Health Care Provider and Religious Diversity
In the modern world, the religious factor occupies a significant place, having a great impact on various processes. It is natural since religion is perceived not only as faith as such but also as a particular way of life and thinking. Religious canons govern a variety of aspects of individual and social life. Religion is an ancient and elusive element of human life. It is closely connected with other spheres, including medicine. Many people believe that the church treats souls, while a doctor treats the body of the person. Believers are confident that regular parishioners receive spiritual health in the church. They learn how to lead the right way of life and get rid of bad habits and thoughts. Frequently, people first turn to God only in difficult situations when they cannot cope with problems on their own, and in such situations, they find God and faith. In many religions, there is a different attitude towards medicine and doctors. Besides, religions use different methods of treatment, including prayers, witch-doctors, and rituals. The purpose of the paper is to compare Christianity and Confucianism concerning their attitude to medicine.
Philosophical thought in China has had a long and varied history. By the beginning of a new era, dozens of schools and trends have developed in Chinese society. They differ from each other, but also have much in common. Confucianism is the most widely recognized religious school that integrates ideas of many other directions. Confucianism is an ancient Eastern religion. This religion is closely related to non-traditional medicine. In the book The Psyche in Chinese Medicine, it is noted that Confucianism had the strongest influence on Chinese medicine, particularly about its view of emotions (Maciocia, 2009, p. 54). Eastern medicine, which is called non-traditional, is based on Eastern philosophy. Chinese sage and philosopher Confucius are especially revered in the East. Confucius is an ancient Chinese philosopher who lived around 551-479 BC (Maciocia, 2009). He came to a new moral philosophy relying on the idea of the basic goodness inherent in every human being. It is typical for good family relations when older family members love the younger and take care of them, while the younger ones, in turn, respond with love and devotion. Confucius paid great attention to medicine (Maciocia, 2009). According to him, three factors cause human death such as death from punishment, death in the war, and death from the disease (Maciocia, 2009). Confucius stated that a healthy person needs the whole world, but when a person is sick, he/she needs only health (Maciocia, 2009). Anyone who has ever experienced pain would agree with this statement. According to Confucius, a wise man is better to avoid diseases than choosing drugs against them (Maciocia, 2009). Indeed, there are a great number of drugs these days. However, the prevention of diseases still plays a major role in preserving the health of each individual and the nation as a whole.
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In Confucianism, there are many books devoted to religion. The question of the nature of a person in Chinese medicine is described in the book Huang Di Nei Jing Ling Shu: The Ancient Classic On Needle Therapy. It raises the question of human nature (Unschuld, 2016). The book claims that a man is composed of five cosmic elements: earth, water, fire (a heated symbol), wood, and air (Unschuld, 2016). The doctrine of cosmic elements as the basis of the body is supplemented in Huang Di Nei Jing Ling Shu: The Ancient Classic On Needle Therapy by the doctrine of the two principles, which define the relationship of health and disease of the body (Unschuld, 2016). One of them is Ian and another is Yin. The right balance of these principles leads to health, while the poor balance results in illness. Yin and Yang must live in harmony and there will be no diseases (Unschuld, 2016). This view has led to three new therapeutic techniques that give Chinese medicine a special touch. It is moxa, massage, and acupuncture. These techniques are highly popular nowadays and modern people use these spiritual techniques to treat different diseases.
Moxa consists of the cauterization of a sore point by tufts of burning grass. The purpose of this event is to enhance the movement of the beginning of yin. The Chinese have come to this procedure based on fantastic views. Nonetheless, there is a rational kernel in it. Medicinal herbs have a very positive effect on the patient’s body. The second method is massage. Ancient Chinese doctors also used it to enhance the movement of the beginning of yin. Over time, this meaning of Chinese massage has been forgotten. Nevertheless, these days many followers of Confucianism still use this practice, combining it with teas and herbs. The third method is acupuncture. It consists of the insertion of a needle into the body. The needle is typically immediately removed from the body, but sometimes it is left there for a day or more. Thanks to acupuncture, Chinese doctors have discovered lung abscess, pleural effusion, and ascites. Basic theoretical principles of ancient Chinese medicine have stood the test of time and its main features have been retained for three millennia. These days, acupuncture, massage, and moxa are prescribed to many patients in China. Along with these procedures, doctors also use herbs and teas, which is typical for other religions. In Christianity, people frequently drink medicinal teas consisting of chamomile, calendula, and other herbs.
Many followers of Confucianism still adhere to the principles of the ancient Chinese tradition. In such a way, they often do not trust modern doctors. People go to local healers who treat their diseases with the help of prayers, massage, acupuncture, moxa, and herbs. Mantras are used as prayers in Confucianism. Herbal medicine is very widespread in Confucianism. A characteristic feature of traditional Chinese medicine is the Zhen-chiu therapy. It is a combination of acupuncture and cauterization. Empirical roots of this method go back to antiquity when it was noticed that pricks, cuts, or wounds in certain points of the body could lead to the healing of certain ailments. In Confucianism, such a method remains highly popular. With the help of this method, syncope can be treated. The introduction of the needle at the base of the first and second fingers from the backside of the wrist cures sleeplessness. Therefore, people in Confucianism believe in the existence of vital points, irritation of which contributes to the regulation of life processes.
It should also be noted that the Confucian worldview is characterized by its close relation to magic. It is an obvious concern of occult powers of the earth and heaven, which guarantee harmony and peace of the cosmos. Unlike Judaism and some trends in Christianity, this doctrine has resulted in the emergence of very different medical principles based on the behavioral code. The main strategy of Confucianism is the harmonization of the internal state of an individual with an external divine order, in particular, subjecting it to the requirements of the desired place in the hierarchical social order. Eastern medicine in the modern world is called alternative medicine. Doctors consider some methods of Eastern medicine to be unreliable and advocate for the treatment of patients with the use of drugs and methods that have been officially approved.
Confucianism and Christianity are completely different religions. Their attitude to medicine is also highly different. Despite all the differences, Confucianism and Christianity also have certain common features. Firstly, it applies to prayers. As it has already been mentioned, they are called mantras in Confucianism. Although a name differs, a principle is the same. In both prayers and mantras, people appeal to the higher power with a certain request.
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The Christian church has a good attitude to modern medicine if its purpose is to help and cure a person. In the New Testament, there is a condemnation of the use of medical devices. Furthermore, a medical professional is consecrated by the Holy Tradition as one of the Disciples of Christ, the Apostle Luke, was a physician. Doctoring is one of the occupations of early Christians. The history of the church is full of examples when priests and even bishops were engaged in healing physical ailments (Shuman & Volck, 2006). Thus, Christians go to doctors in case they get sick. It is opposite to the followers of Confucianism who prefer healers.
The moral culture of the therapist is a significant aspect of professionalism. This way, it is highly important for every doctor to adhere to patients’ wishes and religious beliefs. Many believers of different confessions do not accept certain methods of treatment. For example, Christians often have an extremely negative attitude to acupuncture. It is one of the differences between Confucianism and Christianity. The Bible does not explicitly say anything on this subject. Nonetheless, acupuncture is associated with non-traditional methods of treatment and originated in the East, while the Lord said through Isaiah: Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers (Isaiah 2:6). In addition, according to some priests, most supporters of acupuncture could be influenced by other Eastern teachings and practice Chinese traditional medicine. Some Christians do not have a negative attitude towards medical acupuncture, perceiving it as one of the acceptable forms of medical treatment. Moreover, some Christians believe that alternative medicine can be useful. In the book entitled Baptizing Alternative Medicine, it is written that some alternative medicine works very well, better than more orthodox treatments for the same condition (Westbrook, 2003, p. 5). Nevertheless, they show greater restraint in this matter, distancing themselves from this form of medical practice. This position is related to the admissibility of the development of medicine. In such a way, there are different attitudes of Christians towards Chinese medicine in general and acupuncture in particular. Thus, doctors should take patients’ religious believes into consideration.
Medicine and religion are extremely important spheres. In most cases, they are connected. Most religious teachings have a positive attitude to medicine. Besides, many religions have their methods of treatment. Both Confucianism and Christianity have their religious practices about medicine. Confucius’s statement about the need to protect health and not to rely solely on medication is a motto of Oriental Medicine. Moreover, it is still relevant in modern days and it can also be applied to Christianity. I prefer traditional methods of treatment. However, being a religious person, I also appeal to God in my prayers. In my opinion, prayer is powerful and with its help, God hears people. However, people should not address the Lord only in time of need. People should thank Him every day. Thus, prayer is the main spiritual perspective in terms of healing for me.