Alternative or alter-native?

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cupping 9th Aug

The American swimmer, Michael Phelps, caused quite a stir at the Olympics in Rio when he arrived at the starting blocks for the 100 meter freestyle relay race with large circular bruises on his back. It took a while for the reporters to figure out that he and his teammates were trying to get a competitive edge by employing an ancient method called “Chinese cupping” therapy.  These swimmers feel this technique will increases the blood flow to their muscles, but many experts label it as pseudoscience, a celebrity fad or even a placebo.

I immediately thought of a slide presentation that Dr. Scott Murray of the Kwai River Christian Hospital near the Myanmar border showed me not long ago.  He showed a slide of a man who had the same red bruises on his back, but also on his forehead.  It seems the man had a headache and the herbal doctor he went to for help had no clue how to cure him and so employed this method. Eventually the man needed to come to the hospital for proper care. I remember Dr. Murray explaining how he often sees evidence of people going to a shaman to have various procedures done on them like scraping their torso with a knife in the event of a stomach ache, or one bizarre incident where a man had the Chinese character for “tiger” tattooed to his jaw due to a persistent tooth ache (the pain was caused by a “tiger spirit”).

Such incidences remind me of the woman in Luke 8 who had “…spent all her living on physicians, but she could not be healed by anyone.” Just as Olympic swimmers are desperate to get any legal physiological benefit in their sport so also Thai people try all sorts of strange methods to gain physical relief or to manipulate and control the spirit world.  Do pray that Thai people will realize that worldly solutions are bankrupt and that the only one who has the power to bring permanent healing for both the body and the soul is the Great Physician, Jesus.

Photo source: Doug Mills/New York Times

Larry Dinkins

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