Recently, as our congregation’s sexton was changing the sermon title on the congregation’s marquee, a woman drove up and asked him, “Are you the new age church?” He responded, “We’re part of the United Church of Christ and our pastor is a biblical preacher.” She continued, “But, how can you be Christian? You’re celebrating earth day and have reiki group meeting at church on Saturday. This isn’t Christian; it’s pagan.”
My sexton was surprised at her comments. When he reported them to me, I was equally surprised, although I understood where she was coming from. I realize that many Christians have narrow views of healing and inspiration, and limit God to their own doctrinal or liturgical orthodoxy.
This woman is not alone. I have heard a similar critique leveled by many other conservative Christians. They assume that because reiki isn’t described in scripture or doesn’t emerge from their brand of “orthodox” Christianity or has Buddhist roots, reiki should be abandoned, if not denounced, by those who uphold what they believe to be authentic Christianity. A number of years ago, even the USA Roman Catholic Bishops deemed reiki incompatible with Catholic beliefs and challenged its use in Catholic hospitals. In all these cases, I believe such judgments come from failures to adequately research reiki and the medical studies indicating its health benefits as well as theological viewpoints that narrow Christian healing to the recitation of certain words or the utilization of certain liturgies.
Theology matters, and what we believe about God, the scope of Jesus’ ministry, and the nature of truth and healing shapes how we understand medical practice, science, bioethics, and the use of reiki healing touch and other complementary forms of health care.
In two books, The Energy of Love: Reiki and Christianity (Energion Publications) and Reiki Healing Touch and the Way of Jesus (Northstone Books), I have argued that reiki healing touch is congruent with Christian faith and reflects the spirit of Jesus’ healing ministry. In the spirit of John’s Gospel, I affirm that God’s light shines in all things and that divine wisdom is available to everyone. The true light of God shines on everyone. Grounded in John’s vision, early Christian theologians proclaimed the university of the Divine Logos, or Sophia, and asserted that wherever truth is found, God is its source. To this, I would add, wherever truth and healing are found, God is its source, even if Christ’s name is not spoken. God is present and at work in the operating room, the pharmaceutical laboratory, the chemotherapy clinic, and in the practices of those who give reiki healing touch and other complementary medical treatments. Jesus came that we might have abundant life, and whatever authentically contributes to abundant life participates in Jesus’ healing ministry. Reiki complements Christian faith in the same way as counseling, psychotherapy, and pharmacology share in Jesus’ aim at wholeness, most of which are utilized by more conservative Christians.
I recognize the need for critical theological thinking. In fact, my two books on reiki healing touch present sustained arguments for the integration of Christianity and reiki healing touch. Jesus himself recognized the efficacy of healers outside his immediate circle of disciples (Mark 9:38-41) and invited his followers to be open to “greater things” in their ministries. (John 14:12) The Reality in whom we live and move and have our being surely embraces a wide variety of healing practices, including liturgical laying on of hands as well as complementary healing practices like reiki.
As a Christian minister, I join reiki with my faith in Jesus and see reiki as an extension of Jesus’ healing ministry, in the same way as the Healer from Nazareth used a variety of methods himself from touch and exorcism to anointing, forgiving, and welcoming. I use the name of Jesus when I apply reiki healing touch and assume that God’s energy of love flows through me whenever I give a treatment. Just as “energy” or “power” flowed from Jesus to a woman experiencing hemorrhages (Mark 5:30), this same energy flows though us, whether we use reiki, laying on of hands, or anointing. Thus, when someone asks, “Can Christians use reiki?” my response is a resounding “Yes.”
Dr. Bruce G. Epperly, pastor, professor, retreat leader, and Energion author of Healing Marks: Healing and Spirituality in Mark’s Gospel, Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God, Galatians: A Participatory Study Guide, Angels, Mysteries, and Miracles, Finding God in Suffering: A Journey with Job and more.