Professional Christian Science practitioner Phil Davis argues that the healthcare debate is not only about politics and economics but also an opportunity to embrace the mind/body connection. “It’s about the possibility that one’s relationship to God is a redemptive process and that physical well-being is an aspect of that spiritual growth and salvation,” Davis says.

“Disease is an experience of a so-called mortal mind. It is fear made manifest on the body,” said Mary Baker Eddy. The matriarch of Christian Science wrote these words out of her own experience. In 1866 she suffered a severe fall that caused a major injury. She reportedly turned to Matthew 9:2 and read these words, “And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’”

Once viewed by mainstream American religionists as a peculiar Christian brand, Christian Science is no longer a lonely voice crying out in the wilderness.

From quigong to yoga, from insight to transcendental meditation, the rising tide of Eastern spiritual practices has raised the collective Western consciousness to a new awareness of the relationship of mind to body. Prodded perhaps by the Eastern healing currents and fueled by the latest scientific research, an increasing number of physicians and neuroscientists are pushing old boundaries while asserting new mind/body paradigms—is this the a new secular spirituality?

It turns out that Christian Science practitioners are more like trail blazers than drifters.

While mind/body proponents articulate different versions of the story, most agree that a peaceful mind is a great benefit to the body. Contending that the physical body is not an island unto itself but an externalized expression of the mind, Christian Scientists take the next step and assert that every disease in the body is the manifestation of the mind, says Christian Science. As May Baker Eddy put it, “Disease is an image of thought externalized.”

Given the larger context of the healthcare debate it comes as little surprise that some Christian Science practitioners are requesting that healthcare reform reflect this growing awareness by allowing for reimbursement of mind/body practitioners.

Religion aside, this is should be a no brainer. Even if you are skeptical about the relationship of mental prayer to physical wellness, there’s no denying the placebo effect. While there are limits to the power of positive thinking (no one has yet been able to resist physical death through positive thinking) the research is itself a reminder that what is in the mind can significantly impact the body.

If nothing else, the placebo effect is cost effective. And if you are convinced that mind/body healing is rooted in a deeper truth than mere positive thinking, you might even be willing to consider that yoga, meditation or other spiritual practices are worthy antidotes for many of the ills that beset us.

As Ben Franklin famously put it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Even conventional medicine is beginning to embrace prevention as an economically efficient and compassionate model. In the healthcare reform debates few question the importance of a primary care physician as a basic way to build in accountability and competence into the existing healthcare system.

Why not include reimbursement to all mind/body practitioners as a line item in healthcare reform? In addition to helping people cure from disease recognizing the mind/body connection could be a boon to the prevention movement.

Here is the problem. The fascinating topic of mind/body aside, we can’t even agree on how best to best provide conventional healthcare to Americans. The public option, or no? Medical malpractice tort reform, or no? Will procedures like abortions or gastric bypass surgery be allowed, or not? And how do we keep those illegal immigrants out of the ER?

To inject the nuanced topic of “paying for prayer” into this already fractious debate—who gets what and how to pay for it—is nothing if not a recipe for disaster.

And there are other questions—perhaps even more vexing and complex—such as whether it’s even appropriate for insurers (government or private) to reimburse religious practitioners for practicing their religion.

As Gandhi counseled, to take a long journey we must take only one step at a time lest we trip all over ourselves.

Maybe in some future or more enlightened time we as a people will have the wherewithal to ponder reimbursement for the ultimate prevention strategy. But for now, the “pay to pray” option is hardly an answer much less a viable question.

That said, I do agree with mind/body author Dr. Larry Dossey who says,

The major challenge we face is how to spiritualize and humanize medicine, how to infuse it with a compassionate quality that answers to our inner needs as well as to the needs of our physical bodies…(over time) healers will take their places in surgery suites, coronary care units, and emergency rooms, as they are already beginning to do in some hospitals. As a result, it will feel different to be a patient. One will know that “the system” cares about the soul as well as the body. Fantasy? Hardly. These changes are already penetrating some of the major hospitals in the country.

As the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us, “for everything there is a season.”

When it comes to healthcare reform, it’s not yet Spring.