Tag Archives: God

Olympic health

The Olympics usually inspire me to run. This year’s Olympics has inspired me to think. Why have they grown so big in thought, in financing, and in global participation? Even Muslim women are competing this year. (See this article.) Perhaps the Olympics are more important than simple sports activity. There is some serious history here.

When the ancient Olympia games started some 2788 years ago, a national truce – ekcheiria – was observed throughout Greece. Athletes and spectators were allowed to travel in safety and to celebrate the Greek religious festival with which the Olympic games were closely connected. These truces provided a common basis for peace and national unity for the Greeks.

The first Olympics was a festival held in 776 B.C. and was dedicated to Zeus, the chief Greek god. A 200-meter footrace was held. Greeks gathered every four years for the next millennium in Olympia to honor Zeus through sports, sacrifices, and hymns. Wrestling, boxing, and horse racing were added to the Olympic roster. They complemented devotional sacrifices, hymns, celebrations, and visiting family.

This combination of Greek worship and sports led the Roman Christian Emperor Theodosius to ban the Olympics in 393 A.D. Modern Olympics revived some rituals as seen in the Olympic oath, the procession of athletes, and the lighting of the flame. In London at the 1908 games, Anglican Bishop Ethelbert Talbot declared, “The most important thing in these Olympics is not so much winning as taking part” — which has become part of the Olympic creed. He followed in the footsteps of the Reverend Henri Didon, a Catholic priest who penned the official Olympic motto “citius, altius, fortius” – faster, higher, stronger.

The founder of the modern Olympics, Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin, restored the Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 after excavations at Olympia renewed public interest in the Olympics. Coubertin had other national reasons of peace and brotherhood, yet he wrote: “The first essential characteristic of the Olympics, both ancient as well as modern, is to be a religion.” His motive was to glorify God. He was educated by Jesuits and influenced by muscular Christianity. Muscular Christianity shaped the modern programs of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and its devotees used sports to strengthen their faith. Today, muscular Christianity inspires professional athletes such as Tim Tebow.

Athletic exercise is a wholesome activity that glorifies God when done for the right reasons. Even the Bible declares, “For bodily exercise profits for a little while: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” (I Tim. 4:8) And, “whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Cor. 10:31)

I’ve been associated with athletics since running track and cross-country in high school. My exercise isn’t done for health reasons, but for joyful sports participation. Bible study and prayer help to keep me from being obsessed with exercise and it is these things and not the exercise that give me health. And I’ll tell you why.

Health comes from something more spiritual than exercise or matter-based thinking. It comes from understanding one God, infinite Spirit. Jesus taught, “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)

God is the source of strength and health, whether or not we believe in the one God – who is divine Mind – that Moses, Jesus and others have proclaimed. It’s not simply matter muscles that give us strength. There’s thought behind muscles. And it’s more than mind over matter. It’s divine Mind, God, over matter. (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 199) In previous blog posts you can find some examples of spiritual healings through this line of thinking and prayer.

New Hampshire has a special connection to this year’s Olympics. Concord High School graduate Guor (Majak) Marial came to the United States as a refugee from South Sudan. He literally ran for his life when he escaped the war-torn region and made his way to Concord. He is not yet a US citizen and year-old South Sudan republic has not qualified to field an Olympic team. But Guor qualified for the men’s marathon through discipline and hard work. The Concord High School graduate was selected by the International Olympic Committee to run the men’s marathon this Sunday.

Guor’s response, which can be found here, was: “If God gave me this talent and this education and I can be able to dedicate my life every single day to this kind of thing, one day God will give me the chance to support, to help my people, the people of South Sudan.” More stories about Guor’s inspired life story can be found here.

Guor isn’t the only athlete participating to glorify God. (For example, see this article and this article.) We can be grateful that a festival that began in ancient Greece to honor the god Zeus of mythology has today become an Olympian effort in which some athletes are conscientiously declaring their choice to glorify the one Almighty God through their participation. This is an attitude that should be encouraged.

George Reed is a former runner for Team New Balance, USA and still holds the outdoor one mile record at the University of New Hampshire, where he received a degree in mechanical engineering. He currently is a Christian Science practitioner, and the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Scientists in New Hampshire.

Placebos

To my understanding as a Christian Scientist, this week’s CBS 60 Minutes piece on placebos points to the beneficial effects of the power of thought, the power of mind, the power of love, indeed, the power of God to heal.

In the 60 Minutes investigation, journalist Lesley Stahl interviewed Irving Kirsch, the associate director of the Placebo Studies Program at Harvard Medical School. According to Stahl, “Irving Kirsch’s specialty has been the study of the placebo effect: the taking of a dummy pill without any medication in it that creates an expectation of healing that is so powerful, symptoms are actually alleviated.”

Speaking about his research into antidepressant medication, Kirsch told viewers that “The difference between the effect of a placebo and the effect of an antidepressant is minimal for most people.”

“And,” Kirsch added, referring to those people he had studied who were taking actual antidepressant medication, “the reason they get better is not because of the chemicals in the drug. The difference between drug and placebo is very, very small; and in half the studies non-existent.”

The placebo effect goes far beyond cases of depression, according to Kirsch. He went on to say that he has found that “placebos are great for treating a number of disorders: irritable bowel syndrome, repetitive strain injuries, ulcers, Parkinson’s disease. Even traumatic knee pain. In this clinical trial some patients with osteoarthritis underwent knee surgery. While others had their knees merely opened and then sewn right back up. And here’s what happened. In terms of walking and climbing, the people who got the placebo actually did better than the people who got the real surgery. And that lasted for a year. At two years after surgery, there was no difference at all between the real surgery and the sham surgery.”

As a Christian Scientist, I find these comments very heartening. They could serve as a springboard to a deeper study of the mental or spiritual nature of health, of how much spirituality and prayer contribute to recovery, and of the efficacy of material means and methods in bringing about genuine healing.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writing over a century ago, said that she had found that drugs were efficacious because doctors and patients believed that they were so. “Unsupported by the faith reposed in it, the inanimate drug becomes powerless,” she writes in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (p. 160).

Here is how she explains her reasons for reaching this conclusion and how this radical view played an important role in her founding of Christian Science:

“The author’s medical researches and experiments had prepared her thought for the metaphysics of Christian Science. Every material dependence had failed her in her search for truth; and she can now understand why, and can see the means by which mortals are divinely driven to a spiritual source for health and happiness.

“Her experiments in homoeopathy had made her skeptical as to material curative methods. Jahr, from Aconitum to Zincum oxydatum, enumerates the general symptoms, the characteristic signs, which demand different remedies; but the drug is frequently attenuated to such a degree that not a vestige of it remains. Thus we learn that it is not the drug which expels the disease or changes one of the symptoms of disease.

“The author has attenuated Natrum muriaticum (common table-salt) until there was not a single saline property left. The salt had ‘lost his savour;’ and yet, with one drop of that attenuation in a goblet of water, and a teaspoonful of the water administered at intervals of three hours, she has cured a patient sinking in the last stage of typhoid fever. The highest attenuation of homoeopathy and the most potent rises above matter into mind. This discovery leads to more light. From it may be learned that either human faith or the divine Mind is the healer and that there is no efficacy in a drug.” (ibid., pp. 152-153)

Mrs. Eddy discovered, as Jesus had demonstrated some 2,000 years earlier, that metaphysical, spiritual prayer is the most powerful healing medicine and treatment. She found that God, divine Mind, is the best healer.

Let me give an example. Kirsch speaks of the power of the placebo effect in treating knee pain. I have found in my own experience that it is possible for a knee injury to be healed without resorting either to medical intervention or to placebos. The Christian Science Journal recently published a healing through Christian Science treatment in my own experience. I had severely injured a knee by running up and down a New Hampshire mountain. I couldn’t walk for a few days, but through prayer the knee injury was healed, and when it returned recently in a milder fashion, it was healed again through prayer so that I am able to walk, hike, run, and bike freely. You can read about this healing in the February Christian Science Journal, which will soon be available online.

Do placebos bring healing? From my study and application of Christian Science to almost every human problem (for more than four decades), a placebo may temporarily help with recovery, but it does not heal. I have found that a higher power – namely God – is the healer. The Bible promises, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)