Chris Tomlin O Come all Ye Faithful

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fragmented Faith; God, in the lives of the Mentally Ill - Pt 2

Painting by Amber Osterhout
God as Lover or Judge?- Wrong Views lead to Wrong Fears

1) Societal stereotypes of God conflict with Grace

One of Satan's best and most effective lies is that one must "be good" in order to avoid the judgment of an angry, vengeful God's plans for personal torture which may even exceed the suffering of mental illness. The idea that God is an impossible to please, demanding judge who takes delight in pitching his creatures one by one into a hell that he has created especially for them or even the view that God has created their own personal suffering on this earth as some sort of sadistic plot conceived for the sole purpose of his amusement at watching us squirm and writhe under the tortures of mental illness often fill the mentally ill with resentment. The result is either that they, out of fear of even greater judgment, comply with the "rules and regulations" of a works based mentality in order to avoid the hell of God's creating or they reject this "sadistic" God out of great anger and a heart of hatred toward the "crafter" of their torturous existence. I have read statements about God on forums which are not just blasphemous but wrongly conceived and which come from deeply wounded and hurt hearts who are lashing out at the one whom they perceive to be the source of all of their own struggles and pain while they deal with broken lives and wounded minds.

Memories perhaps of angry, demanding, and hard to please earthly fathers who may even be abusive get intermingled with our ideas of God as the word "father" brings up pictures of pain, punishment, emotional distance, criticism, impossible demands, and perhaps even abuse. Many earthly fathers in these times of broken families, have abandoned their children and wives, leaving them to manage as best they can - always struggling with poverty and leaving the children with bitter, unresolved anger and unmet needs. Other fathers may be cold and distant leaving their child always struggling with an unmet need for affection and validation and, naturally, all of these feelings will taint our view of God and will arise at the thought of him as "Father." And then of course there is the horror of the father who may have been physically or sexually abusive---and this carries to our understanding of God a whole basketful of misconception, hurt and anger.

2)A Wrong View of God Leads to Fears of Judgment-

The idea of God as Judge comes with a load of potential misunderstanding and susceptibility to the lies of Satan. Images which perhaps are the cultural vestiges of historical portrayals of God in Dante's Inferno or "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" cause sinners to see themselves as hanging by a mere gossamer thread over the pit of hell where exquisite eternal torture awaits them. T0rtures designed and crafted by a vengeful God which make the "medical experiments" of Nazi Germany look tame in contrast, haunt the vivid imaginations of the psychotic....who take a crumb of truth and bake a large cake from the idea which is a warped miscreant of the original truth, really bearing very little resemblance to that original holy idea. And make no mistake, this error is not the thought-child of the mentally ill only...It pervades our society and there are numbers of people who reject the idea of a holy, perfect God who demands holiness and perfection of his children FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT and who not only demands it, but has, from his own lifeblood and pain provided a means for them to obtain it. And thus, they hate this God who is the child of their misconception and is only a twisted, deformed version of One who is, instead, loving, beautiful and true Father.

3) To the psychotic person, the imagery of hell and demons and Satan pose particular difficulty and challenges.

For a very, very common delusion is that demons are the true source of their hallucinatory "voices"...and this leads them to either fear and hate the idea...or else embrace it in a pursuit that very closely resembles Satanism Some people become so used to the Voices they hear providing a constant dialogue in their lives, they can find some comfort in them sometimes and actually would miss them were they to leave. And if those voices masquerade as demons...then the person may view themselves as a demon worshiper or someone who is controlled by the dark powers. And also just as exist in the "normal population," I have seen influences of Wicca and other idolatrous worship where something or someone OTHER than the Father/Creator is the object of devotion and service. Other times, the mentally ill person is so terrified and horrified by these voices and the demons he believes that they represent that they desperately try to avoid and escape them and will shun every vestige of demonic activity in the 'real' world.

Please do not take these statements out of context or make them a blanket basis for your understanding of the mentally ill. They are not devil worshipers. They are NOT possessed by Satan or by demonic powers. This idea has, more than any other, harmed the cause of a legitimate understanding of mental illness and has afflicted the mentally ill, (oddly, those who attend church and are in a religious setting or community of faith are the must susceptible to the pain that this misunderstanding can create.) with more harm and hurt than has any other misconception or stereotype. Mental illness responds to medication which addresses the excessive levels of dopamine in the brains of schizophrenics or which increases the levels of serotonin in the brains of depressed or obsessive compulsive individuals. Demon possession would be utterly unresponsive to such treatment. And in contrast, exorcism or prayers to "bind
Satan" and his influence in the hearts and lives of the mentally ill have no effect other than perhaps to worsen their symptoms and suffering by giving them fuel for further delusion.


4) God is blamed and viewed as the source of their suffering and illness.

I can speak from personal experience when I tell you that their IS NO SUFFERING quite as intense or peculiar as is the tortures faced by the mentally ill. They are suffering from a physical deterioration of a diseased brain in an illness that usually strikes us in the prime of our lives...just at the age where we are preparing for a career or for beginning a relationship and starting a family. It disrupts our educational promise...often derailing the minds and careers of those whose potential is the most shining and illustrious. Schizophrenia, in particular, strikes people who are highly creative, resourceful and high functioning in terms of intelligence and educational goals. It is a cruel thief who steals our potential and our futures...and instead hands us a lifetime of lost dreams, homelessness and being subjected to medications which slow our minds and our metabolisms, forcing weight gain, numerous unpleasant side effects and forces an apathy upon us which is pervasive and destructive...and NONE OF THIS IS OUR FAULT. And neither are we granted the palliative effect of ignorance of our losses. NO, we are fully cognizant of what we have lost and it is, in many, a source of unending suffering in itself and often, great sadness and bitterness. OUR LIVES HAVE BEEN DESTROYED AND STOLEN FROM US BY THIS HATEFUL DISEASE WHICH NOT ONLY STEALS OUR CAPABILITIES BUT CAUSES US TO BE MISUNDERSTOOD AN SOCIALLY REJECTED ON ALL LEVELS.

Unfortunately, for many, the obvious source of blame for this is our Creator. The One who "made us like this."And that "fact" leaves many with bitterness and resentment towards and ultimately the rejection of the God who, in truth , loves us passionately and desires to fulfill us on every level, but who has, for reasons of his own chosen to leave us with this challenge...and this disease, by the way, in the fact that it is largely genetic in origin is one of the corruptions of our bodies left by the curse of sin and disease in a broken world. It is one of the things that God looks forward to righting when he restores his creation. It can also be influenced in its inception by drug use, and the rejection of us by our mothers and from a painful, isolated childhood. People, what is at the base of all of these things? Is it a plan of God's original creation? Is it his original intent for us?? NO, SIN and its brokenness lies at the root, very often of this horrible disease. Combine a genetic predilection toward the illness with any of these other factors and the chances are high that schizophrenia will result.

3) Wrong View of Faith (merit-based salvation) Leads to Obsession;

The last point I will discuss here is a factor which does play a role in schizophrenia but which more largely affects those with obsessive illnesses such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or merely in an Obsessive personality...It also can impact those with depressive illnesses as well and may augment their suffering. And this is the false idea that it is up to mankind to earn his entrance into God's kingdom and that it is by his own striving and obedience to the dictates of a demanding God that he may be saved from an eternity of condemnation and the tortures of hell. In a person who tends to become obsessed with the repetition or perfection of certain behaviors particularly works and ritual-based theologies like that of the Catholic church may lead to obsessive and overly zealous and truly meaningless and futile repetitions and strivings which will have no effect on salvation but which will only add to the suffering of the person who not only is attempting via huge efforts of strenght, time and will , to earn salvation and a rescue from hell, but also has no real idea of who the true God is or what he is like. The concept of grace (unmerited favor) finds no place in their mind. And because those with mental illness may know not only their propensity to view religion in this manner, but also have experienced or can imagine the suffering and worsening of symptoms such a "faith" would cause, flee from all faith as the very devil himself. And this is just sad; that the God who desires to free them from such mental prisons and misconceptions should be viewed as instead, a SOURCE of them is a great victory of Satan and his deception.

There are probably more aspects which can be touched on, but that is enough for now...
In the next post I will continue to discuss issues of the mentally ill and faith.

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