy points people have made, which can help each of us think this through as individuals to come to our own conclusions and decide what we feel comfortable with.
Below I address a few of these points or perspectives:
1) Some writings, particularly on Christian websites or blogs, have said that we shouldn’t believe in Yin/Yang theory
In my view, this is strictly because there is a misunderstanding of what this theory means. I break it down very easily when my patients come in, to help them understand that Yin/Yang theory is simply a different way to describe things they’re already familiar with. Yin and Yang symbolize opposing qualities, all which need to remain in balance in the body so that we have health. Western medicine has a similar concept which it calls “homeostasis”, which just means that most living beings need to maintain a pretty tight level of balance in various bodily functions and temperatures, in order for there to be health.
- heat stroke, fevers, or hypothermia:
We’ve all taken our temperature when we think we may have a fever, yes? When we get too hot (yang), we start releasing sweat, which being moisture, is yin. That yin cools us down and helps our temperature decrease, so that it doesn’t get into dangerous ranges such as with heat stroke. Likewise when we get to cold (yin), we start shaking, which is movement, or yang, and that warms us up.
- hormone balance:
If we have too much testosterone (yang), we will become more agitated, aggressive, and less calm, which are all yang qualities.
If we are hypothyroid, which we would typically classify as a yin condition, we can get fatigued, cold, and tend to put on weight, which are all yin qualities. Hyperthyroid, a more yang condition, brings the opposite yang qualities of heat, restlessness, and propensity to burn off our weight.
These are just two of many possible examples, which show that we’re really not talking about anything vastly different from the concepts that western medicine uses every day.
We just use different terms for it. In China, they didn’t know about hormones, blood sugar, etc. so they used terms that they did know, which came from their worldview.
Yes, this was a Taoist worldview which looks at the world from a perspective of balance and observing patterns in nature, which our bodies follow as well. Using that worldview, they were able to recognize traits of imbalance in the body, and developed a medicine that would restore balance and therefore health.
But this doesn’t mean that the functions or effects of the medicine are Taoist. They are just using a different mechanism besides drugs (acupuncture and herbs) to alter the same functions of the body which Western medicine tries to also alter.
You don’t have to believe in the Yin/Yang theory for acupuncture to work.
Studies, such as those I wrote about in the following blog, are proving the physiological effects of acupuncture on the brain and hormones. So if you want to say it’s balancing your yin and yang, fine.
But you could just as easily say it’s balancing your hormones, because that’s one of the effects science is acknowledging is happening, by the acupuncture stimulating areas of the brain that regulate our hormones.
To give an example, it is very common that a woman will come in with lab results showing hormone imbalance. I will translate her imbalance into whatever TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) imbalances are showing up in her body, and work to resolve those imbalances using acupuncture and herbs. Once her TCM imbalances are restored, when she goes back in to recheck her hormones, they are naturally balanced without the use of chemical intervention.
I called it balancing her Yin and Yang, her gynecologist calls it balancing her hormones. Two different concepts resulting in the same affects on the body.
But the patient doesn’t need to know anything at all about Yin/Yang theory or subscribe to any particular belief system in order for this effect to take place.
2) If your acupuncturist is Buddhist, or Taoist, this doesn’t mean that you’re somehow practicing some other religion by receiving the medicine.
Someone on one blog made a great point: If your brain surgeon is Islamic, does it mean that you’re going to be going against your religion if he performs your surgery?
If your primary doctor is Jewish, by getting medical care from him are you denying that Jesus is your Lord?
If an ER doc is into New Age spirituality, is the Xray he does that is able to see through your bones into your body suddenly Occult?
Of course the answer to all these questions is no.
In the same way, just because you go to an acupuncturist who may not share your religious beliefs, it doesn’t say anything about the spiritual affect on you or your faith.
3) Scientists, the people who develop Western medicine techniques, are known for commonly being atheist. Does this mean Western medicine is atheistic?
To use the opposite argument from the one in the last point, the world of science is notorious for being filled with atheists. If it can’t be seen or measured it doesn’t exist, is the way they see it.
Well of course love, compassion, altruism can’t be measured. God can’t be seen. Does this mean they don’t exist?
These atheists are the same women and men who develop the vast majority of new scientific advances, many of which show up as new pharmaceuticals, tests, and medical equipment.
Does that make science, and western medicine which comes out of it, atheistic?
In fact, western medicine in this regard would deny the healing power of Jesus. It’s not scientific.
So should you not use western medicine or risk going against your religious beliefs?
4) Acupuncture is ‘New Age’ and therefore opposes Christianity
One blogger I came across in my research had a quote from someone who pointed out that the Vatican document “Jesus Christ The Bearer Of The Water Of Life”, cited many non-western healing modalities, including acupuncture as New Age, and therefore warns against it.
However, as the writer noted, 12 step programs (based on Christian values and beliefs), homeopathy (which Mother Theresa used) and herbalism (which has been used by St. Martin DePorres, who was a Catholic brother canonized by Pope John XXIII. in 1962) are also practices commonly employed by New Age practitioners.
Does this make them anti-Christian?
Separation of Church and Medicine, of Acupuncture and Religion
Personally, I feel that talking about my religious beliefs interferes with treatment, so I mostly keep my philosophies out of the treatment room.
Whether I’m Christian, or a blend of new age which includes following Jesus, Buddhist, or atheist; that’s not my patient’s burden to carry when they seek medical help from me.
I’m here to help them call in support from where they most seek comfort and answers, and if that is from Jesus, or Spirit, or The Divine, then I am 100% there to back them up.
Most of my patients are Christian
Some of my most dedicated patients (meaning, those who really go deep with the medicine and use it to its full extent) are the ones who have the strongest Christian faiths.
And once I know a patient has strong spiritual practices — including prayer and meditation — I can help them use those tools during the treatment process to help them open up even more.
I don’t want to diminish anyone’s personal struggle. That is not what I’m here to do at all.
I understand that some very devout Christians who oppose acupuncture feel that their belief of God belongs everywhere and that there is nowhere that should remain separate from it, including medical establishments. But I also feel that these people then need to apply those principles across the board and realize that they must also include western medicine and science — the field that as I said has predominantly been developed by atheists — into the types of medicines which they feel go against their religious beliefs.
In summary, while I can understand the concerns that people have, I do think that beliefs like this spring more from ignorance and a complete misunderstanding of the medicine and the larger picture of how it’s generally used, than from a legitimate conflict. Certainly, I’m sure there is the rare patient who had an acupuncturist push their religious views on them, but that doesn’t say anything about the medicine, and rather tells a lot about the immaturity and inappropriateness of the practitioner.
Acupuncture is backed by science
Acupuncture is a scientifically sound healing modality that has beneficial physiological effects on the body. Science is only now beginning to understand the mechanisms by which it has its effect, but while we wait for the research to continue to pour in, I think it’s wisest to separate religious extremism and dogma from a medicine that is no less scientific than what is done at the doctor’s office.