This came in handy the other day when on my Facebook feed, I came across a post by a friend who actually professionally writes books on Christian theology. This friend had attended a seminar, and one of the interactions that he decided to post from the Q&A was as such:
Q: "What is the best approach to deal with anxiety and depression?"
A: "Think about things of the kingdom of God. Matthew 6:33 says to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and then everything you need will be given to you!"
And this blew me away, and I will try put it as gently as I can - as a person diagnosed with mental health isues, I can pretty much guarantee that a person who gives an answer as flippant as this has never suffered a debilitating mental health crisis, and probably only knows of mental health issues from what his magic book and what his other friends who have read the magic book tells him about mental health issues.
This is very worrying, because given how much we know about mental health issues, their causes, the health and lifestyle risks associated, as well as the various treatment options we have to help people recover and lead normal lives, for someone to suggest that the answer for something that has its roots in neurology is to not do something therapeutic on a neurological level is not only dangerous, but it's sheer madness - it's like saying the fix for the oil leak in my car is to buy a Timeshare deal.
To me, this is because the Bible infers that mental health issues are to do with spiritual or supernatural forces, and makes absolutely no accomodation for the possibility of physical/biological explanations. For example, in one instance, 1 Samuel 16:14, God sends an evil spirit to (emotionally) torment someone who had become his enemy, and in Mark 9:14-29, what we now know as epilepsy gets attributed to a demon.
Never is childhood trauma mentioned, never is neurological injury mentioned, never are the balance between neurotransmitter agonists or antagonists mentioned.
In short, anyone who suffers anything like a mental health or neurological condition suffers it because of supernatural causation.
You have a mental health problem? DEMONS! (and if you think I'm over-generalising, I personally know a pastor who says there's no such thing as psychopaths!).
The problem this then creates is that a Christian who genuinely suffers anything like schizophrenia, bipolar, depression, anxiety, NPD, or anything else, will not seek actual genuine help, but instead look at something that doesn't exist to fix something that does.
Personal story time.
When I was a Fundamentalist, I experienced numerous episodes where my anxiety disorder ruined my health. I never sought professional help, but instead, was prayed for by the pastor, and the man in the church who was able to cast out demons prayed for me - and I will be honest, for a period of time, it worked.
But then, after some months, the issues came back.
So again, we prayed.
And again, the issues came back.
This cycle repeated for years, until I suffered a nervous breakdown.
What stopped the cycle? Seeing a psychologist.
But all this leads me to the point I want to make. It would seem to me that from my former-insider, now-outsider view of Christianity (especially Protestant and Fundamentalist-leaning Christianity) that:
1. Advice given by Fundamentalists when facing life's big issues amounts to no more than placating God.
Mental health issues? Seek God and his kingdom.
Can't conceive? You must have a secret sin somewhere!
And other such impractical advice.
2. The better the actual (non-spiritual) advice given by Christians for solutions to problems, it slowly approaches the better advice that atheists would give for the same situation.
This is because good advice and practical solutions do no rely whatsoever on theology. Furthermore, theology is not a good method of determining good, practical advice. Facts are, not theology.
For example, if I have mental health issues, I would go see a psychologist - not a priest. And my sincere hope is that that psychologist is a good psychologist, regardless of their theological position.
If I can't conceive, I would go see a doctor - not a priest. And my sincere hope is that the doctor treating me and my wife is a good doctor, regardless of their theological position.
And finally, to show you how impractical and stupid Matthew 6:33 devolves to, I challenge anyone out there to tell me the Biblical solution for the following challenges in life:
Safest motor vehicle to drive.
How many times per month I should change my manchester and bedding.
Until next time, be healthy, be rational, and if you think something's wrong, professional help is a great first step!
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