A new documentary exploring the whole area of sickness, supernatural healing and the power of positivity has been released, and it is making waves in the faith and medical communities.
Heal is billed to take us on “a scientific and spiritual journey where we discover that our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions have a huge impact on our health and ability to heal,” according to the documentary’s website.
Whatever your views are on the supernatural healing of sickness and disability, this makes for an intriguing watch and opens up a very interesting discussion.
In the wider context of the body of Christ, we see a distinctly split opinion; from the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry that teaches its students to go out onto the streets and declare healing over the sick, to Pastor John MacArthur’s view that supernatural practices and spiritual giftings were strictly limited to the time of Christ.
But Marc Siegel at Slate.com seeks to address a slightly different question: alongside medical treatment, does a fervent belief in being healed by a divine power actually aid your physical recovery?
“As a physician, I understand the nocebo notion that stress and negative emotions may lead to disease, or affect disease outcomes in a negative way,” he writes.
“It is also true, as the film suggests, that too often Western medicine practitioners treat the body as a machine and throw pills at a problem without fully considering how these pills impact body chemistry or cause effects that may be worse than the original problem.”
Regardless of your theological assertion around supernatural healing, most will likely be in agreement that scientific validation of a miraculous work of God should be sought where possible. Sickness is a sensitive area, and we must be careful not to throw around stories of divine intervention without adequate proof.
This is an area in which Heal falls short, according to Siegel:
“Heal spends hardly any time exploring the scientific underpinnings of the miraculous cures it highlights, or why they frequently fail for others. As the movie progresses, a more overriding theme takes over: It isn’t just relieving stress that’s at stake here, it’s the power of divine intervention,” he writes.
It gets much wackier than that. Some of those interviewed are convinced that they were able to overcome serious illness with nothing more than the power of their own mind. Siegel explains:
“One of the film’s patients is told he will never walk again without major back surgery and metal rods but manages to overcome his spine fractures through visualizing the problem combined with exercises. Another patient shrinks her lymphoma by envisioning the war in her bloodstream and the cancer losing the battle with her chemical treatment.
When her lymphoma disappears, the implication is that her mind power is even more responsible than her chemotherapy. These stories are presented as mainstream when they are in fact rare outliers.”
Heal does not seem to suggest that patients should reject conventional methods of treatment in exchange for the pursuit of spiritual intervention. Rather, the idea is that focusing on “getting better,” whether that is via prayer or through relentless positivity, is incredibly beneficial to the overall well-being of the patient.
“Every organ has the ability to heal itself under the right conditions. What are those conditions – that’s the question,” one expert declares in a short preview video of the documentary.
The film argues that “replacing toxic thoughts and stress hormones with so-called tonic neurochemicals including oxytocin and serotonin can only help your chances and bolster your immune system,” as Siegel explains.
Indeed, the documentary presents nine factors that the featured experts believe are key contributors to the remarkable healings they claim to have witnessed. They are as follows:
- Radically changing your diet
- Taking control of your health
- Following your intuition
- Using herbs and supplements
- Releasing suppressed emotions
- Increasing positive emotions
- Embracing social support
- Deepening your spiritual connection
- Have a strong reason for living
“There have been radical remissions for every different cancer type; pancreatic cancer, stage 4 lung cancer, a big brain tumor that is considered inoperable. There are examples of people out there who have healed from it,” says author Kelly Turner Ph.D, a Harvard-educated researcher who has written a book on the cases of those claiming to have recovered from cancer without the help of Western medicine.
“When I looked at the data, they were all using these nine. Only two of them are physical, the rest are mental, emotional and spiritual.”
Now, as Christians we may also believe in the active and present power of God to heal, restore and renew our bodies both by means of the supernatural and through the skills and abilities of a physician. That being said, Heal highlights an interesting element of physical illness that often evades our view on the subject: that your emotional state towards your sickness can affect your long-term prognosis.
“In a way, we have more faith in the power of cancer to kill us than we have faith in the power of infinite possibility,” says author and teacher Marianne Williamson in a trailer for the documentary.
Siegel declares that the documentary is “profoundly right” when it puts forward the assertion that “too often illness leads to a state of powerlessness, a desire to not be a burden, as well as a sense of guilt.”
The problem? When a person who is facing a terminal cancer diagnosis employs a rigorous regime of positive thinking but continues to deteriorate despite their best efforts. What then? “Isn’t it cruel to give people false hope? And what, exactly, does it mean to take control of your illness?” asks Siegel.
“Avoiding negative emotions is one thing, but the problem with false promises is that they can cause harm, too. If you believe too much in the power of positivity, you may find yourself woefully disappointed by life, which can make no such promises.”
Watch the trailer for Heal below: