Are we missing a more theological side to strife in our country? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
Another shooting has happened, this time in Oregon, and it looks like the shooter was especially wanting to target Christians. Now there are a lot of debates going on about gun control and such. I have my own opinion, but I don’t really want to talk about that. My blog is not meant to be about politics, but I would like to consider another angle to this whole situation going on. On a friend’s Facebook today I think one of my friends said what summed it up for me. “That was one evil dude.” Yes. Yes he was, and the sad reality is that it looks like in our society we’ve lost the real idea of what evil is.
You see, we live in a society that proclaims being tolerant and non-judgmental and accepting of other positions. When we talk about evil, too often we just refer to disagreement with someone or not making a wedding cake or something of that sort. Whatever your opinion of those, it’s hard to think that that really compares to murdering several people in cold blood. When 9/11 struck, evil did very quickly become a word we used more often. Yet unfortunately, we seem to have a collective short-term memory and we forget about the tragedies that strike us and try to explain what went wrong in someone’s heart to make them commit murders.
For instance, some people are talking about mental health. To an extent, I agree with them. We need to be taking mental health seriously. If you have cancer or Lou Gehrig’s Disease or Cerebral Palsy or some other physical condition, you can often find an organization pretty easily that is working to raise awareness. Think fast! What organization do you know of that is nationally recognized and known by many people that works for depression?
Do you have a hard time thinking of one?
Now there are of course some mental conditions with awareness out there. My wife and I both have Aspergers which puts us on the autism spectrum and there is indeed Autism Awareness Month. Somehow depression has slipped under the radar and it is a quite common occurrence here. Dare I say it, but the church is even worse. You see, we have this idea that in the church, you shouldn’t be depressed. You should be living a life of joy constantly. Have we forgot that our savior is described as a man of sorrows familiar with suffering? He went to the cross for the joy set before Him. He learned through suffering. Suffering and rejection were not strangers to the life of Christ and if your idea of how your life is to be is constant happiness, then Jesus is a sorry example of how you should live because His life was filled with stress and sorrow. The people that should have accepted Him the most rejected Him the most. This includes His own family!
By the way, that family would have also known about His miraculous origins and they still were ashamed of Him.
If someone has a chemical imbalance in their head, well they have a chemical imbalance. I’m not at all saying don’t pray for them in that. God can heal such an imbalance of course. I am saying don’t treat it like a stigma. For some people, this could be the cross that they have to learn to carry. We should also note that there is a difference between having depression and being depressed. I often tell my wife as well as others that you cannot choose how you feel. You can choose what you do with it even when that is admittedly hard. How many nights have I put my head down on my pillow wanting to sleep with a problem looming over my head and I have to try to focus on what I know of God and Christ through Scripture and reason? It’s not always easy. It takes active effort. Sorry, but I’m really skeptical of people who describe their lives as a life of joy. Is there joy in knowing Jesus? Of course. There’s also suffering in walking in a post-fall world.
Sadly, how many people do you know who have depression would want to share that fact in church? Hardly any. Church should be a major safe haven for people who are depressed. Many of us would be more open going to the neighborhood bar and pouring out our griefs to a bartender. You could be more prone to talk to an absolute stranger on a plane or subway about your troubles before you’d go to a church. When the world says the church is full of judgmental people, let’s be honest and admit that sometimes they have been right in what they’ve said. Could it also be many of us want to sweep under the rug the idea of other people being depressed because that means we can avoid dealing with our own internal problems?
And if this is something from a chemical imbalance, what about people who feel like pariahs for other reasons? How many people have confessed to abuse, especially sexual abuse, and then received the message that they were responsible for their abuse somehow? Or even worse, have the claim just dismissed? Of course some claims are false, but they should all be considered because these are real people we’re dealing with. Fortunately, there are many churches that are providing safe havens, such as giving programs like Celebrate Recovery to help with this bizarre realization that Christians actually struggle with sin. (Yeah. Really. No joke. Who would have imagined?)
The church is to be the body of Christ and represent Jesus on Earth. If sinners are afraid to come to you, there’s a problem, because they weren’t afraid to come to Jesus.
That having been said, while we should not ignore mental conditions, we should not act like everything is a mental condition. A mental condition could make something more likely to happen in some cases, but it does not necessitate it. After a school shooting that took place once, and I think it was the Sandy Hook one, my father-in-law went on Facebook in response to someone on his page talking about the shooter being said to have Aspergers and treating Aspies like a threat. My father-in-law spoke about how my wife and I have Aspergers and we’re not like that at all and the thought that she or I would go into a school with a gun and start shooting is just ludicrous.
Some people don’t need a mental condition to do evil. They have another problem. It’s one we all have called sin, and this is a problem we don’t really do much about.
In speaking that way, we could be making a drastic mistake.
We need to be clear that when we look at the evil, we don’t think it will go away just with medication or therapy. There is no pill you can give someone to turn them into a sinless person. Believe me, I wish there was. I wish there was something that would be “If you take this, you will no longer worry about the future.” “If you take this, you will be totally unselfish with your spouse.” “If you take this, you won’t be tempted to look at other women.” “If you take this, you will not have greed when it comes to money.” It would be nice, but it’s not there. The problem is not a problem of the wrong chemicals flowing. The problem is you and I are fallen sinful human beings and we do the behavior of fallen and sinful human beings.
Can therapy help with some of that? Absolutely. I’m not opposed to Christian therapy and I myself have partaken of it before in the past and today, while I do not see a professional therapist, I have a band of mentors and a band of listening ears because I have my own problems in this life and I need help dealing with them and I’ve had to learn the wisdom of reaching out and seeking help. Therapy will not help all of it because our therapists also have the same problem. Our therapists are fallen and sinful human beings.
What do we need to do then? Diagnose the root issue every time. Somewhere, there is still sin. Even if you have a mental illness, there is still sin. When it comes to the behavior my wife and I can exhibit as people on the spectrum, I tell them that we have an explanation, but not a justification. Do we need to change our behavior a number of times? Yeah. We do. Is there something in us that can explain why we behave the way we do at times? Yeah. Is there still something wrong in what we do at those times? Yes. Yes there is. That something is called the sin itself. There is some place in us where we still actively chose the wrong thing.
Could it be that if we got to the sin issue, we could change much of the woes of our country? Note this is more than getting people to know Jesus as their savior. (And no, this is not getting into Lordship salvation. This is not about whether people are saved but as to how seriously they are taking their following of Jesus.) There are a lot of people that get converted to Jesus and are thus babies in the faith and sadly, spend their lives as children. They do not grow and mature in their Christian walk at all. They are still fed baby food from their pulpits and never get to eat meat. There is not enough awareness about what God has to say in our lives. People want to come to a knowledge of God, but where are they getting it from? Too many are getting it from their feelings and personal experience instead of being people of Scripture. (It’s so amazing that so many of us who are Protestants and don’t like the idea of the Pope claiming to speak for God somehow think that our emotions are absolute pathways to the divine.)
This might sound outlandish, but could it be that what we really need in our churches is discipleship? We need to know what it means to be a follower of Jesus. How many of us if we’re struggling in our marriage will have no objections to going to a marriage seminar to learn how to be a good spouse? How many of us would have no hesitancy in going to a seminar our workplace wants us to go to in order to learn how to be a good employee and do sales well? How many of us realize if we want to have a job in a credentialed field, we need to go to college and get a degree that will take years?
And yet when it comes to following Jesus, we think that all just comes naturally. (In fact, following Jesus should tell you to be careful about what comes naturally.)
Could it be we need to examine ourselves and look for what is described as the sin that so easily entangles? Note also that word. Easily. It’s easy to fall into sin. It’s easy to feel imprisoned by it and feel there is no escape, and if we think deliverance will come through a feeling, we are sadly mistaken. We need to let the sacred truths of Scripture penetrate our hearts and shine within us to expose what’s not good in us. Is that painful? Yep. Is it something we hate? Yep. I have had enough of my own prayer times where I’ve had to look at what’s in my own heart and frankly, not really liked it, but oh well. That’s the only way you grow in Christ. It’s not going to be sunshine and roses.
And you know what, most of us aren’t in danger of shooting up a school. Yeah. That’s true, but we can hate our neighbor in our hearts. What does that mean? It means that if we could get away with it, we would. Many of us won’t have affairs in our marriages. That’s true, but we do lust after others. What does that mean? It means that if we could get away with it, we would. We have our own sins that we do fall into. We have various objects and activities we get addicted to, and not even bad things. Food and sex for instance are good things, but they are not meant to be idols and they can never satisfy entirely. Some of us can struggle with greed in the church. Many, especially those who are leaders, and I easily include myself, can struggle with pride. These are still sin as well and these need to be dealt with.
By all means, have the discussions when these events happen about what needs to be done in the political field. Have the real discussions that need to be had on mental health, but Christians need to in the midst of these discussions not miss the most important one. We need to have a discussion on sin and what it means then to be a follower of Jesus in a world of evil where we are supposed to be spreading the good news that Jesus is King.
Sin is real. We can put any other label on it, but it will not change sin, and there are people dead today who shouldn’t have been because of sin, and there is evil we are committing today that we shouldn’t be because of sin. Deal with what’s out there, but each of us will give an account before God of what we’re doing as well. We can’t be willing to deal with the world if we’re not cleaning up our own house first.