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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Christianity & Culture:
Between God and an Illness.
By James M. Rotholz, PhD. 2002,
Hayworth Medical Press, $17.95, 141 pp.
Review by Nina Bunin
Do you think that seeing is believing, or that believing is
This is not a trick question — it’s a question about our
attitude towards fact versus faith. And it is never more relevant than to people
with CFIDS (PWCs) and others with chronic illnesses, questioning our faith and
developing a new life-view that allows us to be at peace with CFIDS.
In his new book, Rotholz addresses this issue through his own
lens of Christian faith. It is a faith severely challenged and ultimately
rekindled as a result of CFIDS.
A former anthropologist, Rotholz explores what it means to be
“outside” the widely held norms of success, power and achievement. Disability
forces us to closely examine Western society’s definitions of what our goals
should be versus how they are defined in more “primitive” cultures and what they
are as laid out in the Bible. He makes it quite clear exactly how bankrupting to
the soul our commonly held way of thinking about these issues can be.
These are the issues that any person with chronic illness
explores as we delve deeply into the connection between mind, body and spirit,
when we must decide on a daily basis what our highest priorities really are and
as we search for a framework (either an existing one such as religion, or one
created in our own hearts) of belief, faith and hope.
This book is very much a journey of the heart. Forced by CFIDS
to re-examine every part of himself and the world around him, Rotholz writes
with clarity and conviction about the “gift” of CFIDS, mixed blessing that it
is. Although Rotholz embraces the faith of Christianity in particular, anyone
seriously examining these issues and looking for insights on achieving peace and
faith within oneself will find it a worthwhile read.
Stricken: Voices from the Hidden Epidemic of Chronic
Edited by Peggy Munson. 2000, The Hayworth Press,
$24.95, 270 pp.
Review by Sue Garrott
“Stricken” presents the stories of seriously ill people of all
ages, told through their poetry, journal entries and short essays. The authors
write of the debilitating symptoms of CFIDS, about their pain and anger, and of
the emotional losses they face.
Their stories speak to the lack of acknowledgement of their
illness, and to the trivialization and ridicule of their symptoms. The writers
detail their struggles to find medical care; to gain financial help through
Social Security or long-term disability plans; and to cope with the breakdown of
their social networks, as friends and even family members question their
This book is well organized and researched. It presents
information that many people may not know, such as how the illness got its name,
how the CDC selected the symptoms necessary for diagnosis and much more. One
chapter, “The Paradox of Lost Fingerprints: Metaphor and Shaming of Chronic
Syndrome,” expresses anger about the politics and negation of CFIDS.
I liked this book, particularly the stories of how people are
coping with the losses in their lives. The “Paradox” chapter was the most
difficult to read; it contains important information but that anger also seems