Naming Rights for These Afflictions — They Belong to the Legions
What follows is a cleaned up version of my rather lunatic response to the days-long moderation of comments which effectively shut down a potentially profitable dialogue between me and an anonymous commenter at The Gospel Coalition on Kevin DeYoungs guestblog discussing The Gospel and ‘Mental Illness.’ I have tried to shape that hurried mess of double comments into a series of blogposts. I have tweaked the anonymous commenter’s name — because he has masked his identity, this moniker is meaningless — he might as well have claimed to be Jesus Christ Come to Adjudicate Debates. That would be at least a hilariously appropriate identity that would have power to quiet any lunatics’ objections to being silenced! But his name is not connected to flesh so it is a waxed nose I may manipulate to suit my purposes, like Psychiatry’s bible, the DSM-5 — when there are no biomarkers for supposed diseases, there is no logic and no accountability around the diagnoses. It is rabbits from hats, It is not Real. It is Not a Sole Fib.
We are considering deep questions of Knowing and Being that are certainly above my limited understanding of philosophy, and I will show you later how it is going to be very meaningful to you in my next blogpost, but here is where it Gets Real. There are good reasons to have but limited respect for anonymous commenters on the Internet.
Not a Sole Fib says, “Don’t take the opinions of men too seriously – especially internet strangers who may or may not know what they are talking about and cannot walk with you, pray with you, or love you through the challenges God has put on your plate.” The irony of this comment is so rich: where does this Internet Stranger, who was asked to unmask himself but politely declined, get off by calling me “insensitive” — and what does he know of my real life? I at least cite my sources, and my pastor said he will vouch for my character, he said, “I let you watch my kids”. But Not a Sole Fib has informed the world at TGC that they cannot trust me as a source of reliable information — and readers these are not trivial issues we are discussing — life and death are literally at stake. What does ‘Not a Sole Fib’ know of how I love or pray for those Schizophrenics who die twenty years earlier than average?
With all due respect Not a Sole Fib I still think there are still too many questions that you yourself have asked that I do not feel have been satisfactorily answered. So we really can’t shut down the discussion now! I am most interested in these two points –by whose authority shall those who suffer be named? And where can we more profitably locate this discussion in the Bible? I think it is interesting that Jesus always gives first naming rights to those whose brains are involved. He always respects free agency. His searching questions always lead those infirmed by sin to diagnose our own condition. Always the names we hold so dearly are uncovered by his heart-piercing gaze, and nearly always these identities involve idolatry, don’t they? I do think the churches should follow his example, and give away the naming rights to those who have the greatest stake in the matter.
So I would zero in on Luke 8:30, because it is such a juicy passage, although it terrifies some. I suspected that it is why my first rough comment on this subject was moderated, but now I know there are Other Reasons. Have you ever noticed Not a Sole Fib, that Legion is never named at all in the church’s Conversation about Mental Illness? Nor, lest some horses and grandmothers become too alarmed, should he be always named in these discussions. As Sam Storms says on this issue
“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 am fascinated by the reasoning behind names and our fear of some names. The church has become so afraid of naming things ‘evil’. Why are we so afraid of saying Legions name? I have some ideas about that. I wrote a blogpost that examines what happens when the biblical descriptions collide with modern science, as demonstrated in the fascinating story of the woman with a “brain on fire” — classic-seeming demon possession diagnosed by medicine — she had ‘anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis’ and was treated successfully with plasma. Very interesting questions are raised. What do you think?
I think those taxonomists of the Human Condition need to give the survivors and sufferers back our naming rights. It is part of our healing to name the thing. I would so much rather be a Magdalene slapped forever with the notorious label “She From Whom Seven Demons Were Delivered”, than be left with your own stigmatizing and dehumanizing diagnosis of ‘Schizoaffective Disorder’– at least there is hope for a demoniac that they can always be forever free of torment, if they keep their house clean and well ordered. Those you name ‘Mentally Ill’ and ” incurable”, for purposes that privilege those in power — think of Szasz’ example of Drapetomania, for example — are then left often permanently crippled by your defective drugs, and certainly stigmatized by your permanent label of a Defective Brain. Except those fortunate crazies living in a third world country, without any medical treatment — we know their outcome of recovery from schizophrenia without relapse is far better, according to two World Health Organization studies.
The First Worlds’ Worried Well have all the right to all the Ativan they imagine will aid them. I am sorry they have so little real informed consent. But as Jesus said, it is the sick who need a physician.
I read about all these kind of hurting people in the secular blog “Mad in America“, which is unique in that it levels the playing field and gives away the naming rights to all those parties who are interested in the issues surrounding Critical Psychiatry, and listens respectfully to those with lived experience.MIA does a wonderful job in offering hospitality to those who suffer the terrifying ravages of a disintegrating psyche.
I know if the church spoke to those Hearing Voices the way that Jesus did, and let them name their own infirmities, they would listen to us more. I can assure you, many afflicted at Mad in America would rather fall into the arms of Jesus — who touched agonized people like them with authority, and then set them free–I am sure those unfortunates would rather be treated with such compassion than fall into the hands of unrighteous men who might force them into psych wards. Because their name for those places is “torture chambers.”
I tell you that field is white with harvest. You Christian Thought Leaders think the world will lose respect for us if we tell them the story of Legion, and connect his case to any real condition. I think it just depends on what world you want to reach. Please don’t frighten my friends if they visit your churches — allow them to give you their name. Please don’t force drugging on them, even if they are a harm to themselves, or to others. If they are going to harm themselves, they need friends who listen closely, and they need hope for the future. If they have harmed others, the place for them is called a jail.
I wish there were networks of churches that share my kind of taxonomy, so that my friends hurting from Psychiatric abuse can easily identify where their agency will be respected, and where they will feel safe– kind of like a “Joni and Friends” network — but that is a discussion for another day. Already I have gone over a thousand words. Thanks for listening, those who have come this far!
On this 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, please oppose the Murphy Bill HR #3717, because:
“People will turn away from forced and coercive services.
We need to feel safe and understood to connect with others.
We also need hope and a sense that we can get what we need.
So many difficulties arise in life,
especially when our parents, schools and communities
have their own problems and don’t understand our perspective.
Connection, unconditional positive regard,
trauma informed services and safety
must replace coercive, medical models
and forced services if we hope to help others heal.”
words of Cindy Peterson Dana, as a comment on a thread at Mad in America, titled– Murphy Bill: Violates Civil Rights, Increases Government Intrusion and Control, and Ignores Scientific Research