Thoughts On Joker

What does Joker teach us about ourselves? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

First off, spoiler alert. If you haven’t seen Joker yet and plan to see it, do not read this yet. If you keep reading, don’t get angry with me and say “You spoiled something!” You were warned at the beginning. Yes. There are a lot of them in here and if you read ahead you will get filled in on several key plot points.

Anyway, my wife and I saw this movie yesterday thanks to a friend who gave us a couple of tickets to see whatever movie we wanted. This is definitely a dark movie and you might want to take your kids with you to see Batman, but I recommend you really consider before taking them to see this one.

Also, something that my wife would want me to say and I agree with is that Joaquin Phoenix is masterful at this role. We have a Joker who could rival Heath Ledger and even in her mind the best Joker of all, Mark Hamill, from Batman: The Animated Series. Phoenix does an incredibly convincing job of playing a man wrestling with delusional thinking to an extreme.

This movie also gives us a look at what mental illness can be like and the problem when the system doesn’t seem to be there. I could understand that. It’s hard to find good therapists and good psychiatrists nowadays. There’s also a stigma involving mental health.

Probably the best quote in the movie about this is something Joker writes in his notebook. “The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” Now I’m not saying there isn’t some element of the will involved in mental illness. I have a problem with it when people make a negative condition their identity. I also think it’s wrong to think that psychiatric medications will solve all the problems. They can help, but good therapy does the best.

At the same time, we would never go to someone in a wheelchair and expect them to get up and walk as if they were fine. We give full understanding there. Yet when it comes to mental health, there is a stigma. Watch what happens next time a mass shooting takes place. What will be the first thing said before we really know anything about the shooter? Mental health. After all, such a person would have to be mental. Right?

This brings us to something about the evil in Joker. Let’s start with the beginning. Joker’s name in this is Arthur Fleck and at the start, he is a clown waving a sign to advertise for a business. Some street kids steal the sign and he pursues them only to have them knock him down by breaking the sign in his face and kicking him relentlessly while he’s on the ground and leaving him alone. These are kids sadly doing evil just to do evil.

Because of this, one of his fellow workers gives him a gun to defend himself. Arthur knows he’s not to have one but he’s told it will be okay. Later on he’s on a Subway and some guys start assaulting him there. At one point, he starts shooting at them. Now I am someone who believes in self-defense and thinks when you’re in the midst of being assaulted and you are in danger, it is proper to fight back.

He goes beyond that. He takes out two of the three who have assaulted him. The third is wounded and hobbling away. Arthur chases after him and ends up shooting him to kill him. At that point, it is not self-defense, but murder, seeing as Arthur was in no danger from the guy at the time.

The thing is Arthur has no remorse. There is no sadness to him. If anything, he lives with freedom. He seems to become a more confident individual. As he tells a social worker he works with, he now knows that he exists. He has made some sort of impact on the world. He has not been a doormat. He stood up for himself.

We see him walking into the apartment of the woman he wants and kissing her and her wrapping her arms around him and kissing back. Soon they’re going out together and when his mother gets sick and is in the hospital, she’s right there by his side. She thinks whoever shot the guys on the subway was a hero, not knowing it was him.

Here’s the problem with that though. None of that happened. We find out later on that he wanders into her apartment and she doesn’t know who he is and refers to her as the man down the hall. It all looks real, but it’s part of the delusion. This is why I put a pause on the mental topic. Joker really does have issues and a large part of this movie is wondering what is real and what isn’t.

He reads a letter his mother has sent to Thomas Wayne where she writes that Thomas Wayne is really Arthur’s father. He finds a way to get in to see Wayne, unless that’s part of the delusion. He is told he is adopted and gets the files from Arkham to see. In them, we find that it is said that Arthur is an adopted child and not the son of Thomas Wayne.

Once again, is this real or not? Fans of DC comics will know that faking adoptions is nothing new to the rich and powerful who want to cover up anything that could damage their reputation. It’s entirely possible Thomas Wayne could have had an affair and then painted Arthur’s mother as delusional and faked several documents to that effect.

One other major delusion involves the figure of Murray Franklin. Murray is a talk show host that Arthur and his mother watch every night. Arthur has a delusion where he is in the audience and shouts out to Murray that he loves him. Murray talks with him and asks him to join him on stage and tells him privately something along the lines of, “You see all these lights and all this fanfare? I’d trade it away in a second to have a son like you.” Murray becomes the father in a sense that Arthur doesn’t have and in his apartment with his mother there are several video tapes of the Murray Franklin show, not common for a talk show.

Yet at one point Arthur goes to do some stand-up and a condition that he says he has that causes him to laugh uncontrollably for no reason at times kicks in. The tape is sent to the Murray Franklin show where it is played and Murray mocks Arthur and refers to him as a Joker, hence the name. Later, the show says there was a positive response to the clip and they want Arthur to come on the show to talk with Murray.

Again, keep in mind what I said about spoilers.

Before he goes on, Arthur ends up killing his mother with a pillow, probably revenge since he thinks she lied to him about his origins. Next, he kills the co-worker who gave him the gun that he could use. Then, he goes on Murray’s show and admits to killing the guys on the Subway. After some conversation, he kills Murray on live TV and riots break out all over Gotham as clown figures take to the streets that had been inspired first by the Subway killings and then Murray Franklin’s death propelled it even further.

While the police are taking Joker away, some clowns driving an ambulance crash into the car and pull Joker out. We also see at this point one of the clowns follow Thomas Wayne and his wife out killing them in front of young Bruce Wayne. Joker is treated as a hero by his fellow clowns.

The movie ends with him talking to another social worker, same race and gender as the first, at a mental hospital, probably Arkham. When he leaves, his footsteps are bloody for awhile and then he is being chased back and forth by someone. I honestly still don’t know what to make of this scene. Does it mean everything was a delusion? Hard to say. Fans of the series do know that some things are real, such as the murder of the Waynes and Bruce being left behind.

We also know Joker does become a sociopath villain, yet here is the real danger. I do not think Joker is the threat he is because he is a sociopath. He is the threat because his heart is evil. This is the real culprit behind everything. Sociopathy could make him more prone to that as could perhaps any mental illness, but you want to know who is really incredibly capable of doing great evil out there? You want to know who it is we should really watch for great evil?

You and me.

Clay Jones did his own research on genocides for his book on evil and found out that the people who commit genocides are normally ordinary people. You can see Hitler was the mastermind behind the Holocaust, but Hitler could not have done everything on his own. He needed to enlist the aid of others. These were men who were often good fathers to their kids and good husbands to their wives.

In Lamentations, Jeremiah writes about a siege and how good women cooked their own children who became their food when they were starving. Today, people who would otherwise be good people murder their own children in abortion and think nothing of it. It would be easy to say everyone has a mental illness and if we could just eliminate the illness, we would remove evil from the world.

That’s a delusion in itself.

Joker is delusional? Yep. So are every single one of us to some extent. We all readily believe lies about ourselves and about God consistently. We all think things that we shouldn’t and believe things that we shouldn’t. Christians do it. Atheists do it. Everyone does it. Unfortunately, we also convince ourselves our thinking is spot on in all of this.

So who could be the Joker? You or I could. If we think that we are above a certain evil, that could be the sign that we are most likely to fall for it. Of course, it doesn’t mean we will, but pride often comes before that fall. How many guys have had friendly chats with that female co-worker over lunch thinking nothing will come of it only to wind up in a hotel room a few months later? Yep. It happens.

Joker is definitely a film to get you to think about human evil and what it is. I left the film thinking I had seen something interesting, but still unsure about what it was. I suppose that’s intentional on the part of the writers and directors. Maybe we cannot know what is and isn’t true in Joker’s story, but we can know that despite what he says about his life being a comedy, when he uses it for evil, it is a tragedy.

Let’s use our lives for good. Be a comedy.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Chris Sabat and Autistic Fans

How should the term autistic be used? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife has always been a big fan of anime. I watched a few growing up. Pokemon, Digimon, Sailor Moon some, and Cardcaptors. Those are the only ones I can recall at the time. Her favorite series was one called Dragonball and one of the voice actors on there was Christopher Sabat who voiced the character Vegeta.

He has also been a part of a lawsuit against another voice actor named Vic Mignogna, a devout Christian with a large fan base. Vic is alleged to be a sexual predator. For those wanting the reply to this, I recommend the videos at Unreal Network.

Apparently a fan asked Sabat if he was going somewhere a convention. Sabat said he doesn’t want to make any announcements because Vic’s autistic fans are slandering the cast of Dragonball and want to watch the world burn instead of admitting Vic is a jerk. (He said something else allegedly, but I don’t speak that way.) A tweet about this appears to have been deleted, but there doesn’t seem to be denial that this happened.

My wife and I hold to the innocence of Vic, but that is neither here nor there at this point. Vic could be what his opponents think him to be and that would not change this post. I want to write about the idea instead of how the term autistic is used.

Faithful readers know that my wife and I are both on the spectrum. Because of that, I take claims like this seriously. At the same time, I want to stress that I am not offended. I think it’s cheap and despicable, but I don’t get angry about it really. It takes a lot to get me riled up.

To refer to autism as an insult really is a negative way of speaking of a wonderful community of people. There are all degrees of autism. There are people out there who are pretty much non-verbal, except for perhaps with animals. Then, there are people like myself who are public speakers and debaters.

It is true that we are not always aware of what is going on around us socially, but that does not mean we are stupid in any sense of the word. Our condition should not be used as an insult. To use it that way is not just to insult Vic’s fans, but to insult people who have no connection whatsoever to Vic and to paint a stigma on autistic people.

This is also in a day and age where mental illness has a stigma attached to it. Turn on the news and hear about a mass shooting. What’s one of the first targets immediately? Mental illness. It never can be that people are just evil and do evil things. No. The only way someone does such great evil is they have to be mentally ill.

For my own wife and I, if you came into our home, you might never know you’re in the home of two people on the spectrum. She would say I am further along on the spectrum than she is in that I have more characteristics. That’s probably true. I also don’t mind it. I like being on the spectrum. I enjoy the way my mind works. I think it gives me advantages.

So if Chris Sabat wants to continue his little crusade against Vic, well it’s a free country. He can do that. I can freely respond as I see fit. If he wants to insult people on the spectrum, he can also do that, but I would encourage him to keep in mind that there are several of us out here leading happy lives and are thankful to be alive. Maybe he should go out and meet some of us and see what we’re like before using our condition as a term of slander against other people.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Some Thoughts On Gun Violence

What is the real cause of the violence we see in our society? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

At the start, I will tell you my political persuasion on the issues involving mass shootings. I am the type that is so conservative that I would only fly on planes that have two right wings. I am very much for the second amendment and the right to bear arms. However, when I listen to the gun debate there is something that is missed. I understand it being missed by the secularist mindset, but I don’t expect it to be missed by Christians.

Many times, we hear talk about needing help for mental illness. It’s true I am sure that many people who do the wicked acts of mass shootings could have mental illness. The problem with this is it creates a stigma on mental illness that keeps people with mental illness who would never do something like this from getting help. Imagine what it would be like if whenever the news talked about something like ALS, we also heard it in connection with mass shootings.

Here’s one of the main problems with this. I am not at all opposed to good therapy and psychiatric medicine. I think such tools are extremely helpful. My wife’s own therapist has said that she thinks everyone should see a therapist and even many therapists see therapists.

If we paint the problem as mental illness, then the solution would be that if we could eliminate this mental illness, we would eliminate these mass shootings. This overlooks one of the most important Christian doctrines. It assumes that man as he is will not do evil and that if we can just fix that defective part in his brain, we can prevent that.

But the real problem is not really mental illness, though it can compound that.

The real problem is sin.

And we all have it.

Earlier I said that some people with mental illness would never do something like a mass shooting. I am not recanting that, but I don’t think it’s entirely accurate. In actuality, I think every single one of us, you and me both, are capable of greater evil than we can imagine.

Maybe you wouldn’t now, but if you were in a position of power, would you take the opportunity? Most of us don’t wake up in the morning thinking of some great wrong we want to do. Consider having an affair. Most husbands and wives don’t wake up in the morning and say “I think I’ll ruin my marriage today and have an affair.”

Instead, it starts with the opportunity to have lunch with a co-worker or just talk to someone casually. Before too long, one is looking for more and more opportunities to be with that person. Then suddenly they find themselves meeting one another in a hotel room. The evil just came gradually.

It’s hard to avoid looking back to Nazi Germany when thinking about this. Look at the evil that they did. We know now it is very easy to lead people to do great evil. Milgram established this with his experiments.

We don’t need to look that far. Consider the abortion industry. We have killed numerous babies in our culture and many people have done so with a clean conscience. This is defended as a moral right. (Ironically, these same people complain about God in the Old Testament putting children to death. Go figure.) This evil has become so normalized many people no longer see it as evil.

Chesterton once said we don’t differ on what we will call evils so much. We differ on what we will call excusable. I really think a lot of gun violence goes back to the sexual revolution and the breakdown of the family. What a shock that many of the evils we tolerate, sex outside of marriage, pornography, abortion, homosexual practice, etc. are all connected to sex. Even now society is trying to make pedophilia more acceptable. Many Christians I know have no problem with the concept of living together before marriage, something Christians for hundreds of years would have condemned immediately.

It’s easy to blame the problem on many other factors. If we remove violent video games, this will help deal with it! I don’t care for many overly violent video games, but at the same time, I am a gamer and one of the most peaceful people I think there is. The overwhelming majority of gamers are not like this.

Maybe it’s guns? Guns can give people a means to do something, but the evil is still there in their heart. Oklahoma City took place with everyday products. 9/11 was done with planes. People have used cars to go on mass rampages. I really don’t think gun control laws will work. Such laws will take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens while criminals who don’t care about the law will use them. If you really don’t care about the law against murder, you’re not gonna care about the one against having a gun.

At the heart, the real issue is sin and we need to return to that. The reality is you and I are both capable of being the next mass shooter. The huge overwhelming majority of us won’t do something like this, but if we dare deny our capability, then we are denying the great evil we have within us. If any of us had the opportunity, we need to be vigilant. One of the surest ways you can fall for an evil is to say it is one you will never commit.

If the issue is sin, there is only one solution. Christianity. It alone is the means to deal with sin in one’s life. Politics has its purpose, but it cannot save society. Only Jesus can do that.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

It’s Not Your Fault

What is the cause of your suffering? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

My wife and I are part of a group for Christians with Borderline Personality Disorder on Facebook. She has the condition. I don’t, but I am in there to be supportive. Yesterday, I saw a post by someone saying that they were being condemned by their church for having Borderline. They were supposedly making their Borderline an idol and they don’t have enough faith and they need to pray and read Scripture more and similar things. Naturally, if they truly had faith also, they would be healed.

Let’s be clear with some things at the start. We could all bear to pray more and read the Bible more. It also doesn’t hurt to examine ourselves and look for sinfulness in our own lives to work on.

Also, there are times where suffering is your own fault. If you drink alcohol and get in an accident because you were driving drunk, that is your fault. If you smoke all your life and get lung cancer, that is your fault. If you overeat and suffer the effects of obesity, that is your fault.

Yet some things you are born with or born with a predisposition to that are not your fault. A mental illness can be one of those things. While I am sure this is sometimes said to people with diabetes or people in wheelchairs, I am sure it is less often than it is for cases of mental illness, something the church just doesn’t really deal well with.

Mental illness has a stigma around it such that it is even thought to be connected with demonic activity. I do not doubt demons can influence us, but they cannot possess and control us and it’s too easy to blame our problems on a demon instead of realizing it could be something with us. If you have a mental illness, that is not your fault. What you do with the condition is your fault. I have Aspergers. I cannot control that. It is hard to look someone in the eye when I am talking to them, but that is something that I must actively work on.

In the same way, people with Borderline have powerful emotions that seem gripping and controlling. Can they be controlled? Yes. Is that easy? No. It can often require a combination of medication and therapy. It’s the same way with a phobia. One doesn’t just sit down and will through a phobia naturally. It takes concentrated work and effort to overcome it. I am terrified of water and when I get in a swimming pool, it takes a concentrated effort to move where I need to move. It is not bulldozed over.

The church doesn’t help with this when the church demands instant cures. Now, can an instant cure happen? Sure. God can do it if He wants to. I know people who come to Jesus who have addictions like alcohol and drugs and when they convert, they lose their addictions. That can happen. Sometimes, it does not happen. It is foolish and cruel to say the reason someone is suffering is that they don’t have enough faith.

It’s also just bad theology. Sometimes we do suffer for our own sins, as I said. Sometimes we suffer for the sins of others. Sometimes we suffer because this is a fallen world. It is a foolish person who thinks without divine revelation that he can tell you why a certain kind of suffering is taking place like that. We must be very careful whenever we make any sort of claim to speak for God.

What the sufferers often need most is not someone to fix their problems. We should have people who are ready to be good therapists and counselors and work with them, but if you’re not that, don’t try to be one. Here’s something you can be. You can be a listener. You can be a friend.

Try this for the person with mental illness that you know. Pick up a phone and call them. Send them a message on Facebook. Go to their place and visit them. Take them out to eat sometime. Show the other person you’re glad to have them around. Do not do anything to them that indicates that they are a bother. If you think having to deal with someone like that is a bother, it speaks more about you than it does about them.

Many people like this can struggle with thoughts of depression and suicide. How does it help someone like that to pile on to them? Don’t also tell them they’re being selfish or self-centered. In the moment, that is not helpful to them. It only gives them more reason to be depressed and/or suicidal.

Overall, be Jesus to these people. Jesus never turned away people who were truly suffering and in need. He always had the greatest of love for sinners. The people who thought they were alright were the people He had the most problems with. If people don’t think Jesus will accept them, maybe it’s because they’ve met too many people who claim to represent Jesus who haven’t.

I look forward to the day when the church treats mental illness in much the same way they treat physical illness. Of course, some churches are still horrible there, but I think it often gets worse for mental illness. Come alongside those who are suffering. Be a friend and confidant and really listen to them. If you reach out to someone you know with a condition, you never know how much hope that might give them.

You’ll truly be being Jesus to them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Guns And Mental Illness

What is really responsible when a mass murder takes place? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Many of us spent our Valentine’s Day celebrating time with that special someone in our lives. I managed to use Amazon credit to get my Princess several gifts and we went out to dinner together at a nearby Subway. Our day was special and we shouldn’t deny that, but there were plenty of people that didn’t have a special day.

Some girlfriends never got to have that evening date with their boyfriends and vice-versa. At least one teacher was killed and if he was married, he didn’t get to spent Valentine’s with his wife. Several parents might have had to cancel plans because they suddenly had to go and identify the bodies of their children they never expected to lose.

And for many of these people, Valentine’s Day might never be a day of happiness again.

If there is one word that could be used to describe what happened, it is evil. This isn’t a post though about the problem of evil. Plenty has been said about that and often by people much more equipped than me. This is about another topic in relation to it.

One of the first things I noticed in listening to the news is that it was immediately said that this shooter (Let’s not mention his name people. The victims were people worth knowing about, but not this guy) was mentally ill. Perhaps he was. I do not know for sure, but usually, that seems to be the first assumption. There had to be a mental illness.

The problem is this is said before any facts are known and second, it paints with too broad a brush. I called in to a local radio show yesterday to talk about this and the host did agree with me. My wife and I both have Aspergers. She also has PTSD and bipolar and hallucinations, but we are not the kinds to go shooting up a school.

Technically, we each have a mental illness, but we’re both functioning members of society. The problem is mental illness is way too vague. Consider if I told you that many people die of physical illness. That is true. Cancer and various diseases are physical illnesses. Does that mean when you have someone who has the common cold you’re going to have a prayer vigil around their bed to make sure they don’t die of the disease?

It’s also false to just assume someone has a mental illness and that was the cause of their behavior. After all, that would have to be it. Right? I mean, surely a person in their right mind would not do something like this?

People in their right minds do things like this. Why? Because people are sinners. We all have some evil in us. Some of us just don’t do anything to stop what we have. Some of us seem to relish it and celebrate it. If that’s the case, it will take more than just medication. The reality is if someone is bent on doing evil, they will do evil, and no amount of laws will stop that.

For those of us in the mental health community unfortunately we are all painted with this broad brush when the term is thrown out there without any explanation. People have honestly thought before my wife and I could be threats because of Aspergers. Not only that, but then you ask people to encourage and support those with mental health issues and who could they be thinking about? Those people that they see on TV who shoot up schools.

Could it be that the actual problem is that word that no one wants to use? Could it be that sin is the problem? Of course, the media doesn’t like to use the word sin. We don’t like to admit that some things could be wrong often because that could get into our personal lives.

Some things are evil though. Sometimes, it’s we who are evil. It’s not an imbalance in the brain. It’s one in the heart.

If someone is mentally unstable enough to kill someone, which can happen, we do need to deal with that, but we also don’t need to just assume it was some mental condition and if the person’s brain was in right order, this would never happen. We all do wrong things and it would be so nice to always blame it on brain chemistry, but it doesn’t work. We know it. We are responsible. We bear the blame.

Pray for the people left behind by this tragedy and especially for the families of those who have lost loved ones and yes, even for the person who committed this vile act that they will find forgiveness in Christ.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Unanswered

What do I think of Jeremiah Johnston’s book published by Whitaker House? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Garth Brooks may be able to thank God for unanswered prayers, but unanswered questions are another matter. Unanswered questions can lead to people abandoning a Christian walk, such as what happened with Steve Jobs when he was just 13. In this book, Dr. Johnston sets out to answer some of the questions that are not normally answered. To be fair, he does answer some that are answered elsewhere often, such as the question of if Jesus rose from the dead and the last chapter is a chapter on the problem of evil, though it’s different from others in that it deals with the way Christians often think about evil instead of just “Why does a good God allow evil?”

Johnston’s book is engaging and easy to read. I have studied apologetics for years and there are many books that I frankly get bored during because I’ve read so much of it before, but not so with Johnston’s book. Johnston moves in between the intellectual and the personal in that he has not only a philosopher’s mind for what he does but he has the heart of a true pastor. This is also tied in with a thorough Biblical knowledge. Johnston not only wants to give the answers but he cares about the people to whom the answers will be given and this care is abundantly shown throughout the book.

Johnston starts his main arguments with having a faith centered on the resurrection. It’s a shame in our day and age that so many Christians know so much about the “end times” supposedly and how and when Jesus will return, but know next to nothing about the resurrection of Jesus. Plenty of people knew all about the Harbinger and about the blood moons and were watching those speakers on those topics, but how many of them are listening to Mike Licona, Gary Habermas, N.T. Wright, and William Lane Craig? How many of them even know who these people are? Christians get caught up in the sensational and ignore the essential.

Also, Johnston ends this section as all others with a rule of engagement on how to go and engage with those who disagree with the Christian faith. Each of these sections is a gift in itself.

The next chapter could be one of the most important ones Christians need to hear today and that’s the chapter on mental illness. As I have said before, mental illness is a serious problem in the church today and few know how to respond in love to silent sufferers. If we have someone come to the church in a wheelchair, few of us will shun such a person and hopefully no one would challenge him to a footrace. The tragedy with mental conditions is that you cannot see them for the most part. My wife and I both have Aspergers for instance and this is usually something we tell people because they can’t see it apparently. Some might guess, but it’s not as apparent as a wheelchair. How many people however fail to grasp how different the life is of someone with a mental condition and respond to them? Not only that, but we are often cruel to people who are suicidal, depressed, struggle with cutting, etc. by just telling them that they need to have more faith.

This has to stop.

If I keep going on that point, it will be a soapbox, so let’s get to the next one and that’s dealing with the paranormal, something not covered today. I did wonder sometimes where the line would be drawn in this one as I am a fantasy buff and I love worlds of mystery and magic. Still, the church is not doing a lot to address claims that are paranormal when in some ways, this is a gold mine that we could be jumping on. This tells us that people are open to a world that lies beyond simply matter. Why should the occult and New Age movement fill this vacuum? Why not let the church do that?

Next we come to Bible-ish Christianity. This is where Christians don’t really know their Bible as they should. They just have a simple knowledge and maybe not even from reading all the way through. I think this also happens too often when we get people to become Christians and immediately have them out doing evangelism before we seriously disciple them. (I could go a step more and say that I really don’t think we should even be focusing on conversions. Disciple someone first and make sure that they know what they’re getting into before they’re ready to say Jesus is Lord.) It would be wonderful if more of us could spend more time learning about what we claim to be the most important aspect of our lives. I’m not saying have no other interests. We all do. (We’ll pray for Dr. Johnston with his football interest) I’m saying that if you can devote time to your favorite TV show, you surely can to knowing Jesus.

Finally, Johnston has a section on suffering and a part he wants to hit at is how me-centric we are in our Christianity today. Everything is all about me and somehow we can know the will of God in our lives by looking at our experiences. It is a shame that too many people get their theology today from feelings and experiences instead of interacting with Scripture and with wise Christians past and present. Some might say that they are not trying to do theology, but everyone inevitably does theology. You just do good theology or you do bad theology, but there is no avoiding doing theology.

In conclusion, this is the kind of book that we need today. If I was a youth pastor at a church, I would be arranging a book study on this book right now! Young Christians will be better served studying this than by having endless pizza parties. Jeremiah Johnston has given the church a gift in this and we need to accept it and put it to use.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Society and Mental Illness

What are we to do with those who are different? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Recently, we all know that some nutcase went berserk in Connecticut and decided the way to approach reality was to kill his mother, several elementary schoolers, and some teachers. Most of you know his name. I’m not going to bother to repeat it here. I personally think we shouldn’t even show his picture even and should instead spend more time thinking about the victims of a tragedy like this and their families.

Unfortunately, I’m not the one in charge of the media so it doesn’t go that way, alas.

Still, immediately after the news came out that this person could have Asperger’s, like my wife and I do, there were some isolated cases where people started making statements about people with mental illness. What concerns me most is that some of those are the same people who take the name of Christ on their lips and call Him their Lord. I do not doubt they do, but Jesus is Lord of the mentally healthy and the mentally unhealthy.

If we were being accurate at the start, we’d admit that we all have neuroses of some kind, even those of us who have never been diagnosed. There are some ways we are all unrealistic in our thinking. Blaise Pascal once said that if you take a person who is normally rational and suspend him on a plank of sufficient size over a huge chasm, his emotion of fear will start overriding his reason quite quickly.

One of my favorite shows is Monk about the obsessive-compulsive homicide detective. In one extra they have on the DVD sets, they started asking about neuroses of the actors on the series. One I remember is that one of them had a strong hatred of public restrooms. Many of us can relate to that. We can feel much dirtier after being in a public restroom. Some people might have a strong fear of bugs. That’s my Mrs. Some people really can’t stand blood. If I even start hearing a story that is bloody in any way I have to immediately put my hands to my ears and not listen. I can’t even stand seeing a paper cut.

Yeah. I know it’s not rational. Reality is you probably know some areas of your life where your thinking isn’t exactly rational either.

For some, this is a more permanent state. Now it doesn’t mean they’re without reason entirely. I would consider myself a very reasonable person for instance. I love rationality and I love thinking through an issue. Still, I know I have areas of my life where something is overpowering that reason.

In fact, just as I finished that paragraph, I had a call come from the living room that my wife thought there was a spider in there, which she has a huge phobia of to which I try to say “eight-legged things” instead of the word itself. Meanwhile, I go in and find out it’s a ladybug, which I happen to like and refuse to kill or flush. (Could be because I know they help kill other bugs. Could be because when we had a Colecovision, Ladybug was my favorite game on there.)

One show we like to watch together is The Big Bang Theory, which I tell my wife is about four perfectly ordinary guys, which for some reason she never believes. Everyone who watches it knows that Sheldon Cooper is a highly intelligent person with a brilliant mind.

They also know he’s bat crazy. (Despite his claims to the contrary since his mother had him tested.)

Why do I say this? Because mental illness affects everyone. Many of us have one and if we don’t, we know someone who does. I technically have one with Asperger’s, but at the same time, I doubt people would describe me as “mentally ill” in the way we think of illness. Some might say my thinking is off on areas, but they would not use that term.

Some people might take medications for this. My wife is one who does. Some might not. I am one who does not. Let this also be stated. People of the church have sometimes thought that medication for emotional or psychological problems is wrong. Stop it. There can be a problem with the brain just like any other part of the body. Yes. There are dangers with psychiatric drugs just like with most any other drugs, but there are often greater dangers without.

For those of us who are on this spectrum of having a condition, we must be judged on a case by case basis. We’re not all alike, just like people without mental problems are not all alike. I had considered calling this blog “The Church and Mental Illness” but the church is not the only one with a problem. Some people are looking at the mental illness as the cause of what happened.

If I was to point to a cause, as a Christian, I would simply say “Sin.” That might be too vague for some, and indeed in a sense it is vague. I do not know what was going on in this creep’s life, but I know there was something wrong for him to consider that this was what should be done. Unfortunately, the response the church can also have to people with mental illness qualifies as sin, and sin can often lead to more sin.

Of course, this is a factor, but it does not mean that everyone around you who has a condition is set to go off at any minute. Chances are, many people you see around you every day have some sort of mental condition and you don’t even realize it. I suspect most people watching me going through life who are strangers and don’t know me, don’t realize I have Asperger’s. They might see me as a bit quirky in some ways, but they just don’t make a diagnosis. I also don’t fault them for that. They’re not professional counselors. They shouldn’t have to. Now there are times that I am watching someone and I think “I wonder if they’re an Aspie.” My wife and I both do this especially since we have a keen interest in helping people in the field and want to do all we can.

It is odd that we live in a world that preaches tolerance as the greatest virtue, a virtue they get wrong by the way, and yet does not really begin to understand people who are different from them. Unfortunately, one creep like the one in Newtown will get the attention. It won’t be people out there, and I’d dare include my wife and I in it, who are actively seeking to make the world a better place and do whatever we can.

Keep this in mind. The person around you did not pull a trigger. They are not guilty of a crime. They cannot help that they were born with this condition. Yes. There are some behaviors we have to control because of the way we are born, just like most anyone does. Because I am born a man for instance, I can have desire for other women, but I have to control that desire because I’ve promised myself to one. What my wife and I often say about our Asperger’s and how we behave is “It’s an explanation, not a justification.” If we do something wrong because of it, there is a reason why we have likely acted that way, but that does not justify it.

If you are hostile towards people right now on the spectrum of mental illness, you also might have an explanation right now. You’ve heard about this idiot. The same applies to you. That might explain your animosity towards the rest of us, but it sure doesn’t justify it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters