Evangelical Acupuncture: The Healing Benefits of Complementary Religion

The popularity of the traditional Chinese medical technique known as acupuncture has grown tremendously in the United States in the twenty-first century. Independent acupuncture clinics are found in large urban areas, as well as suburban and even more rural localities. Within the normative medical contexts of major allopathic hospitals and particularly alternative medical units and integrative medicine services associated with allopathic cancer treatment centers throughout the country, acupuncture is offered as one of many wellness or “complementary” therapies. Many practitioners of acupuncture in America are Chinese emigres engaging in a medical art learned in their homeland and valuable as an occupation in their new country. This paper will consider the significance of religion not for those individuals seeking acupuncture but for acupuncture practitioners themselves in North America. In particular this presentation will address: 1) to what degree acupuncture as a practice is associated with a particular religious system of belief; 2) the varied perceptions of acupuncture by practitioners of normative religious traditions in America, particularly Christianity. This paper explores these issues through the distinctive lens of one particularly adept acupuncture professional; it explores the specific vernacular religious negotiations of a Chinese-American acupuncturist, brought up in the atheistic Communistic Chinese system who, as a convert to Evangelical Christianity, now negotiates the spiritual and healing elements of acupuncture with the possible conflicts of a Biblically-based American Evangelical Christian literalism.