Accident and emergency departments in the UK are experiencing a steep rise in alcohol related admissions. The majority of those are people over the age of 65; exceeding those in the 16 - 35 age range. This is a rather shocking revelation. Whilst the culture of drinking amongst younger people is known to be out of control, the same should be said for older people. Young people make an exhibition of themselves on the streets of cities and towns. Older people slump quietly at home in front of the television, drinking themselves senseless.
This is a particular cultural pattern of one country and may or may not be reflected in others, but it raises a universal question: How healthy are we really prepared to be? Because our health depends to such a high degree upon our behaviour, we recognise that self-discipline and personal habits will determine how healthy we are. This could as easily apply to smoking or diet or exercise.
There are some parallels with faith. Firstly, people need to believe that healthy living will make them healthy. This is not as ridiculous a statement as it might at first seem. We may have heard about genetic susceptibility to disease, and we may be sceptical about the impacts of behaviour change. We may put our faith in medications. Unless people can comprehend the facts about healthy living, then they will simply not accept the need for change. A sort of revelation is needed.
Secondly, few of us are good at self-discipline. It is notable that slimming clubs have adopted the language of faith. Weekly gatherings reveal sinners and saints. Confessions are made. Absolution is offered. People give it another try and hope they can do better. There is a conflict in human nature between reaching towards 'wholeness' and unleashing the chaos inherent in our desire laden bodies.
Thirdly, individuals struggle to make changes on their own. They need to be part of a movement, a community. Alcoholics who choose to fight their addiction join AA groups and recognise their need of continued support for the remainder of their lives. In this case, they look to divine inspiration to give them grace to live as recovering alcoholics.
There is much more to health than medicine. Medicine is required to combat sickness. Health is pursued by fallible people needing social support and depends to a high degree on habits and lifestyle patterns. The challenges may appear parallel to faith, or they may in fact be integral to what a healing salvation means. The church would do well to look more closely at what it means to be healthy and ask how this sits within the journey of faith.