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Epilepsy Blog Relay: When does faith healing become medical neglect?

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™. Follow along all month!

Elaine on Faith Healing

Faith healing and demon possession are not medical terms but they are used to describe religious belief systems that give the believers in the system a sense of security when they experience uncertainty about a family member who has epilepsy. Sometimes in the network of family and friends around a person with epilepsy the question of “what does it mean?” is more compelling than “what is the best treatment?”

 

“Non-scientific thinking is often used to interpret the nature of epilepsy as a meaning experience not a medical condition.” Eadie, Mervyn J., and P. F. Bladin. A Disease Once Sacred: a History of the Medical Understanding of Epilepsy. John Libbey, 2001.

 

Existential or Physical

What does it mean? could be a question about a relationship with God: does God still love us? Are we being punished? Did someone sin? From a religious point of view, the real problem is existential, not physical. Existentially, as soon as the sin is resolved, the right person repents, God withdraws his punishment, then the physical problem will disappear. Existential questions like these are very subjective and the answers are likely to be very subjective also. While it is true that the emotional needs of the network of family and friends around a person with epilepsy are satisfied by the existential religious meaning and explanation about epilepsy, the actual outcome for the person with epilepsy is medical neglect. The real question to address is about the health needs of the person with the epilepsy, not the existential concerns of the family and friends in the network around the person with epilepsy.

Demons or Seizures?

Why say that a person with epilepsy is demon possessed? We are supposed to love, but at the same time, a person with epilepsy is often viewed as a threat because of being different. The difference and the sense of threat posed by the difference leads to the perceived need by Christian fundamentalists to “cast out demons.” The exorcism, then, can be perceived by Christian fundamentalists as healing, as an act of love, and shunning all in one action. The exorcism allows the Christian to meet the religious requirement to love while at the same time keeping enough distance to meet the human need for a sense of safety and security in the face of uncertainty and mystery and the perceived threat to safety. Identifying a person with epilepsy as being “possessed by demons” is a form of stigmatization in the guise of religious piety. Shunning and stigmatization are acts of fear, not love.

Self-care when it matters most

No matter how many other people fail to love us, we cannot fail to love ourselves. If we remain committed to ourselves, we are loved. People with epilepsy have fears. People around the person with epilepsy have fears. We can respond to our own fears and the fears of others by loving ourselves and taking care of ourselves. As we love ourselves, our fears begin to dissolve. If we let go of a little bit of our own fear the people around us might let go of a little bit of their fear also. We can be the people to start healing ourselves. I can be the person to start the healing freedom for myself and so can you.

Beloved Name

All day I inhale the healing fragrance of your name.
How many names does the Beloved have?
1, 2, 3, 4
A, B, C, D
Earth, wind, fire, water,
Winter, spring, summer, fall
North, south, east, west
Sun, moon, stars, sky
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday
Mother, father, sister, brother
Birth, life, death, resurrection
How many names does the Beloved have?

All day I inhale the healing fragrance of your name.

Elaine M. Reeves


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