For Most, Jesus and the Gospels Are Not the Answer for Depression, Suicide, and Other Mental Health Maladies (Part 2)
(Continued from Part 1)
A lot of Christians out there, especially hyper conservative ones who distrust secular (or even Christian) psychology or psychiatry, incorrectly want to attribute most mental health problems to personal sin only, and they will often prescribe ineffective means of solving mental health problems, such as, accepting Jesus as savior, Bible reading, church attendance, faith, prayer, volunteering at charities, etc.
I would add Christian apologist Ray Comfort to that list, at least somewhat. Comfort does not strike me as being as severe in those views as other Christians I’ve come across, though.
As I explained in Part 1, Comfort has recently released a film called “Exit: The Appeal of Suicide” that he was interviewed about on TBN the other night. He seems to feel that only Non-Christians, or Christians who lack a faith in God’s promises, will suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts. I disagree.
I suspect that depression and anxiety may be partially based in biological causes in my own family, because it runs on both sides of my family.
My mother’s side had a lot of anxiety and depression, and there were a lot of suicides on my father’s side of the family tree.
CANNOT BE TREATED OR CURED BY WILL POWER ALONE
This brings me to another point: a lot of Christians shame people, especially other Christians, for having mental conditions, such as anxiety or depression.
Christians treat having a mental health problem as a spiritual failing (such as having a lack of faith), or as a matter of will power: if you just tough it out and pick yourself up by your bootstraps, you can halt the mental disorder. That is not how mental health works.
The fact is that some Christians (and Non-Christians) have things such as depression or anxiety due to biological causes, not purely personal, environmental, or spiritual reasons.
With some Christians, their mental health disorder may be due to a mix of causes: biological, personal, as well as spiritual.
It’s very insensitive, and doing a huge dis-service to hurting Christians, as some Christians do, to keep depicting any and all form of mental health problems in other Christians as being due only to personal sin, environment, or spiritual matters.
Some people cannot be helped with their depression, PTSD, or whatever other mental health problem they have, by spiritual means alone, but must take medications and/or seek professional (NOT “nouthetic,” “biblical” or “Christian”) counseling for treatment.
I am not saying that medications and counseling will always work, either.
While medications and sessions with psychologists did not help me personally, neither did Christian approaches that Comfort, and preacher John MacArthur, and many other Christians advise, such as – accepting Jesus as Savior, reading the Bible, and believing in God’s promises.
(I had to find a way out of my depression and anxiety by a third avenue, which was based on a lot of my personal research. My solution indirectly involved secular psychology.)
DON’T AVOID SECULAR PSYCHOLOGY OR MEDICATIONS
Even though I do not hold out secular psychology and medications as a guaranteed cure for everyone who tries them, I do think they are ten times better than “Christian” solutions (e.g, faith, Bible reading, blaming yourself or personal sin for your pain in life, etc), in that they stand a greater chance of working than religious notions.
If you are someone undergoing a mental health problem, I would in fact recommend giving psychology or medications a go. They may work for you.
Unfortunately, many Christians hold almost a backwards, uneducated, superstitious view towards the use of psychiatry and psychology. (At times, a lot of Christians sound like a paranoid, couch-jumping Scientologist Tom Cruise in regards to their dislike or distrust of psychology and psychiatry.)
Not everyone who avails themselves of such treatment is denying God, or seeking to avoid taking personal responsibility for their actions, or to avoid the concept of personal sin.
I wrote in a previous post:
Because churches, Christian teaching, and pastors fumble on how to assist people who do have mental health problems, it can result in things such as…
LOS ANGELES, May 19— A Protestant church that was sued for clergy malpractice because a young member committed suicide says it will reform its counselor training programs…
The parents, Walter and Maria Nally, sued the Grace Community Church after their son Kenneth, 24 years old, shot himself in 1979. They said Mr. MacArthur and other members of the counseling staff had discouraged him from seeking outside help and had never told them about their son’s suicidal tendencies.
A person calling himself “Megs48” (who I now know is a trouble-maker from another blog) pushed back in the comments section to that tid-bit about John MacArthur and MacAruthr’s church.
This “Megs” person is a troll who is slavishly devoted to defending all preachers, even bad ones who abuse and exploit people. He gets very irate when anyone dares to criticize any preacher ever.
Here is part of what that troll, Megs, wrote:
It actually appears everybody was concerned about Mr. Nally’s suicidal ideation and he was referred to sources outside Grace Community.
They wanted to hospitalize him, he refused sadly.
My response to that troll:
If I recall from articles I read over a year ago, yes, the church got off in the lawsuit.
But it does not change the fact that JMac, his church, and a lot of Christians of various denominations do not foster an atmosphere that makes Christians who do have depression (or other mental health problems) feel comfortable discussing them, or to admitting to having them.
This is discussed more in the book, Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded?
Such Christians are hostile or suspicious of non-spiritual means to treat psychological maladies, and often push spiritual-only means as treatment, such as prayer, church attendance, or Bible-reading.
Having depression or anxiety is considered by such Christians as being a personal failing or due to personal sin, when often times, that is not the case.
(end previous post quote)
I brought this subject up on another blog, where I received this response from David C (I asked him if I may please quote him on my blog, and he said yes; thanks again to David C for permitting me to share this here):
by David C:
I knew people who were friends with Ken Nally. I have a hard time believing the church’s defense when they denied having discouraged Nally from seeking resources outside the church.
One of MacArthur’s best sellers is called “Sufficiency of Christ.” He argues that Christ alone provides all the answers to difficult life issues and that believers should not seek resources for spiritual and mental well being outside of Christ.
Sounds good, but what he and his minions really mean is that his religious system provides all the answers. He conflates his man made religious system with Christ himself which seems blasphemous to me. Luckily for him, I am not his judge.
Back in the 80’s when I was an attendee at his church, MacArthur found the existing conservative seminaries such as Dallas and Talbot going astray from the his version of the true gospel and founded his own.
Go look at his church staff and also the seminary’s faculty. The vast majority of them, if not all, are graduates of the Master’s Seminary. So the church and the seminary staffed with his own minions, do you think there is any kind of accountability for the man when his empire is full of yes men?
Graduates from his seminary are now all over the world founding churches and effectively creating a denomination for John MacArthur’s brand of fundamentalism. Julie Anne’s old pastor, although not a graduate of the Master’s, is also a MacArthur boot licker.
Of course MacArthur is not the only one who cultivates his own religious empire. Wasn’t the Reformation about liberating from the papal tyranny? Now the Evangelicals have their own popes all over the world and they each call their own system “sufficient.”
There does in fact exist strains of Christianity which are medication- or psychology- avoidant or resistant, to the detriment of Christians who deal with mental health problems, who may benefit from medications or psychological treatment.
CHRISTIANS WHO MISUNDERSTAND THE EFFICACY OF MEDICATIONS AND PSYCHOLGGY
It was brought to my attention in the comments of older blog posts of mine that there are denominations or churches whose members are not anti-medication or anti-psychology, but, these members wrongly assume that medication or psychology works for everyone, or that such methods work instantly and completely.
Of course, medications or psychology do not work for everyone who tries them, or they don’t work instantly, or, they only work partially for some people.
On a scale of one to ten, with one being happy and ten being depressed, a Christian who takes anti-depressant medication may find her depression lessened, down from a ten to an eight or a five, for instance, but the depression may not be completely eradicated.
This all fits a broader topic which I may (or may not) blog about in the future, especially pertaining to death and grief: many Christians act as though a person should get through a painful life situation instantly – they have no concept or allowance for grief (or whatever life ordeal) being a process, one that can take months or years to work through.
NOT BELIEVING IN GOD’S PROMISES SUPPOSEDLY A CAUSE OF DEPRESSION, ANXIETY
As I said in Part 1:
Not only did Comfort discuss depression and suicide in this program in and of themselves, but he sort of veered off into the issue of how, supposedly, lacking faith in God and God’s promises, or holding on to disappointment or bitterness can eventually, several steps down the chain, lead to one dwelling on suicide as an option.
I feel that this is a subject almost worthy of a stand-alone post.
I think it’s rather victim-blaming to tell people the reason they may still be afflicted with anxiety, depression, or PTSD, (or bi-polar disorder, or whatever they may have), is that they are dong something wrong – whether it’s lacking faith in God’s promises, or whatever it may be.
In the snippet from the Ray Comfort movie shown, “Exit: The Appeal of Suicide,” Comfort was filmed proposing a scenario to a young woman he was talking to.
He was telling her, suppose that a man received a notice from his bank that they will be foreclosing on his home in two days unless they receive $500,000.
The man does not have this much money, and is contemplating suicide, because he doesn’t see how it’s possible to scrounge together such an amount in so short a time.
But, Comfort said, suppose that this man’s wealthy friend calls him to offer, to promise, to give him the $500,000 the next day.
Comfort says, the man would feel instantly relieved, no longer worry about the problem.
The application here, as suggested by Comfort, is that if Christians just trusted God and believed in God’s promises as written in the Bible, they would not be anxious or depressed.
My problem with this view is that God’s promises in the Bible are not always true for everyone at all times.
Sometimes God does not answer people’s prayers, no matter how good they are, no matter how much faith they hold, no matter how strongly and often they pray.
I remember when my mother was diagnosed with cancer, and as her health declined in the last few years, my mother prayed for her healing, I was praying for her healing, and a lot of people at churches of my extended Christian family were praying for my mother, too.
And yet, my mother still passed away. God did not heal my mother.
Sometimes God permits painful, awful things to happen to people, even to the most devout of followers (see the book of Job in the Old Testament for one biblical example, or the example of Joseph from the book of Genesis, Gen 37 – 47).
A person can be living a godly, clean life style, be serving God consistently, be a decent, loving, ethical person, and still God will not respond to their pleas and keep his promises.
So I’ve no idea how a Christian can keep anxiety and depression at bay merely by believing in God’s promises, when God (if he exists) is not consistent about applying those promises to any and all who ask and believe.
I also don’t know how a person can find relief from depression and anxiety in trusting God’s promises when God does not protect a person from any and all pain in life, even if the person is trusting God or in God’s promises.
Sometimes mental health problems are caused by factors outside of a person, which may or may not include biological causes.
Not all of a person’s problems or emotional pain can be chalked up to personal failing, avoidance of personal responsibility, lack of faith, or personal sin. In other cases in some people, a mix of these causes may be responsible.
Secondly, Christian spiritual means (faith, believing in Jesus, praying for a healing, Bible reading, etc) did not cure me of my anxiety and depression, and that method didn’t work for a lot of other devout Christians I’ve talked to over the years, either.
Thirdly, medications or secular psychology are not all sinful and worldly, they may be able to deliver a Christian from their mental health problem (or to at least lessen psychology difficulties), and so Christians should not be scared away or “guilt tripped” away from using those means – and sure as heck not by Christian discernment bloggers who sound more like anti-psychology Scientologists than Christians.
Lastly, believing in God’s promises is not a guarantee that God will answer your prayers, protect you from pain, or that your mental health disorders will vanish.
THE ANSWER? KNOW THE LIMITS AND PURPOSE OF THE BIBLE
When I wanted to learn how to add a RAM card to my computer several years ago, I bought a book with a title such as, “Computers For Dummies” to learn how to do that.
Jesus did not tell me how to add a RAM card to my computer.
When I was a teen-ager, my earthly father sat next to me in his car to teach me how to drive a stick shift (which I never quite mastered).
Jesus Christ did not teach me how to drive stick shift, and the Bible doesn’t allude to the topic, either.
Jesus may be the spiritual answer to spiritual issues, such as, “how does one reconcile to God and obtain eternal life in Heaven,” but Jesus is not always a answer, or the only answer, or even primary answer, to problems concerning mental health, or other topics.
Part 1, on this blog:
More, on Other Sites:
Exposing the Myth That Christians Should Not Have Emotional Problems – on Christianity Today
Same material from a blog:
I offer this next link with a caveat: I don’t agree with 100% of it, the author sounds at least like a mild complementarian (he believes in wifely submssion), but it’s an otherwise good page:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1- 800- 273- 8255
Available 24 hours everyday