Saturday, July 21, 2007

Belief in demons still rampant (part two)

I guess I need to continue this discussion, though I'd rather leave it alone. Talking about these things that upset me is not good for my mood. I'd rather talk about positive things. The Bible says:

"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

That's excellent advice. I'd much rather do that. But when Christians say things that hurt other Christians, we need to speak up. We should not hide our head in the ground. So I must say just a few more things--things I read in Neil Anderson's The Bondage Breaker that I think are harmful and dangerous to many people suffering from mental illnesses.

The subtitle of the book describes in short what the book promises to help the reader do: Overcoming Negative Thoughts, Irrational Feelings, Habitual Sins. According to the book, the entire answer lies in our spirituality. There is no suggestion that these negative thoughts or irrational feelings could be due to medical causes requiring a doctor's care and medications. Anderson, and too many other evangelists, are in the dark about the cause of mental illnesses. Too many spiritualize all problems involving the mind.

According to Anderson, when we have emotional pain it is because--a person loses his freedom from Satan--"because you have failed to stand firm in the faith or you have disobeyed God" and "it is your responsibility to do whatever is necessary to establish a right relationship with God." He gives us seven steps to follow to recover freedom from Satan and demons.

I studied these steps with an open mind, very much wanting to find something to help my friend with the depression doctors had not been able to cure. I even mailed her the first two steps to try to follow. Over the phone I had her pray out loud one of the prayers he recommended. It did not feel good. I was sorry I'd done it. It felt too regimented--negative in its approach and not at all from the heart.

The book claims that "...if anyone in your family was involved (in cults, false religions, etc.)" you need to renounce them, just in case you unknowingly gave Satan a foothold. One young woman I counseled had simply ridden along while her mother visited a psychic, and the daughter walked out with her own spirit guide. (or demon)" This seems so far fetched to me. According to Anderson, this could be the reason for a person's emotional problems.

Yet he doesn't talk about the medical. He does not even touch on it. That's a very dangerous omission. A person reading this book would not even think about going for medical help and might think that doing so would be showing lack of faith. Christian friends encourage their depressed friends to throw away their pills...all they need is Jesus.

For a Christian to refuse medications for a mental illness is as bad as a Jehovah's witness turning down a blood transfusion. Lack of either of these treatments could cost a person his life.

Too many uninformed evangelists like Anderson--some quite influential--do not seem to understand that our minds are housed in an organ of the body, the brain. And when something goes wrong with this organ--in the same way things sometimes go wrong with other organs of our body--our thinking, moods, feelings, and behavior will be affected.

But Anderson believes this dysfunction is caused by demons, by Satan, by not being right with God.

This approach has hurt many mentally ill people, keeping them from going for medical help. They feel evil and ashamed. (Am I starting to repeat myself?)

I abandoned trying to help my friend using Anderson's seven steps. They felt ugly and counter-productive. I ended up praying with her that God's spirit would fill her so much that there would be no room left for evil. Praying for God's love to permeate us is so much simpler.

I realize there can be spiritual triggers for depression and other mental illnesses and spiritual ways of coping with them, but we need to balance treatment by looking at all the facets that make us what we are. We need to have a wholistic approach to our health. Focusing on Jesus and his love seems to me a far better way to fight Satan than to focus on what Satan is doing in our lives.

I want to share a story that Jumpinginpuddles wrote in her blog back in November. She tells of how the effort to exorcise demons from her to treat her multiple personality disorder affected her. This powerful story is an example of how a purely spiritual approach can harm rather than heal.

Now this is all the negative stuff I want to focus on for now. My next post will be on happier topics, I promise. Because the Bible tells us to "think about such things." And God IS good, and I'd rather talk about that.


Sarah said...

you know, i really don't understand how these top-notch evanelists claim that depression and bipolar and other disorders are inexistant.
It reminds me of the book of Job. How he was accused for such suffering and his suffering was nothing but severe depression, laid out in the very Bible.
I'm not sure if I'm making any sense...but this is what I think anyways.

marja said...

Thanks Sarah. You do make sense.

The thing about the story of Job that many Christians seem to overlook or forget is the wrong attitude his friends had towards his suffering. The support they tried to give him was wrong - in fact, cruel. They laid the blame on Job for the depression he was in, suggesting there was something wrong with his faith, that he must have done something wrong to deserve the suffering.

So many Christians today still make the mistakes Job's friends made when they tried to support him.

doulos said...

Dear Marja,

I do agree that some of those books can be harmful to certain people. However, it doesn't mean there isn't some truth there.

Neil Anderson is but one author ministering in deliverance. And he is one who does not deal with issues of inner healing very well. And I agree that it is dangerous whenever an author pushes a biased perspective.

So, why not keep an open mind and read Charles Kraft's "Deep Wounds, Deep Healing" and "Defeating Dark Angels". It'll be a different take. Another author you may want to read is David Seamands. He deals with inner healing pretty well and he addresses the spiritual also. Also look for books on the subject of deliverance by Derek Prince.

For a more uplifting read, look for something by Bill Johnson, perhaps "When Heaven Invades Earth" is something you may enjoy. And if miracles and healing is of interest to you, try books by Joan Hunter or Charles and Frances Hunter (her parents).

We don't have to accept what anyone says but we can read and gather information. We don't have to be offended either by what they say. Just don't throw the baby out with the bathwater...

It is difficult for anyone who has not encountered the spiritual to accept their influence and it is just as easy to dismiss the existence of demons, or even God for that matter. I believe and stand on Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:19. I have seen enough demonic manifestations and I have exercised my authority in Christ frequently enough to know that spiritual warfare is very real (Eph 6:12).

I also know that healing and miracles still happens today. Belief in healing and miracles is still rampant ;)

You don't have to accept my testimony. All I am saying is that an open mind should mean that we do not dismiss in haste.

I'll keep you in my prayers. God bless you Marja.

marja said...

Thank you, Doulos,

You speak like my pastor does. In fact you used the same words: "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

I very much respect what you have to say here, and agree, there must be some truth in these things. I will try to keep an open mind....It's just that I have also heard about many being hurt by the belief that it is demons causing their mental illness.

I have a bipolar disorder and if anyone tried to tell me to throw away my medication because my problem is that I'm not right with God, I would feel very upset. If I were newly diagnosed, it might keep me from taking medication. It might keep me from accepting a doctor's care.

I try to stay focused on Jesus, keeping Satan behind me - not allowing room for him. I pray that God will fill me with his love and help me share that love with others. I spend most of my energy doing work that God has given me to do. Yet I am still bipolar. I know I will always need medication.

God is good to me. My moods still affect me often, but I am leading a wonderful life. God has led me to help others with mental health problems and I feel fulfilled in this work - His work.

I did recently have a two month depression and had to go on prozac. I'm still taking it, but a lesser dose. My doctor is weaning me off it. I also have my high - or hypomanic moods. I know this is a medical condition. Thing is - so many Christians would not believe this. So many claim there is no such thing as mental illness. That's where the danger lies.

Who is going to judge what is medical and what is spiritual? It is my feeling that there are many bad judges around. And Christians need to learn about the medical angle to problems like depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Telling people with these disorders that they're demon possessed or not right with God could be more painful to them than the symptoms of the disease itself. And they are already suffering with the guilt and shame the stigma causes them.

May God give us the wisdom to understand all these things better.

Thank you for your prayers, Doulos. I appreciate them