Mennonite Health JournalArticles on the intersection of faith and health
Spiritual Dimensions of Healthcare
Paul D. Leichty
from Mennonite Health Journal, Vol. 15, No. 1, January 2013
Since the beginning of the Christian movement, caring for the health of others has been a major theme of Christian faith. The Hebrew concept of “shalom” (wholeness, health, well-being, peace) was a driving force in Jesus’ own ministry of healing and restoration to wholeness of persons who were bound by sickness, disease, and the forces of evil. The early church was known for its care of the sick and those otherwise abandoned to die alone and forgotten.
Many of the principles, institutions, and methods of healthcare that we know today have their roots in Christian faith. Western society has indeed made great progress in treating many diseases and curing many illnesses. However, at the same time, human creativity and progress is always tainted by pride and self-centeredness that is the result of human sin. The systems and spiritual forces unleashed through science and technology can result not only in cures and treatments, but also in the creation of new healthcare issues in each time and culture.
Thus, MHF has chosen to look at “Moral Dilemmas in Healthcare” as its theme for the 2013 Annual Gathering, June 21-23, 2013 at Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana. As the Planning Committee has delved into its task, we have realized that there are many more moral dilemmas than we can possibly cover in one weekend. Thus, we are attempting to identify some of the overarching themes and then hone in on a few specific issues.
The articles in this edition of Mennonite Health Journal remind us that there is always a moral and spiritual dimension in the field of healthcare. Thus Christian healthcare workers carry out not only a job or a profession or a specialty, but also a ministry that sees beyond the status quo, beneath the surface of symptoms and conditions. We are called to a ministry that treats each person as a valued child of God, part of a community whose physical, emotional, and spiritual health God cares deeply about.
Thus, in this issue, Glen Miller reviews Willard Swartley’s contribution to the current debate about healthcare in the United States. Swartley clearly believes that access to healthcare by rich and poor alike is a fundamental moral issue. Joe Longacher calls attention to a movement in U.S. history toward better mental healthcare sparked by the simple moral stance. Loving everyone as Jesus loved us means not only refusing to take the life of the enemy, but also treating persons on the margins with dignity, respect, and caring love. Murray Nickel takes that spiritual component into an international context and asks us to look at how God can be at work even when we see situations that appear desperate and hopeless. Finally, Jim Leaman reminds us that in our care of those who are weakest and have the greatest need, we can experience the presence of Jesus himself in our midst.
I trust this issue will start your thinking on the moral and spiritual issues of healthcare. Please join the conversation by responding through comments, articles of your own, and attendance at one of our Regional Meetings, or our Annual Gathering, June 21-23, in Goshen, Indiana.
About the author
Paul D. Leichty, M.Div. was the first Executive Director of Mennonite Healthcare Fellowship (MHF), serving from Sept. 2011 through May 2020. Paul has served as a pastor, church musician, computer support person, disabilities advocate, and administrator/organizer of a number of church-related ministries. In addition to responsibilities at MHF, Paul is Executive Director of Congregational Accessibility Network and was formerly Director of User Services at Mennonite.net. He is a member of Agape Fellowship of the Mennonite Church in Williamsport, Pennsylvania where he lives with his wife, Twila Charles Leichty.