With more time, Adin Brown believes he could have healed his injured knee by using the scientific prayer or spiritual communion with God that his faith, Christian Science, espouses. But when Brown caught his cleats during an Olympic qualifying tournament in late April, he soon realized that his spot as the starting goalie for the U.S. Olympic soccer team was on the line.
In today's sports world, surgery to repair knee cartilage (torn meniscus) has become routine. Often it can be completed in a few hours, with only local anesthesia required. Even the "zipper" scars, long the mark of a major knee surgery, have been replaced by three dots where doctors probe and repair the injured joint. Knee surgery is no longer that big a deal--unless you are a Christian Scientist.
Those who follow this faith believe that "a spiritualization" of a patient's thought can heal any condition. They tell of documented cases of Christian Scientists setting and mending broken bones through prayer. Church of Christ literature maintains such treatment and medical approaches "proceed from opposite standpoints." The church views illness, and therefore healing, as existing in the spiritual realm. Medicine, on the other hand, "deals with matter as both cause and cure." They conclude that "to try to heal from opposite systems may be unfair to the patient and could be counterproductive to healing."
Brown was caught in the middle of these two conflicting systems last spring. He could follow his faith to the letter, but in doing so would probably miss playing in the Summer Games in Australia. U.S. coaches told him that knee surgery "was reality" for him. When he isn't playing for the Olympic team, Brown is a member of Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids. That team also urged him to go "under the knife."
"It's the only decision he could make," Rapids coach Glenn Myernick said at the time. "He's got a defect that is only going to be repaired by surgical procedure."
Despite such advice, Brown was determined to try other tactics first. He prayed several times a day, and with the help of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs he hobbled through another qualifying tournament. But the bum knee forced him to miss a game, and the buzz began that Brown could be dropped from the team in favor of Kasey Keller, a veteran goalkeeper with international experience.
"I needed to do some serious thinking," Brown says of that time. "I knew I had to make the right decision. To do that I had to talk things over with my family and friends."
Brown's inner circle includes his grandmother, a Church of Christ practitioner who devotes herself full-time to Christian Science ministry, and other family members who told him they would support him whatever he decided. Brown reread Christian Science literature, especially "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. One of his favorite passages told him: "Whatever is your goal, it is fine as long as your heart is involved."
Brown maintains that many outside his faith misunderstand exactly what he was going through.
"There's no rule against Christian Scientists seeing doctors, having surgery," he says. "It's just that we usually choose not to. Our religion wants us to be the best people we can be, [to] strive to be like Jesus through healing and prayer. But the goal is to simply be the best person you can."
Christian Scientists emphasize that their form of healing does not involve hypnotism or suggestion. It employs no chants, rituals, or secret writings. Instead, one establishes spiritual communion with God through prayer.
|He realized if he opted for surgery "God wouldn't love me any less."|
With the knee still bothering him and the media accounts growing about his dilemma, Brown heard from retired National Football League running back Tommy Vardell. A member of the Church of Christ, Vardell underwent knee surgery after putting it off for many of the same reasons Brown was concerned about.
"You don't have to feel like you have to take a stand for the church," Vardell told Brown. "That's not really involved here. Do what you need to do with the knowledge that nobody, certainly not other Christian Scientists, are going to look down your nose at you."
Vardell's advice rang true to Brown. He realized if he opted for surgery, "God wouldn't love me any less."
On June 30, in Denver, Brown had his knee surgically repaired and he was back on the practice field within three weeks, his spot on the Olympic team seemingly assured. But compensating for the knee injury took its toll, Brown injured his quadriceps and then his hip flexor and was dropped from the Olympic team weeks before the Summer Games opened in Sydney.
"It's frustrating," Adin says. "I went through all this and still couldn't compete."
Does he regret having the knee operated on?
"No, I made the best choice I could at the time," he says. "I'm at peace with that decision.
"Things happen for a reason. Maybe somewhere down the life I'll be able to see how this helped me somehow. But right now that's a little tough to see."