Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Christian condemnation

This morning someone going by the name Warrior Princess left a comment on an article I have online right now at canadianchristianity.com. The piece tries to show how mental illnesses are illnesses like any other - diabetes, heart disease, etc. etc. I was trying to educate, to eradicate the stigma.

I think that most Christians are starting to realize that being mentally ill does not mean that there is something spiritually wrong with you. Yet there are still many who totally misunderstand and believe that to be mentally ill is to be possessed by Satan.

There are varying degrees of this kind of thinking. Warrior Princess's views are at the extreme end. Her attack of people with mental illness is a scathing one. It shocked me and I'm trying to find the best way to reply, praying that I'll be able to speak to her in love, and not with the kind of fighting attitude she has.

Eradicating stigma is a fight, but as Christians we need to use love as our weapon of choice, not attacking with cutting words that will hurt. Even when people hurt us, we should try not to hurt back. After all, as followers of Christ we should treat others with love, even our enemies. And this person I'm talking about is, after all, a fellow Christian - a sister-in-Christ.

A couple of days ago someone who has for a long time been suffering from depression and anxiety wrote to me, saying
"I feel so condemned by the Christian community because everything I am is what you are not supposed to be as a Christian."

This person is hurting terribly from the symptoms of her disease. Yet the condemnation she feels from fellow Christians hurts almost more than those symptoms. We need to educate Christians so that they will more fully understand the medical nature of mental illnesses. This is so very important if we want to lovingly encourage hurting people in their faith.

I needed to share this you, in preparation for my reply. Please pray that understanding will grow. Please pray that people will open their minds enough so that we can educate them.


Nancie said...

Marja, I am saddened to read Warrior Princess's condemning words to Christians who are suffering from clinical depression. Thank God for giving you wisdom to reply to her! I have just shared my thoughts there as well.

It is tragic that many Christians still misunderstood that all depression are due to spiritual reasons or lack of faith in God. In reality there is a difference between spiritual depression and clinical depression. Spiritual depression may occur when we sinned against God or do not believe in Him or put our trust in Him. But clinical depression is very different and it is a real medical condition that can be treated and needs to be treated. You put it so well in your article that clinical depression is a medical condition just like diabetes, hypertension, etc. It is not due to lack of faith in God or sin or a weakness in character. And it is different from the occasional "blues", "down" or "depress" feeling that we get every now and then, which we get over quickly. Clinical depression is more severe and prolonged, and cannot be willed or wished away. Thank God that He has provided various medical and other means for us in this generation, so that we can be more functional.

As Christians, we continue to face many ups and down in a fallen world. We are sinners saved by grace but still living in an imperfect world. So sicknesses and illnesses are part of our life here and God allows it for His sovereign purposes. For myself too, my illness draw me closer to God to know Him as my refuge and strength, and that His grace is sufficient for me because He has loved me with an everlasting love, and nothing shall ever separate me from His love. He has also make me more sympathetic towards others who are suffering and enable me to pray and comfort them with the same comfort that God is comforting me.

It is sad when Christians who have no knowledge nor experience of clinical depression, instead of taking time to understand, pray and encourage others who are suffering, should say hurtful things to God's people who are suffering.

Someone rightly observed "Being depressed is bad enough in itself, but being a depressed Christian is worse. And being a depressed Christian in a church full of people who do not understand depression is like a little taste of hell."

As Christians, we surely want to be the person whom our loved ones turn to in time of need. And, when they do turn to us, we want to be able to help them and not hurt them further.

It will greatly help others to sympathise if they always remember that they could just as easily be in the same position, suffering the same illness.

"For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?" (1 Cor.4:7).

If they treat depressed people with impatient contempt, they may, like many others before they, have to learn sympathy the hard way.

May God continue to use your books and blog to educate others and help to eradicate the terrible stigma. Take heart! Your labors are not in vain. I am greatly helped by your writing and I believe many others too. Take care and God bless!

P.J. said...

I am totally with you on this one. It would be so easy to lash out on her, and on others that seem to condemn us due to our mental disorder. To tell the truth in love, while harder sometimes, is the best way to show our Christian attitude.

How do we educate church people about mental illness???

Wellness Writer said...

While I don't know much about Christianity, I do know a lot about humanity, and it would seem like Warrior Princess doesn't.

Perhaps her moniker, Warrior Princess, is an indication that she believes in fighting rather than loving, and would prefer taking an an adversarial role rather than trying to find a common bond.


Jena said...

Marja, God gifted you with the ability to be a gentle soul with comforting and striking words that speak into the hearts and minds of others. We are only his vessles. If you pray to God to use you, your voice and your words will only get you so far... but his Holy Spirit will leap abundantly and extraordinary things can happen een when we least expect. Keep focused on your ministry and being a servant. God will use you the most powerful way.

marja said...

Nancie, I want to thank you very much for your support in this. The way you responded to that lady was so eloquent. Although I know we can't change her mind (she wrote again today) at least this gave us an opportunity to educate other readers who come along.

marja said...

How do we educate church people about mental illness? It's for those of us who can safely do so (those who would not have a job threatened by coming out) to tell our stories. We need to tell our stories in a natural way, showing this to be the common thing mental illness is - without any indication that we feel shame.

If we're natural about how we talk about mental illness, others will too. If we're open about our struggles others have no reason to whisper about it as if it's something with shame connected with it.

We need to reach out to people, showing that we are not always needing support, but that we can support others. The old adage is, I think, especially true for us: If you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend.

We need to love others as we want to be loved.

marja said...

That last comment I made was for you, PJ.:)

marja said...

Susan: You're absolutely right. She is the kind of person that gives Christianity a bad name. A Christian is supposed to be someone who follows Christ - following His example and His teachings. Christ showed us and taught us how to have unconditional love for others. He even called us to love our enemies.

Jesus Himself said that God did not send Him to condemn the world but to save it. And He did that through love.

marja said...

Jena: Thank you for the encouragement. God was with me when I answered that lady yesterday. I feel no animosity. I don't think she's a very happy soul. Thanks for being there yesterday. I'll now go and visit your blog and see what you've been up to.

Anonymous said...

Hi Marja Murray from New Zealand here. Drop her this link he has a free E Book on how christians treat others with mental health conditions. I use a lot of his DVD's etc in my Living rom group.