Christianity and ignorance of mental illness


The recent news of Pastor Rick Warren's son Matthew committing suicide has been creating discussion and debate amongst Christians (and non-Christians) on the subject of how the religion treats mental illness. Often, the discussions are heated and over-generalized. Still, the discussion is important.

We have talked about Christianity and OCD as well as Christianity and HOCD, but those were discussions of religion as it manifests in mental illness; as an inside-out approach rather than looking at it from the outside-in.

Avoiding treatment because Christ will help

Some Christians - not all, but some - believe that they do not need to seek help since all that they need comes from Christ. This is one of the cores of Christian thought, but it is taking the idea too far. After all, the Lord also said that he helps those who help themselves, and Jesus himself referred to others when he needed help - a man in the crowd was made to carry the cross because Jesus was physically too weak to do so.

The argument that seeking to find answers and help from someone other than God is to not trust God is ludicrous. A good Christian, of course, is going to ask for God's help, but just as a person with a broken leg or an abscessed tooth isn't likely to find healing through mere faith, someone with a mental illness is not likely to find healing that way either. Their faith and prayer, however, can guide them to the healing they need - likely through someone who knows how to diagnose and treat the problem.

Internal problems shouldn't be treated differently

In point of fact, most of those Christians who would profess that healing comes only through Christ will quickly dial 911 and go to the Emergency Room when they've broken an arm or fallen down a flight of stairs. The disconnect comes when the problem is not obvious or visible - when it's internal. Mental illnesses are not obvious wounds or broken limbs, so they are treated differently.

The truth is, faith will lead a person, no matter their religion, to their correct path. For those suffering with a mental illness, that path is towards help, not continued suffering. In the case of Matthew Warren, his parents had not shied away from finding help. The Warrens tried to provide their son with the psychological and emotional help he needed. They should be applauded for that.

Everyone has struggles, both big and small. Some are more obvious than others. All of us suffer at one time or another, sometimes for our entire lives. Seeking relief from that suffering is not going against God. God does not want us to suffer - otherwise we would not have beautiful medicinal plants, allowed the creation of the medical sciences, or given us the ability to reason and learn to do things that include repairing our own bodies when they break.

Christians should seek the help they need, and God will lead them to it.

Photo by John Nyboer

One-sided logic

"God does not want us to suffer…"

Using this logic, you must also admit that we have, in addition to tools of healing and science, tools of destruction and starvation, leading to the conclusion that god does want us to suffer.

Using logic to defend faith never works.

Just as those athiests

Just as those religionists who worship atheism will always find a way to attempt to belittle those who have faith in a religion. While you may not find solace in a relationship with God, many do and you should respect that.

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