Have you ever wondered what our Christian faith has to say about the following?
That an estimated 50% of cancer deaths are preventable through lifestyle changes
Nine people are killed daily in the United States by distracted driving, often by texting
Chronic sleep deprivation in childhood is associated with lifelong risk for obesity
Regular exercise is one of the best treatments for mild to moderate depression
That just two minutes of silence leads to improvements in blood pressure and circulation
What you eat directly affects your anxiety, mood, and stress levels long-term
Childhood trauma affects brain development and increases risk for chronic health conditions
Obesity is associated with an increased risk for dementia, depression, and death
Exposure to nature is linked to improved attention, decreased stress, and improved mood
Chronic anxiety is associated with an increased risk of physical infirmities and disability
If you are like most people, you have rarely ever heard a Christian perspective on these topics. Yet the reality is that our faith has a ton to say about all of these realities and countless more like them. For two 2,000+ years, our Christian faith has preached that the search for holiness can be found in the search for wholeness. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The human body shares in the dignity of the ‘image of God’ — it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit.” (CCC 364)
Yet the reality is that rarely does this search for wholeness find its way into a Sunday sermon or Catholic publication even though every minute of our lives is predicated on how our universal faith affects our whole being. So, why is this the case? If the search for wholeness according to God’s design is truly the pursuit of holiness, then why wouldn’t this be on the forefront of everything we say and do? While the answer to this question is complicated, there are few keys reasons this is the case. One, controversial topics draw the most attention, and thus the most clicks and views; “mundane” topics like sleep and diet are less interesting, and thus do not appeal to our drama-obsessed world. Two, human nature is much comfortable confronting the wrong “out there” but is uncomfortable acknowledging the enemy lying within, especially when it involves things we do and depend on every day. Third, addressing issues of wholeness require a degree of awareness, determination, and intentionality that are not appealing, especially in our world today. Finally, many Christians have been catechized to believe that our faith is relegated to actions of prayer, sacraments, and service alone; for understandable reasons, they struggle to see the inherent nature of God’s design in all aspects of daily life.
For the past 15 years, as a married father of eight children and a child psychologist, I have been working to better understand God’s design as it pertains to our world, and just how this relates to the tenets of our Christian faith. I have also been working to understand obstacles to living in this way. Much of what I discovered has been published through articles archived on my website (www.james-schroeder.com) and books that I have written, including Wholiness: The Unified Pursuit of Health, Harmony, Happiness, and Heaven This past year, I started a weekly podcast entitled Living a Whole Christian Life, which can be found at this link or any major podcast outlet. The podcast is designed to merge cutting edge science with Christian theology in a relatable, accessible way. It also explores and highlights ways all of us can use this information every day, no matter where we are in life. Each episode builds off the next, but all are intended to better understand and pursue God’s design in everyday life.
Whatever reason that holiness through wholeness is not embraced, the reality is that there is incredible promise in pursuing a whole Christian existence. As science and experience increasingly reveals, when we work with God’s design, not against it, our opportunities for health, happiness, and harmony increase exponentially; sadly, though, when we work against it, God’s natural law renders us and our communities at increased risk for all sorts of negative outcomes.
C.S. Lewis once said, “Pain is …God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” The reality is that while pain and suffering will always exist to some extent in this fallen world, much of it is occurring is because we are not living as God intends. But when we come to see His Word and His Way in all that we are, and all that we do, we will come to realize the promise that lies in His whole image and likeness for each of us.