Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Victory over the darkness

I will continue talking about Neil Anderson's The Bondage Breaker when I have finished reading Victory over the Darkness again.

I have read over half of this book and actually found a lot of good in it. Anderson describes how by living in the Spirit--living in Christ--we will be transformed to be the kind of person God intends us to be. We will experience peace and joy. This is true. I have found that to be true in my own life when I stay close to God. (though I still do experience a lot of depression and other mood swings in spite of it)

The biggest problem--a serious one--is its take on depression. Anderson does in one place on page 127 say "We can be depressed for biochemical reasons, but if there is no physical cause, then depression is often rooted in a sense of hopelessness or helplessness." The thing is--and he doesn't seem to be aware of this--a feeling of hopelessness is a symptom of clinical depression.

What angers me is this :

Anderson talks about the spiritual man as having "emotions characterized by peace and joy instead of turmoil." and for the Christian who does not walk by the Spirit: "...his emotions are plagued by negative feelings." He talks about depression as being present in those who do not walk with God. There is a distinct suggestion that depression is not possible within a person who is close to God.
It's this kind of preaching that is at the root of the extra suffering Christians with depression--as well as other mental illnesses--are made to undergo. This is why so many Christians tell their depressed friends that they're not right with God. This is why many Christians would not think of going for medical help. I had a psychologist call me a couple of months ago, wanting to know about Living Room. He wanted to tell his Christian clients about it because so many of them refused to take medication, believing their problems to be spiritual.
The awful thing about this is that Neil Anderson is so widely accepted and respected. A lot of damage has been done and is continuing to be done. Reading this book a couple of years ago was one of the things that prompted me to write my new, as yet unpublished book, A Firm Place to Stand. It was to counteract people like Neil Anderson.

I will continue to read on with an open mind, knowing that Neil Anderson does have a lot of wisdom to offer. I only wish he would have had some warnings about when a person should go for medical help--and that it's often necessary to fight depression with medication.

It's time, though, for Christian writers and pastors to become more fully aware of what mental illness is and what it can do to people. They need to learn how to encourage people to go for medical help instead of always assuming that their lack of spirituality is at fault.


Dove3 said...

you might enjoy http://www.sharingthebest.blogspot.com. You have to understand that both religion and medicine are entities deeply entrenched in historical perceptions. If those perceptions don't fit reality, then you have to ask new questions - difficult for organizational "accepted practice" standards, possible and even critically important for the individual that 'doesn't fit' the protocols. It's where much progress and knowledge 'comes to light' in the unexpected healing, healthy survivor, or revealed facts that correlate with heretofore seemingly random inexplicable experiences. Enjoy.

Sarah said...

I remember I read this book when I had just been diagnosed and I was thrown off by his comments. I felt like I had evil forces acting in me. Despite that I do think what he says is VERY interesting...Sometimes i wonder... our illness is clearly physical but i often wonder how many times depression isnt triggered by something spiritual???

marja said...

Thanks for visiting, Dove3. You have a fascinating website and equally fascinating lines of thought.

Sarah: I wonder whether you might not have felt that evil if the book had not suggested it to you. I wonder if the book had given you a more positive perspective - focusing on the good in us and the hope of healing that we can find in God's presence in our lives - whether that might not have helped you a lot more.