Jewish and Christian Perspectives on Spirituality, Theology, and Health
Edited by Jeff Levin and Keith G. Meador
Recent years have seen a burgeoning of research on the relationship between religious involvement and indicators of personal and population health. Yet, increasingly, even the best of this work reads as if written in a theological vacuum, existing outside of any recognizable context in which religious scholars understand the role and impact of religion. Religious identity and practice, as conceived of in these studies, is often at odds with normative understandings of what it means to be a religious person within the major faith traditions. Thus, the sorts of research questions posed in this body of research and the explanations advanced for significant findings are similarly disconnected from these normative understandings. This phenomenon has served to advance some very unrealistic and even dangerous expectations about the influence of faith on health and well-being. Religion is now promoted as a commodity or good to be used to improve one’s health independent of other considerations. Poor outcomes, seen through this lens, are thus failures of faith—a terrible burden to place on people already suffering from health challenges.
Healing to All Their Flesh asks us to step back and carefully rethink the relationship between religion and health. It does so by examining overlooked issues of theology and meaning that lie at the foundation of religion’s supposed beneficial function. Is a religion-health relationship consistent with understandings of faith within respective traditions? What does this actually imply? What does it not imply? How have these ideas been distorted? Why does this matter—for medicine and healthcare and also for the practice of faith? Is the ultimate relation between spirit and flesh, as mediated by the context of human belief and experience, a topic that can even be approached through empirical observation, scientific reasoning, and the logic of intellectual discourse?
The editors of this collection, Drs. Jeff Levin and Keith G. Meador, have gathered together the writings of leading Jewish and Christian theological, pastoral, ethical, and religious scholars to answer these important questions. Contributors include Richard Address, William Cutter, Elliot N. Dorff, Dayle A. Friedman, Stanley Hauerwas, Warren Kinghorn, M. Therese Lysaught, Stephen G. Post, John Swinton, and Simkha Y. Weintraub, with a foreword by Samuel E. Karff.