Thomas Johnsen, “Christian Science: A Comment,” 27th Annual Postgraduate Symposium on Medicine and Religion, University of Kansas Medical Center, October 1991.

From an address to physicians, nurses, and social workers at a symposium on medicine and religion. This particular session was on issues relating to health and care of children:

“…Obviously, not just the legal but the medical and religious climate has changed enormously in the last thirty years. There has been a hardening of attitudes. Christian Scientists have experienced this hardening not only in the highly visible legal prosecutions directed against them but also in more subtle and insistent pressures for conformity in everyday life….

“Where one comes out on specific questions of law regarding religious healing depends on one’s perception of truth. If one feels that religious healing as Christian Scientists practice it is simply mythical, a superstition held over from a prescientific era, and that any healings reported, if they happened at all, are the result of normal remission, or a placebo effect, or just luck-if one feels this way, then of course one can feel quite morally justified in attacking any suggestion that there’s something here, something substantial in Christian Scientists’ experience that needs to be considered.

“Yet for others, the fact of healing occurring in real people’s experience again and again keeps intruding on this self-contained logic. . . . After all, if we accept the view that possibly these healing experiences happened and cannot all be explained away, then we really have a problem-then perhaps religion is not so marginal, and perhaps we will need to rethink the relationship between religion and medicine in much more serious and far-reaching ways….

“It is not always self-evident how mutual respect between human beings can or should translate into public policy. But this mutuality, recognizing and feeling deeply the full humanity even of those with whom one has major differences, is the necessary starting point for constructive policy-making….”

(See entire text)

©2008 Thomas C. Johnsen