Faith & Health: Prophetic calls remind us of God’s concern for the wellness of all

ReadTheSpirit magazine

For a decade, ReadTheSpirit has been publishing columns and books—featuring a wide range of authors—exploring the deep connections between faith and health. As July begins, that connection is sparking headlines nationwide. Religious groups—including leaders from Catholic, Protestant and other faith communities—are voicing dramatic calls to action to their members about the future of health care in the U.S.

Duke School of Medicine’s Dr. Harold Koenig, a leading scholar in trying to bring these two worlds closer together, pointed out in a widely cited overview of the subject that, today, people assume there is a “near total separation of religion, medicine, and health care.”

In calling for the kind of “re-alliance” of faith and health that we are seeing emerge in 2017, Koenig described it not as an innovation but as a wise acknowledgment that the two realms have historically shared deep values. As Koenig describes it: “A quick tour of history reveals that the Christian church built and staffed the first hospitals during the Middle Ages, the entire nursing profession emerged from religious orders, and most physicians during early American colonial times were also ministers. In the mid-20th century, church-related hospitals in the United States cared for more than a quarter of all hospitalized patients, and Catholic hospitals alone saw nearly 16 million patients per year. A re-alliance between the religious community and the health care system would build on a long, long history.”


The Republican Party’s efforts to repeal “Obamacare” and replace it with a less-expensive healthcare system—as of the start of July 2017—includes plans to drastically slash benefits and spending on healthcare for needy Americans.

One of the most prophetic voices in headline news this past week was Jim Wallis, who published one of his messages on HuffPost under the headline: How People of Faith Can Make a Difference in the Health Care Debates.

Among the largest and most influential groups preaching against the current Senate plan are the nation’s Catholic bishops, considering that nearly 1  in 4 Americans is Catholic. America Magazine covered the bishops’ prophetic appeals in a story: U.S. bishops say Senate health care bill will ‘wreak havoc’ on families. Want a different Catholic perspective? Here’s a second America story about why the proposed plan is “simply unacceptable” for Catholics. Or, turning to the progressive news magazine ThinkProgress, the headline is: Catholic bishops condemn Senate’s ‘simply unacceptable’ Trumpcare bill.

Of course, leaders from the entire spectrum of religious life are involved. Search news stories in your part of the U.S. for more—or ask local religious leaders for community events in coming weeks. One example of smaller, regional events: Penn-Live news covered a predominantly United Methodist protest in one town.

Muslim leaders have their own ongoing struggles for fairness, these days, with the Trump administration. While many regional Muslim leaders are involved in the public outcry over the healthcare proposal, the largest non-Christian condemnation is coming from the Jewish community nationwide.

Just a few examples of recent headlines about Jewish responses: The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports Jewish Groups Urge Senate to Oppose GOP Health Billthe Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism reports on National Jewish Organization Letter on Senate Health Care Billand there is similar coverage in The Times of Israel as well as The Jewish Journal.


Dr. Harold Koenig is responsible for a steady stream of journal articles and books. One of his landmark books is the definitive Oxford University Press Handbook of Religion and Health. That exhaustive volume of nearly 1,200 pages is expensive, beyond the price range of most of our readers, so we also recommend Spirituality in Patient CareKoenig’s latest series of books involves faith perspectives on mental health, including Catholic, Protestant and Buddhist.

Our own publishing house offers many great choices. Follow the links to learn more:

Whatever else you do, this week, share this news with friends. Our collective health as a national community hangs in the balance.




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