Acupuncture and Crazy Religious Beliefs

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I’ve been wanting to try acupuncture for my overall lack of mental health for quite awhile, and this morning I finally had an appointment with a woman whose English was so bad that I finished most of her sentences for her after losing patience with her stumbling diction and incessant hand motions (you know, the universal sign language that means “If I just wave my hands long enough surely this person will learn to speak my language”). For some odd reason, I found her complete Chinese-ness reassuring. If someone is going to stick needles into my body, they’d better have a thick accent and at least one statuette of a kimono-clad woman in her office. Check and check!

I don’t have any clue yet whether this will help with my mental health, and quite honestly, my brain is so prone to ups and downs (thank you, bi-polar II) that I might well think something has worked when I’m just on a natural high. We’ll see.

But honestly, the more interesting part of the experience had nothing to do with the needles or the broken English or the wall full of Chinese herbs. No, the best part of this story came as I was leaving home to head to the appointment…As I was leaving, my wife’s “small group” from our former church was arriving. It consists of three women around our age and one woman who is about twenty years their senior who “mentors” them. This very sweet and well-intentioned woman asked where I was headed, and when I told her, her face sprouted a concerned look. Then she said, “You need to pray for protection because acupuncture involves spirits, and you don’t want to open yourself up to an evil spirit.”

Having grown up in and around fundamentalist Christianity, I have heard this view expressed before. It’s basically religiously-justified xenophobia, the attitude being very much an us vs. them mentality: “Surely God can’t/won’t be involved in any Eastern methods of healing or hope. No, those versions of health come from evil spirits that the Real God is fighting against. But make sure you ask the Real God to help you in prayer; otherwise, he’ll just ignore your misfortune as you allow evil spirits to invade your unsuspecting body. Muhahahahaha!”

While I find the aforementioned ideas laughable these days, I’m also well aware that dogma is not unique to Christianity. Even the acupuncturist, from what I could understand, was espousing her own version of dogma. She boldly claimed that I should be off of all five medicines that I take with enough acupuncture treatment. If she’s right, I guess those evil spirits know what they’re doing. For now, my cynical self suspects that both ladies are wrong. I’m just hoping for a small step forward here, ladies. Is that too much to ask?!

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