“i want to know if you smile when you see me happy again and if a tear runs down your face when you realize that your people are the reason i’ve never quite healed, that chemistry and not christianity has been my cure.”
~ Lydia Childress, “They’ve Thrown Us Out of the Church Like Lepers”
Last Friday I had the opportunity to watch the live broadcasts from the 2014 Gathering on Mental Health and the Church. Inspired by the suicide of Matthew Warren, son of evangelical celebrity Rick Warren and his wife Kay, the Gathering was a one-day event “designed to encourage individuals living with mental illness, educate family members, and equip church leaders to provide effective and compassionate care to any faced with the challenges of mental illness.”
The event, held at Rick and Kay Warren’s Saddleback Church in Southern California, was hosted by the Warrens as well as Bishop Kevin Vann of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and the Orange County branch of NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a widely-respected mental health advocacy group). The line-up of speakers was diverse and impressive, including some of the most significant Christian advocates for taking mental health seriously, Matthew Stanford (professor at Baylor University) and Amy Simpson (author of Troubled Minds).
I watched the main sessions and workshops online from 1:30 pm until close. To be honest, I had mixed feelings. Some moments made me want to give tearful standing ovations and some moments made me want to tear my hair out and throw my laptop across the room. (If you are interested in my play-by-play reactions, I made a Storify of my live-tweeting of the Gathering. View it here.)
I would like to share with you the more signifcants thoughts I had after listening to the sessions and workshops.
1. Mental health is as real and concrete as physical health and needs to be treated as such.
If there was one unifying cry of the Gathering, it was an acknowledgment that mental illnesses are real. In acknowledging these illnesses’ reality, there was the corollary acknowledgement that they are like any other illness: concrete and requiring treatment. Mental illness was continually compared to physical illness: physical illnesses have natural causes and you ought not feel ashamed to talk about them and receive help. In fact, Baylor University’s Matthew Stanford went so far (and rightly so) to ground mental health in our physical bodies. The Church’s failure to address mental illness, he said, was when “we do not do the physical well.” Our brains and chemicals are parts of our physical body, and therefore require physical treatment. Stanford called out as hurtful and damaging those spiritual leaders who teach that you need to “just pray more” or are “in sin” when suffering from mental illness.
Stanford said that effective mental health treatment involves three pillars: psychotherapy, medication, and supportive care. This is a holistic approach to treatment and I appreciate that he emphasized the importance of all three and never minimized any of them. The Church, he said, can play a significant role in the third category of supportive care. Unfortunately, he said, “The Church has passively abdicated its role in mental health by not knowing what to do.” This is particularly dangerous because, according a 2008 Baylor University study that Stanford conducted, “clergy, not psychologists or other mental health professionals, are the most common source of help sought in times of psychological distress.”
Time and time again, speakers at the Gathering emphasized this point: the Church has failed people who suffer from mental illness, either through misinformation, ignorance, silence, or turning a blind eye to suffering. The rallying cry of the Gathering was really as simple as that: take mental health seriously.
2. It’s heart-breaking that taking mental health seriously is controversial. But it is.
While “take mental health seriously” is truly a simple message, it is an enormously controversial proposition in many churches. In his 2008 Baylor University study, Stanford found the following among church attendees with professionally diagnosed mental illness(es):
• 41% were told by someone at their church that they did not really have mental illness.
• 28% were told by someone at their church to stop taking psychiatric medication.
• 37% were told by someone at their church that their mental illness was the result of personal sin.
• 34% were told by someone at their church that their mental illness was the result of demonic involvement.
The Church is not yet willing to universally embrace what should already be common sense.
In fact, nouthetic — or “biblical” — counseling is alive and well. Such “counseling” (I do not think it deserves the title of “counseling”, nor is it “biblical”) assumes that pastors and other spiritual leaders — untrained in the actual practice and science of mental health — can adequately address mental illness because mental illness in this perspective is basically another word for sin. This method began with Jay E. Adams‘s 1970 book Competent to Counsel and is currently championed by eminent evangelical Christians such as John MacArthur, who claims “behavioral sciences…are not scientific,” psychology is an “occult religion,” and Jesus and the Bible should be “the church’s only solution” to mental illness. This is the same method and mentality that respected (and formerly respected) leaders in the Christian Homeschool Movement — most notably Voddie Baucham, Reb Bradley, Doug Phillips, and Bill Gothard — have parroted for years. (The Institute for Biblical Counseling and Discipleship returns Reb Bradley’s love, listing Reb Bradley’s “Child Training Tips” as one of its favorite resources.) They have taught thousands of families at homeschool and other religious conventions around the country — and through their books and other education materials — that mental “illness” is fake. It’s all just “sin” and “rebellion.”
So I do applaud the Gathering on Mental Health and the Church for this: it struck a dramatic blow against the stranglehold that nouthetic/biblical counseling has had on the American Church. This blow was much-needed. However, this counseling theory is still deeply entrenched in evangelical and fundamentalist subcultures, including the Christian Homeschool Movement. It is also still taught in all Southern Baptist Convention seminaries. Not surprisingly, direct correlations have been drawn between abuse and religious environments that use nouthetic counseling. Samantha Field points out how this mental health theory connects all sorts of problems we are seeing in these worlds (homeschooling included):
“This is not a rare teaching. This horrifying idea is deeply entrenched in fundamentalist teachings about psychology. Because they dismiss ‘repressed memories’ and ‘delayed recall,’ this leads them to dismiss the claims of adult abuse victims who have never had the opportunity to speak out against their abuser. They tell children that they simply cannot be abused by their parents, and if they think they’re being abused, they should just be grateful for their parents ‘disciplining them.'”
3. If we’re going to take mental health seriously, we have to commit to it being as real and concrete as physical health. This means we have to let go of Jesus as cure.
Jesus can be and is all sorts of things. But please, please don’t reduce him to the spiritual equivalent of Zoloft. That is offensive to both Jesus and Zoloft alike.
Jesus will not supernaturally make your mental health better or easier to manage. What makes your mental health better or easier to manage is everything Jesus cannot do: psychotherapy, medication, and supportive care (the categories which Matthew Stanford specified as mental health “pillars”). Sure, a support group at your church may help you manage your bipolar disorder. But that’s your support group providing supportive care, not Jesus. Thank Jesus if you want for being the reason your church exists in the first place, but don’t pretend Jesus gives you the supportive care himself. They are completely different things. Don’t confuse them and don’t further that confusion for others. That confusion is rooted in and is a continuation of the idea that mental health is spiritual and not physical. That is a dangerous and shaming idea.
We need to get rid of misinformation, not simply hold onto it with slightly fewer fingers.
Physical healing comes to both Christian and non-Christian alike. So, too, can mental healing. Whatever “supportive care” the Church can offer to help Christians heal mentally, we cannot pretend that such care cannot also exist in some other form outside of the Church.
The Church has no magical powers to heal mental illness. Jesus is not a unique therapy tool wielded by Christians.
You may believe humans have spiritual needs. That is fine. But those spiritual needs are not the cause of people’s mental health needs, any more than a person’s cerebral palsy is caused by spiritual needs. Everyone has spiritual needs according to the Bible, yet not everyone suffers from mental illness (or cerebral palsy). There are non-Christians who have no mental illness and there are Christians who do have mental illness. So again, don’t confuse categories.
If you are committing to the idea that mental health is as real as physical health, then you are committing to the idea that a person who has a Major Depressive Disorder and does not believe in Jesus will have the exact same Major Depressive Disorder after believing in Jesus — in the same way that a person who has cancer and does not believe in Jesus will have the exact same cancer after believing in Jesus. Belief in Jesus may bring emotional and physical side effects — joy, euphoria, hope, tranquility — to both the depressed individual and the individual with cancer. Belief in Jesus may temporarily minimize symptoms, in other words. But the illnesses themselves will remain. You treat cancer with cancer treatments; you treat mental illness with mental health treatments. Those treatments may involve the Church or they may not. But the Church’s involvement is not supernatural.
4. I do not want to share hope for mental health if that hope does not include the most vulnerable and impacted among us. My hope for mental health is not just for straight white evangelicals.
Mental illness does not happen in a vacuum. It happens within contexts, and the most pressing contexts are the ones in which Christians are afraid to change. If Christians are going to tackle this issue, they cannot shy away from the contexts — for example, child abuse, LGBT* discrimination, and racism.
Child abuse: When children experience neglect and/or abuse in their early lives, it primes their brains for future mental illness. In a Harvard study, researchers found “specific changes in key regions in and around the hippocampus in the brains of young adults who were maltreated or neglected in childhood. These changes may leave victims more vulnerable to depression, addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).” Yet the American evangelical church has a major abuse problem. Indeed, just last year Boz Tchividjian — Billy Graham’s grandson and founder of G.R.A.C.E., declared evangelicals are “worse” than Catholics on taking abuse seriously.
LGBT* discrimination: Numerous studies indicate that LGBT* individuals “are likely to be at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. One study found that GLB groups are about two-and-one-half times more likely than heterosexual men and women to have had a mental health disorder.” And you know what can reduce the risk of mental illness among these groups? Supporting them. According to the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, “Specific parental behaviors, such as advocating for their children when they are mistreated due to their LGBT identity and supporting their teen’s gender expression, were linked to a lower likelihood of depression, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.” So will the Church fight for these kids? Or will it continue to do what Rick Warren has done: calling LGBT* individuals “evil,” comparing being gay to drinking arsenic, and equating homosexuality with pedophilia? Because those are the very messages that can lead to or exacerbate mental illnesses among LGBT* kids and adults.
Racism: Institutionalized racism is alive and well and this is seen even in our mental health care system. People of color are less likely to receive needed mental health care and “often receive poorer-quality care.” If, therefore, the Church is going to commit to picking up the slack for our broken mental health care system, it absolutely must stare racism in the face and say, “Our hope for mental health will prioritize people of color.” But there’s a problem: American evangelicalism has its own racism problem. From ignoring the racism of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, telling children of color to ignore their experiences, overlooking minority leaders in Christian churches and institutions, viewing church planting in colonialist and imperialist terms, to racist stereotypes expressed at a conference hosted by Rick Warren’s very own Saddleback Church, American evangelicalism cannot make people and communities of color feel safe or welcome in its mental health movement if it does not face its own evils.
So while I am glad churches are starting to take mental illness seriously, they need to take seriously how their structures can fuel it. This means that we must talk — immediately, and not later — about problems like abuse, racism, LGBT* discrimination, and even poverty and sexism if we are going to change anything in any significant way when it comes to mental health. And when we talk about those problems (and when we talk about mental health in the future), we need to include in these conversations those groups that have long been marginalized by the Church.
If we are going to expand our vision of hope for mental health, the Church cannot be content to say “Have hope in your brokenness.” The Church must commit to re-examining how it contributes to brokenness.
We can commit day after day for the rest of our lives to take other people’s broken legs seriously; but if we do not also commit to stop breaking people’s legs, our first commitment rings hollow and cruel.
5. The Gathering gave me hope for American evangelicalism’s ability to re-think mental health because it included people like Amy Simpson and Matthew Stanford. But I have great skepticism because of Rick Warren’s closing session.
The Gathering felt like one giant step forward for the Church’s record on mental health. A step forward, that is, until Rick Warren gave the closing speech of the event. His speech honestly made me feel physically ill. It felt like he took the Church’s one giant step forward and replaced it with two nauseating steps backward.
Almost immediately upon starting his speech, Warren joked that men should tell their wives they are “wonderfully complex,” and women should tell their husbands, “You’re not.” After all the progress that was made during the Gathering on establishing what is safe and unsafe to say to those who suffer from mental illness, this floored me.
Joking about men’s lack of complexity is exactly the sort of joke that stigmatizes men from talking about mental illness.
Joking about women’s “complexity” is exactly the sort of joke that marginalizes the reality of mental illness among women.
After beginning with gendered jokes, Warren proceeded to basically talk down to the mentally ill and present a narrow, flattening, and honestly simplistic understanding of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and talk as if it applied to everyone’s diverse mental illnesses. He marginalized people’s feelings, saying “Feelings aren’t facts” twice and telling everyone to write that down, as if many sufferers of mental illness haven’t already heard that line used to dismiss their struggles for years. (And remember, many individuals with mental illness histories also have histories of abuse.) He also gave tired, ridiculously saccharine mantras that basically amount to “buck up, kiddo,” such as:
• “Instead of bemoaning what you don’t have, make the most of what you do have.”
• “The pain is in my brain.”
• “It’s my fear of rejection that prevents connection.”
• “You’re as happy as you choose to be.”
• “Put up pictures of happy times… put up pictures of Jesus…”
What all these mantras failed to capture was just about everything else contained in the Gathering. Mental illness is not bemoaning, it is not fake “brain pain,” it literally does prevent connection, it actually prevents you from being happy (no matter how happy you choose to be), and most of the time happy Jesus pictures do jackshit.
In other words: If Rick Warren’s effort to make the Gathering happen is an indication that the Church might start taking mental health seriously, Rick Warren’s own talk at the Gathering is an indication of exactly why pastors need to stop pretending to be mental health experts.
6. My final thought is a question for my readers: How big is your hope for mental health? Is it as vast as Jesus envisioned the Church, or as limited as evangelicals have envisioned those welcome in that Church?
My hope for mental health is as expansive as the arms of the Jesus that I read about as a child — arms outstretched so wide that they can encircle the world. I want to see a hope in others that does not content itself with only baby steps, with admitting what is tragically controversial but ought not be: that mental illness is real and something no one should be ashamed of or afraid to talk about. I want a hope that moves beyond fear and into action.
We need to bring to the table and include in these conversations every individual and group that has not felt welcome: women, children, abuse victims, people of color, individuals in poverty, LGBT* teens and adults. If we are not including those individuals and groups most vulnerable to and impacted by mental illness, we are missing the point.
Conversations about mental illness aren’t just for the privileged few who are welcome at suburban mega churches — or even for those who can still stomach church. These conversations are for those who suffer, and especially for those who suffer in silence and through marginalization. If the Church wants to take mental illness seriously, then it needs to take seriously its appalling treatment of abuse victims. It needs to take seriously how LGBT* individuals who are not supported by their parents and communities have a higher likelihood to suffer from depression, substance abuse, and suicide. We can say, “It’s ok to be depressed or suicidal” ad nauseam to LGBT* kids, but if the Church’s message itself is the cause of that depression or suicidal ideation, how can the Church be trusted? We can say, “It’s ok to have PTSD” to abuse victims, but if we don’t take their claims seriously or keep pushing them away, will they even feel safe walking into a church?
Jesus is not our Zoloft. And I will not put up a picture of Jesus on my fridge and hope it makes me or you temporarily feel better but then worse in the long run. I will commit to speaking up about my own mental illness and loving and supporting those around me who similarly suffer. And when I have strength, I will commit to doing my part to tear down those power structures that are pushing so many suffering people out of the Church, those ideologies and prejudices that cause suffering in the first place. I will not do that because the Church needs to capitalize on the Nones or because Jesus is garlic and mental illness is a vampire.
I will do that because loving one another and fighting oppression is the right thing to do.
30 thoughts on “Jesus Is Not Our Zoloft: Reflections on Mental Health and the Church”
Point #4 is what will be the bottleneck for a long time
Point #5 made me cringe. HARD.
Honestly overall, while part of me wants to give them some credit for this, I feel like its fucking 2014 and its about time the church took a step or two out of the stone age.
Yeah. I saw so much catharsis during the broadcasts, which warmed my heart. But at the same time the catharsis was bittersweet: it’s loooooong overdue and it’s a shame people have to fight so hard just to be embraced as normal and ok.
I think the bias against mental health and psychiatry by evangelicals is just another example of the anti-intellectualism and anti-science mentality held by fundamentalist Christians. The list is very long: Evolutionary biology is a controversial, unproven theory, being gay is a sinful lifestyle choice , sex is dirty and shouldn’t be talked about, women are inferior, other religions are false.
Most religious conservatives view mental illness is either a demonic possession or simply a sign of poor character or the lack of will power. Facts or logical arguments can not influence their a-priori beliefs. As an ordained minister and licensed psychotherapist, I have given up on trying to “convert” them. If they come to me for help, sometimes their dark night of the soul will move them to a more reasonable perspective but, other than that, all we can do is work for public policies which are non discriminatory.
Thanks for commenting, Rev. Michael Heath! As an ordained minister and licensed psychotherapist, do you think big events like the Gathering can actually make a positive difference or do you think it will cause fundamentalist communities to only grow more insular?
I was a big for ecumenism 30 years ago but then the Presbyterians and Methodist took a sharp dive to the right and I stopped working in that direction. My experience has been in sex education before becoming a therapists and the fare right is so paranoid about science that I found it a waste of time to try to have a dialog. I have no interest in evangelism from the left. I do work politically to defeat right wing agendas. As for Gathering like events I think it is like if a chicken and a pig talk about making breakfast. The chicken’s (that would be the right wing’s) contribution is a lot less than the pig’s. The right won’t allow any conversation that slaughter’s any of their sacred cows but we would have to slaughter ours
I completed my ministerial B.A. degree over 20 years ago, and unless pastoral degree programs have drastically changed since then, I cannot tell you one class in my major that prepared me, or any of the other guys (I was one of two gals) to counsel people in crisis.
In my humble opinion, unless a pastor has training, a degree, and a license to provide psychotherapy, church members should not utilize him (or her – gasp!) for mental health counseling.
I, too, appreciate the steps that some churches are making to address mental health issues and the stigma that is perpetuated by the church toward it. However, I think we have a very, very long way to go. And, as far as Warren’s “saccharine mantras,” I only consider those to be Tweetable moments.
Thanks for covering this – I enjoyed reading your thoughts.
Reblogged this on a loveliness of ladybirds and commented:
This is powerful and this is important. Please read.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. That’s all I can say right now. But thank you.
Thank you, Ryan.
I guess my bar for what constitutes a helpful sermon on mental health has been set abysmally low. I figured that I was just growing weary of Warren because of the list of words beginning with C to illustrate a point. (It is overtly simplistic.)
The problem with mental health problems is that one’s capacity for choice or for execution of that choice ends up impaired – the one word beginning with C that Warren said was the area of our lives over which we have some autonomy. I did really like the fact that he stressed internal locus of control in the beginning of the talk (building stability and worth on the inside instead of looking for it on the outside).
How do you build that, though? We generally need the help of someone who can walk through us with our struggle to either model or teach us how to achieve that which we missing. That was completely missed in Warren’s talk. I’m familiar with the subject, and he lost me near the beginning.
I’ve heard so many terrible sermons on the subject that his ending sermon seemed rather good by comparison.
Wow. Thank you for this. I was very curious about how the conference would go. I was encouraged by most of what you said … but then Rick Warren’s closing. Ugh. Thank you for this and especially for pointing out John MacArthur’s roll in the church’s view of mental illness as sin. In my opinion, he took a fringe fundamentalist belief in the late 80s and by getting rid of his college’s psych program and replacing it with these lies made them a more mainstream evangelical view (still fundamentalist, yes, but a bit more mainstream than Gothard and the like). It’s sad, and I’m sad that nouthetic or biblical counseling impacted my life (and continues to impact my life, as family members still buy it) and sad that many others are still trapped in that thinking. Thank you for this piece.
In 2004, NAMI opposed the placement of “black box” warnings on antidepressants determined to cause suicide in under-18 year olds, and in 2006 opposed black box warnings on ADHD drugs causing heart attack, stroke and sudden death in children in 2006. Despite overwhelming evidence of serious adverse cardiac events and sudden deaths caused by ADHD drugs, in 2006 NAMI took the position that the “black box” warning on ADHD drugs was “premature.”
NAMI is the pharma companies !
The maker of Zoloft (Sertraline hydrochloride), Pfizer Inc., is being sued in a consumer class action suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, before Magistrate Judge Paul Singh Grewal, which alleges that the patients who took the antidepressant medication experienced no more benefit than they would have done on a placebo (dummy pill).
The pharma companies are dirty !!
You didn’t express this yourself, but your posts are the first step that many Christians take to arrive at illogical conclusions:
1. Pharmaceutical companies make drugs to treat mental health problems.
2. Pharmaceutical companies cover up the fact that sometimes their drugs don’t work and sometimes they cause harm.
3. There are no such things as mental health problems.
Reblogged this on temporary and commented:
My thoughts, exactly! Thanks to my sister for sharing a link to this post. Re-blogged. I have bipolar & it’s a living hell at times.
So many good points that I have thought to myself many times… The Christian faith can become a barrier to mental health treatment. The solution is for the church to become active in the cause of social justice and start doing their part in supporting the weak, which is exactly what Jesus taught. Interesting analogy at the beginning between mental illness and leprosy.
I remember being told that my depression and mania was due to Satan and my sin, come to find out that’s just the side-effect of prolonged post-traumatic stress disorder and a family history of being bi-polar/schizo. In short, I’ve experienced and witnessed first-hand the devastating effects that John MacArthur, Master’s College and Gerry Ezo and his compatriots have had on families and children who come from troubled backgrounds and mental health legacies.
That being said, I am, no irony intended here, grateful for the extreme right’s influence on my parent’s treatment of “mental illness.” Thanks to their “Jesus cure’s all” mentality my parents did not drug me up on lithium and Prozac the way my then-therapist wanted them to. I endured a few weak-sauce style exorcisms and ultimately got kicked out of home and church and had a pretty hair-raising decade of trying to figure out my brain chemistry’s cycle, but all the above has taken me on an amazing spiritual journey. Additionally, I’d probably be hooked to drugs like so many other young women my age who down the Zanex, Alegra, Prozac and cabinet inventory the way they choose fashion accessories each spring.
The one major and positive remnant of that old, “cure all” dogma I’ve held onto is to not treat my brain as though it were merely a chemical receptor. In many ways, MacArthur is right- mental health is spiritual. He’s also wrong about Jesus being a cure-all but he’s correct in a figurative sense: mental health issues don’t get resolved by taking a pill or even getting “proper clinical psychological counseling,” ad nosium. In many people suffering from mental health issues, and I include myself, (a diagnosed bi-polar, clinically depressive, Complex-PTSD trauma survivor and some), do not need medication to live happy and fulfilling lives. I am not saying we don’t need therapy, lots of support, at times intervention and prevention, counseling and limited quantities of marijuana or other herbal drugs to alleviate the burden. I’m not saying that there should be no drugs or prescriptions. I’m saying most of us patients are reduced to brain chemistry by today’s doctors and clinical psych’s who fail to factor in our spirituality, physical health and individuality alongside our mental conditions. I’m saying that being reduced to a chemical mixology of seratonin, dopamine and a DSM places us patients more in the category of robot or mad Franken experiment, and that’s just as wrong as claiming that Jesus is going to save you from the voices in your head. Let’s face it, most psychs have NO CLUE what the F they are doing and half of them are psychs/therapists themselves because they are trying to figure out their own issues….
But in all seriousness, I take responsibility for my mental health and recognize the fact that in order to function properly and NOT fly off roofs I have to work harder than most people to ignore the voices in my head and demons who pop in and out of walls. I use limited amounts of marijuana to treat my anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder with great success, I use EFT, cranial sacral and rekki, yoga/meditation/prayer and exercise to steel myself against depression, the flashbacks, the panic attacks, the nightmares and hallucinations and everything in between. Yes, I talk to a therapist and counselor every week and keep myself accountable through open dialogue with loved ones and, ironically, prayer to my higher self (maybe my higher self IS Jesus, who knows?). Through all of this I have found the cure-all, and it is gratitude.
If Jesus is synonymous with gratitude then I can heartily agree with MacAurthur- that really IS the cure-all to mental health. Anyone can find gratitude, to include us rape assault and schizos. And through gratitude we can find self acceptance and peace. We may not look normal or live normal lives like normal people -whatever that means- but we can live as happily and as industriously as those around us. I see my mental “condition” of being manic-depressive as a gift and a tool unique to me, not as a chemistry that needs to be cured. The multiple assaults and rapes I endured and subsequent mental traumas they instigated are also a blessing because they have forced me into a greater peace with the universe and the rudderless-ness of reality.
No matter what they say, drugs cannot heal you of give you peace or center-point in the turning, only you can give that to yourself.
(yes, there are lots of people who do need regular amounts of mental drugs and therapy to have reprieve from the burden of being mentally over(or under) simulated, but why categorically drug us all without trying every other alternative prior to the pill? Why can’t we see these “illnesses” as blessings? In other cultures schizophrenics and people with other like disorders are seen as spiritual shamans. Why is the west so bent on giving everyone the pill and turning them into productive functional, wage-slave? I’d argue this preoccupation with being functional is a leftover form our neo-Puritan roots in early American cultural development- we’re obsessed with working hard and “contributing” to the point that to do anything less is a weakness so ill we’ve got to drug it)
R.L., I don’t know if this will be of any help to you, but I recently wrote an academic book on evangelicalism and mental illness that made most of the points you made here. It should be out in November. Just thought you’d want to know. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/Failure-Evangelical-Mental-Health-Care/dp/0786495944
Thanks, John! I put in my folder of “Books to Buy.” I look forward to reading it when it comes out!
Which is the most important?
Jesus was asked twice, by two different men, the same basic question about which is the most important or greatest commandment in the Law. Here is how Jesus answered that question:
“One of the teachers of the law… asked him [Jesus],
‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than THESE.” [Mark 12:28-31, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18]
…an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”
Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]
But in contrast with Jesus, Paul the Pharisee didn’t know the greatest, most important, first commandment according to Jesus. Paul made up his own rule. Paul wrote:
“The entire law is summed up in a SINGLE command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Galatians 5:14, Leviticus 19:18]
And again, Paul wrote:
“He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this ONE RULE: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Romans 13:8-10, Leviticus 19:18]
Jesus said it’s TWO commandments, with the greatest, most important, first command to
.1) first, love God with everything you’ve got, and
.2) second, love people.
Paul said no, it ONE commandment- to love people.
This is very similar to The Beatles- “All you need is love. Love is all you need. Love, Love, Love.” (In other words, the second commandment, the love of man, without the love of God. Love as me, myself and I define love to be, and continuously redefined by sinful men.)
In essence, it is also the same principle as what Eve did in the Garden of Eden, forgetting about the Tree of Life, which is the first tree in the middle of the Garden, and instead referring to the second tree as “the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” [Genesis 3:3 & 2:9 2:17, 3:24]
Kind of like the Pharisees with Jesus, who were pushing the false idea that we can consider ONE commandment in the Law, alone in isolation, to be “the greatest commandment in the Law.”
Or like today, false teachers in the Chrislam – Purpose Driven – Seeker Sensitive – Emergent – Liberal – Ecumenical – New Age – world church movement pushing the false idea that the ONE RULE is “Loving God and Neighbor together.”
The Lord God Jesus the Jewish Messiah, Son of Yahweh the Most High God of Israel, said:
“All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.”
Not one. TWO.
Sometimes, Paul was wrong. Jesus is always right. I’m following Jesus.
Here are answers to 2 common objections:
.a) What about the so-called “Golden Rule”?
Jesus spoke the 3 chapters of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, including 7:12. Jesus didn’t make PART of this one verse out of context into “The Golden Rule” or “one rule.” Jesus did not use the term “Golden Rule,” it’s simply a tradition of men. The sentence begins with “So” in the NIV and Amplified Bibles, and “Therefore’ in the NASB and King James Bibles, which ties 7:12 to the previous sentences. So 7:12 cannot stand alone as One Commandment.
.b) What about the so-called “Great Commission”?
Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, including “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus never used the term “Great Commission,” it’s simply a tradition of men. Yes I agree it’s a commandment given by Jesus, it’s not optional, and it applies to us today. We need to carry this out, with our own God-given abilities and talents, using the skills, and circumstances we have. But we don’t need to put words in the mouth of Jesus, we can let Jesus speak for himself, and we can listen to Him – and obey Him.
Evangelism is part of the Second Commandment given by Jesus, to Love people. Evangelism is not the most important commandment, and it isn’t the entire Second Commandment. So if our priorities are “The Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” we have our priorities upside down and confused, and we are not listening to the voice of Jesus. Never mind what Paul said. Let’s listen to the voice of Jesus first, and get our priorities straight.
The people who will protest most loudly against this truth are the modern “Pauls:” traveling evangelists, speakers, writers, abusive absentee mega-church pastors, Crusaders, and self-appointed “apostles” like Paul, who find it “profitable” to “be like Paul” rather than follow Jesus the Jewish Messiah.
I’m pretty sure the greatest commandment when replying to a blog post is to reply to the content of the blog post.
Some dude named Jesus Christ said this: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
That doesn’t even tell us to love others! We only have to do what we’d like them to do to us! In fact, I’d kind of like others to just leave me alone and for me, that “sums up the law”. Thanks JHI29!
If you wouldn’t normally point at a broken leg and recite a verse to heal it, why would you do that for a mental condition? Obviously anyone who believes otherwise has never truly experienced depression. In a way, I’m jealous how they can be so ignorant about it.
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.