Archive for April 2013

“Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.”

April 27, 2013

English: The Song of Songs (1853) by Gustave M...

(Song of Solomon 2:10)

He is risen,
I am risen in Him,
why then should I
cling to the dust?
From lower loves,

desires, pursuits,
and aspirations, I
would rise
towards Him.
He calls me

by the sweet title
of “My love,”

He calls me.
“Come away” has no
harsh sound in it
to my ear, for
what is there to hold me

in this wilderness of
vanity and sin?
O my Lord, would that
I could come away,
but I am taken–among the thorns!

and cannot escape
from them as I would.
I would, if it were
possible, have neither
eyes, nor ears, nor heart for sin.

You call me to yourself
by saying “Come away,”
and this is a melodious
call indeed. To come to you
is to come home from exile,

to come to land out of the
raging storm,
to come to rest after long labor,

My Lord, Save Me  From the Maze o' Shadows  an...

My Lord, Save Me From the Maze o’ Shadows and Songs….. (Photo credit: -RejiK)

to come to the goal of my desires
and the summit of my wishes.

But Lord, how
can a stone rise,
how can a lump of clay
come away from
the horrible pit?

O raise me, draw me.
Your grace can do it.
Send forth your Holy Spirit
to kindle sacred flames
of love in my heart,

and I will continue
to rise until
I leave life and time
behind me,
and indeed come away.

( Adapted  from Spurgeon’s  “Morning by Morning” — 4/25)

Legions’ Brain Was Actually ‘On Fire’! or, ‘Where Have All the Demons Gone’?

April 24, 2013

Medieval book illustration of Christ Exorcisin...

It seems evil spirits have gone and hidden themselves these days under medical and psychiatric diagnoses. Because the fascinating etiology of poor Legion’s brain disease  was discovered in 2004 —  we now know Legion’s true name, and it was definitely ‘many’, look  at all the words used to describe the auto-immune disease he likely had: ‘anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis’.  But because even Dr. Luke would have been really confused when collating this history later,  our Lord preferred to call it a demon and perform an exorcism instead — well, at least that’s how I imagine we’ll see this puzzle explained to us by liberal expositors!  But unlike our modern theologians, Luke wasn’t perturbed by these rather medieval causes of psychic or bodily pain, as in the case of the patient with scoliosis in Luke 13:11-16. He, inspired by the Holy Spirit, called it a demon:

“…and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all…ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”

It is so interesting to me that her curved spine was an organic disorder with a medical etiology, but the underlying cause was spiritual oppression. Jesus calls her a ‘daughter of Abraham’, too — an indication she was a believer! And in Matthew 17:15, the Greek word used to describe the epileptic boy as a ‘lunatic’ was a medical term, stemming from the belief that epileptic seizures were affected by the phases of the moon. It is a theory as outdated now as the recently discarded ‘chemical imbalance’ explanation for brain disorders –- but, notice Jesus doesn’t  use ancient medical terminology, and  doesn’t diagnose the young man with a ‘moon imbalance’, but again, he frees the sufferer of an organic disease from a demonic spirit.

Matthew Henry comments on this passage, “There was also something in the malady which rendered the cure difficult. The extraordinary power of Satan must not discourage our faith, but quicken us to more earnestness in praying to God for the increase of it. Do we wonder to see Satan’s bodily possession of this young man from a child, when we see his spiritual possession of every son of Adam from the fall!”

No, I am not suggesting that every parent of a epileptic kid is showing a lack of earnestness in faith when giving their child Depakote. I am not ‘anti’ any effective medication, by any means.  But uncomfortable questions are raised when the contrast is so stark between the biblical narrative and the scientific explanations we are offered of even a classic case of  demonic possession — as the rare encephalitis of the brain, mentioned above. In this interview, Susannah Cahalan describes the florid psychosis, guttural speech, violent, inappropriate behavior and seizures that occurred when she had, in her doctor’s words a  “Brain on Fire“, due to  a rare case of that auto-immune disease, ‘anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis’, I linked to above. In an NPR interview, she says

“When you think about the symptoms — in my case alone, this grandiosity, this violence. In a lot of children, you see hypersexuality. Even my grunts and these guttural sounds that came from me sounded superhuman to someone who might be inclined to think that way. … When you see videos of people — in fact, when I see videos of myself — demonic possession is not far from your mind. It wasn’t far from [ her boyfriend’s] mind when he first saw that seizure. And I’ve talked to many people who’ve had this disease, and one woman I spoke to actually asked for a priest because she said, ‘The devil is inside of me. I need it out.’ A little girl was grunting — they had a monitor in her room — and she was grunting so unnaturally that her parents looked at each other and said, ‘Is she, is she possessed?’ They actually said that about a little girl. You can see throughout history why people would believe this.”

No one would be lacking faith in giving steroids for this disorder, and it would be foolish to refuse the common grace of this cutting edge neurological research, and its effective remedies. She was rightly infused with plasma and healed within months, rather than dosed with what the head of the American Psychiatric Association acknowledges are completely ineffective atypical antipsychotics   while hidden away in a locked psych ward, which she acknowledges would have been her fate had she suffered her illness a mere five years earlier.

Now, let me think, what is the better choice? Effective therapies or a straightjacketed life?  So hard to choose, right?  But I do think these treatments make it much easier for us to ignore or minimize the spiritual components that Jesus makes very clear in the passages I highlight. How do we reconcile the biblical narrative with the medical accounts?  That is our real “lack of faith” — our unbelief , manifested in our unwillingness to examine the spiritual etiology of some diagnosable mental disorders.

Can it be that the wily deceiver can mask his evil work with physical symptoms that present as chronic diseases, particularly the idiopathic cases like scoliosis and cryptogenic epilepsy — and until the cause of  this variation on “classic demonic possession”  was recently discovered in 2004, ‘anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis’? That our Enemy can induce a body to generate these harmful antibodies that attack the NMDA receptors and manifest this disease, just as he gets nerve cells going rogue with seizure disorders, and the bones of the spine to curve in scoliosis? Because Jesus clearly names some of these organic body disorders  demonic. Will we be as presumptuous as Peter, and seek to correct Jesus’ understanding of the nature of the beings he has created?

The fact that scripture makes these spiritual connections clear makes us very uncomfortable, and some of us wish these passages were not in the Bible. I worked in special ed with autistic children, some of whom presented exactly like the lunatic. That is when I began to ask these hard questions, and no one has ever satisfied my queries — except some of the Vineyard pastors in the churches we attended, who perhaps did too much discernment of the demonic, but at least were courageous enough to acknowledge the difficulties, and to engage with the demonic, and  were praying for greater faith in dealing with them. Sam Storms has said of these kinds of intractable cases,

“Some are not healed because the demonic cause of the affliction has not been addressed. Please do not jump to unwarranted conclusions. I am not suggesting that all physical disease is demonically induced. It is interesting, is it not, that in Paul’s case God used “a messenger of Satan” to inflict the thorn?”

I agree with Storm’s assessments here, but in my repeated queries about the lack of attention the Reformed community pays to this issue of the demonic, I have only been ignored. Do the Reformed really believe the Enemy has ceased prowling around?  Like tongues and prophecy, the devil has ceased to oppress?

If the Reformed community wants to seriously reach out to confused Charismatics, its theologians need to seriously grapple with these scriptures too, and stop ignoring them, or publishing equally confused answers like Kevin DeYoung’s response to the evil of the Tuscon shootings, in the blogpost, “God’s Gift of Moral Language”.  He first declares about the shooter: “no doubt Loughner is messed up, crazy, off his rocker, and out to lunch. It seems that he’s needed help for a long time.”  But at the end he mourns a world that thinks only in these therapeutic categories:

The world, and to a large extent the church, has lost the ability to speak in moral categories. We have preferences instead of character. We have values instead of virtue. We have no God of holiness, and we have no Satan.  We have break-downs, crack-ups, psychoses, maladjustments, and inner turmoil.  But we do not have repugnant evil as the Bible has it. And this loss makes the world a more dangerous place. For the words may disappear, but the reality does not.

I agree with Mr. De Young, the church has lost the ability to speak in that category, but he himself describes Loughner in therapeutic terms, and  overlooked his own inability in striking ways.  Is it because we don’t want to look  medieval to the world, and  we want to have our blogposts featured in their online newspapers, so we shy away from labeling even this kind of deeply evil behavior demonic?  In all our culture-making, culture-engaging efforts, are we so embarrassed by this theological category that we that have absented the demonic from Reformed websites?  Check out this Theopedia  homepage, where there is not a single entry listed for ‘Satan’ or ‘Demons’  to be found in the vast encyclopedia of topics! But the reality of a demonic presence in the world has not disappeared, and so the extinction of that category indeed, “makes the world a more dangerous place.”

For when Legion comes, piteously crying  and running naked  through our  graveyards, cutting himself with stones while he demands, “What have you to do with me?”– will we ask him his name? Of course  we will like it better when he answers, ‘Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis’!  So neat and tidily settled — just give him a pill!

But  when he says, ” Legion!” , will we respond like Jesus?  With a stern, “Come out of him!” Or will we listen for fifteen minutes to his ravings, identify him as a paranoid schizophrenic who is clearly a danger to himself,  and then force him into emergency treatment with neuroleptics? With a diagnosis of a lifetime disorder hopelessly intractable, and difficult  to treat without a course of many different drugs, each drug responding to the other’s iatrogenic effect? No wonder so many sufferers commit suicide upon receiving such a diagnoses.  After Susan Beachy’s son died in despair soon after  he was labeled a “schizophrenic”,  she  eloquently wrote,

Being told that mental illness is like diabetes is misleading and discouraging. This is not a fair comparison.Diabetes is due to a well understood defect in a body part, the pancreas. Mental illness, on the other hand, literally means that your mind is sick. Your mind, unlike your pancreas, is not just a body part. Your mind enables you to relate, set goals, dream, and have hope. If you and the people around you believe that your mind will be defective and sick for the rest of your life, you are left without hope of ever having the agency to build a life…We need not burden distressed young people with hope-sucking labels of chronic mental defect. There is a better way.

It seems the church has forgotten some of our biblical ways of healing and even delivering those who live in this kind of despair.  We have become very ignorant of Satan’s crafty devices in our disease-mongering age.  So our enemy sometimes hides in a prescription pad.

Why, oh why, has the church  become so afraid of asking Legion His Own Name? And what is the purpose of the name we assign him?

This One Escaped Limbo

April 16, 2013
DSM Logo

DSM Logo (Photo credit: – jre -)

I have had an interesting series of comments posted at the Gospel Coalition blog article ” Suicide, Mental Illness, Depression, and the Church”,  but most of them  were left hanging in moderation limbo.  Just as the DSM performs as a gatekeeper of information and money for Mental Health Professionals, so the TGC weblog has been a narrow funnel for information to Christians of articles critical of Psychiatry —  which was largely the substance of my censored comments.  I know the moderators’ motives were protective of sensitivities raised by the suicide of Rick Warren’s son, and they were being careful of laying blame. I get it.  I am so sorry about the death of Rick Warren’s son!  I continue to pray for that family. Every parent of a child at risk knows the dread sometimes of opening the door with breath held, terrified of what they will find in their kid’s room. I have known that fear.  But the condescending attitude of some Mental Health Professionals on that site  was also inappropriate . Today’s attempt to respond  to one especially patronizing comment was finally approved. I think I would have had a real tantrum at them if they did not, so I am glad for my children’s sake they finally printed my rant,  again at this site here.

I would like to add that I have no problem with neurogenesis, except if this new paradigm for research prompted even more drug treatments that would prove as useless and harmful as their SSRI’s and atypical antipsychotics. Especially if they make children their guinea pigs, the way the explosion of diagnoses for bi-polar disorder and ADHD,  and off-label prescription writing has done.

I think I am reasonably informed and educated. I learned all about tardive dyskinesia and akathesia watching the side effects of these meds in my own children. They educated me about the incestuous relationship between Big Pharma and Psychiatry. My biggest regret is the emergency holds I placed on my children that forced them on drugs that gave them these crippling grimaces and unbearable restlessness. All the adverse effects that place them at higher risk for suicide. That is why I am so afraid to open doors sometimes, for what horrors I might find inside.

So spare me your patronizing attitude, Mr. Mental Health Professional! I would rather you penned a letter like this one by Dr. Mickey Nardo, who regrets not speaking out more forcefully against Big Pharma’s pernicious influence on his field, and spends his days since his resignation in protest from the APA combing the medical literature for faulty studies, like this gem he discovered about Dr. Robert Gibbons, who in his zeal  to reverse the black box warnings for increased suicidality from SSRI’s  especially among youth who consume them, he redacted data.  Google “Anatomy of a Deciet” at 1 Boring Old Man, … A must read for anyone giving their kid Prozac still. Or Respiridol. Or Zoloft. But especially Paxil, given the NAACP’s refusal to print a retraction concerning the ghostwrtitten- -by-GlaxoSmithKline  Study 329, that falsely claimed Paxil performed better than placebo and hid its adverse effects. Maybe it’s not too late to join one of these class action lawsuits.

Here’s Dr. Nardo’s eloquent letter:

“I think it’s time for the body of Psychiatry to look back on the last thirty years, particularly the last twenty, and acknowledge that there has been a lot of just outright wrong: producing and accepting lousy science; signing on to lousy science produced by others; colluding with the Pharmaceutical Industry in recommendations and prescriptions; corruption involving ghost-writing, guest authoring, conflicts of interest, direct drug promotion, downplaying or ignoring adverse effects. And then there were some really big sins – TMAP comes to mind. It’s a great big collective blemish, maybe more like an open festering wound. And yet I can’t really seem to talk about it without laying the blame elsewhere – PHARMA, Managed Care, KOLs, Neuroscientists, Psychopharmacologists, the Analysts [before I became one], the DSM committees, the APA. And it’s hard to say I’m sorry to patients harmed, without quickly adding, “but I didn’t do that with my patients.”

Even though that last comment is true in so far as I know it, it still doesn’t help with a background discomfort that lingers, transcending any disavowals that pass through my mind.” More here: http://1boringoldman.com/index.php/2012/02/20/no-further-comment/

How I wish we had Dr. Nardo’s compassionate care for our daughters when they were spinning out of control, instead of the greedy quacks we had, like the one who charged our family that is living on the edge of bankruptcy– because of their failed therapies — $100 for a missed appointment, because of a bus mis-schedule. The last appointment we made with him! We wasted so much on Psychiatry’s mess of potage, all of it was wasted, all  of our meager time and treasure that was invested in it is less than worthless now. And sadly,  we wasted much of our children’s great talents.