This post is part of the April Synchroblog.
The question presented for the synchroblog is: What if the resurrection of Jesus was a hoax?
Well, the first thing that came to mind is that if he was not raised, he was not the Messiah - not the Christ. This would mean that everything from Matthew to Revelation (in the Bible) would be bullshit. There would be no room for the idea of viewing him as a good teacher, just not divine. Why? Because he made it very plain in the words attributed to him in the Gospels that he was the Christ and he would be raised. So, either he did not say those things and his followers made that part up, which would bring into question all quotes attributed to him, or he actually did say these things, in which case he was either a manipulative opportunist undeserving of being followed or he was a lunatic with delusions of grandeur whose teaching would be dangerous to follow. He said he was God, after all....there is not really much wiggle room here if truth is at all important. As C. S. Lewis pointed out in Mere Christianity, Jesus did not mean to leave any room for viewing him as just a good teacher.
But I want to take this in to a little more personal direction. If the resurrection did not happen, then I would not be here. For me, it is about more than teachings and doctrines and theologies and debating - not that I can't get into that at times - I can go all theonerd with the best of them. No, for me, it is about him being there in the middle of the night when the demons want to torment a 9 year old girl. It is about knowing him more and more - and being known by him more and more. It is about him being a real, living, speaking person here, now in this present time. Forget following his teachings as a good moral code for living. For me, he was/is a here and now - front and center - holding my hand in the dark so I could/can sleep, singing softly in my ear to comfort - constant presence in my life.
Simply put, if there was no resurrection, then he would not have been there holding my hand and comforting me while I walked through the hell that was my childhood/early adulthood. And if he had not been there, I would not have survived. So - Jesus not raised? I would not be here. If he was not raised, I would not have seen him and I would have succeeded in taking my own life. And I think that is the most fundamental point.... Emmanuel - God with us - still.
Other synchroblog participants:
Marta Layton: On faith seeking understanding, truth and theology
Carol Kuniholm: Risen Indeed? The Hermaneutic Community
Tim Nichols: How Would Life Be Different If Jesus Did Not Rise?
Glenn Hager: Kingdom Come or Kingdom Now?
Sonja Andrews: The Resurrection and The Life
Josh Morgan: The Role Of The Resurrection
Abbie Watters: What If The Resurrection Were A Lie?
Minnow: Resurrection Impact
Leah: Resurrection - Or Not!
Hey Sonnie: The Resurrection Hoax
Liz Dyer: The Resurrection I Firmly Believe In
Helen Haroutunian: Is There A Christianity Without The Resurrection?
Christine Sine: If the Resurrection Did Not Happen, How Would the World be Different?
KW Leslie: Supposing Jesus Is Dead
Travis Mamone: If The Resurrection Was A Hoax...
Kathy Escobar: Jenga Faith
Jeremy Myers: What If Jesus Did Not Rise?
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
This post is part of the April Synchroblog.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
The Minefield of Mental Illness and the Church
The topic of how the church deals with mental health issues has been large in my mind the last couple of weeks. It started with a teaching I heard, continued with the comment thread on an article over at Her.meneutics, and ended with another teaching I heard. The things I have experienced in this arena all came flooding back and anger, fear, frustration, sadness...they all rode on the coattails of the teaching and comments.
So, some history. I grew up in a household - and in a broader sense, a denomination - that at best, distrusted the field of psychology and at wort mocked and ridiculed it. Now in the family dynamics, I understand that narcissists will nearly always have a great aversion to counselors/psychologists/therapists, etc., because they do not wish to be exposed. So my mother's aversion and ridicule of the profession is not surprising. But the church is another matter.
I understand that in the early days, a lot of people in the profession were openly against religion and that understandably created a reaction. However, that has changed even to the point that the American Psychiatric Association has acknowledged in their journals that incorporating a client's spiritual beliefs (and respecting same) is important to the treatment process. And some denominations have begun incorporating counseling into their staff. Cool. Great.
But, in my own experience, the "Christian" counselors put doctrine above psychological training - and in so doing, put doctrine ahead of the client's mental health. I have seen this. But what I saw in the comments and heard in the sermons is something that I find dangerous. Why dangerous? Because it sets people up to be abused - and it sets people up to be abusive - well meaning people end up using these doctrines and doing harm. So, what is it that I'm so worked up about?
Here are some statements:
- Depression is always demonic
- Depression is a sin
- There's no such thing as mental illness, it is all just demons
Okay, the sermon I heard laid out step by step instructions for how to recognize someone who was being overcome by demons and how to deliver them. I want to state, for the record, that I do believe that demons exist and that they harass and possess people. I've seen too much not to. But what was stated in this teaching was, to me, over the top. The description that was given of how to recognize someone who had fallen away from faith and was in the hands of demonic forces and needed intervention was identical to the list of symptoms of someone who is coming out of a cultish religiously abusive situation - reverting to old behaviors, cussing, not reading the Bible anymore... As I listened to this list, I realized that by the definition presented, they would have been trying to cast the demons out of me the whole time I was recovering/healing from the abuses of my past.
I was reminded that I have realized, several times over the last 5 years, that the religious people around me, if they witnessed one of my PTSD moments, would have been trying to cast the demons out of me. I actually was experiencing some PTSD symptoms while listening to this message and in the midst of this knew that if those around me knew what was going on, they would have applied what they were hearing and tried to exorcise me. Talk about some cognitive pain.
See, here's the thing: this teaching leaves no room for the normal mental/emotional effects of abuse or even just a traumatic event like an accident. An example that comes to mind is one of a 12 year old girl who was stood on a chair by the elders in her own home while they tried to cast the spirit of rebellion out of her. Within 18 or so months, she had run away from home, gotten pregnant - why? Because her father was emotionally abusive and her older sister was even more so and her home life was intolerable. But these church elders did not make inquiries - they just labeled her and tried to 'deliver' her and in doing so, made the trauma worse - and drove her away from God almost permanently.
This is the crux of what has me so angry and sad and agitated inside - this teaching can be emotionally deadly to those suffering from mental distress. For me, personally, it made it very difficult to even recognize that I needed professional help, let alone actually seek it. I actually reached the point where I tried to kill myself before I sought help - and then only because the only friend I trusted at the time insisted I get help or leave. And here's the thing - I was in so much emotional pain that in a combination of anger and just plain overwhelmed-ness, I took a bottle of Darvon and went to bed. As I began to fade into the blackness, I was afraid. I told God I was sorry - for everything, including not being strong enough.... And his presence flooded that room with such profound peace. I was settled - I was relaxed - I knew he was right there and as I faded out, I did not expect to wake up. 24 hours later, however, I did wake up and had to begin dealing with the reality that I was still here and my life was still a mess. If, in that state, I had been confronted by people who thought my problem was just that I needed to have the devil cast out of me, I think I might have gone insane. This was 24 years ago. I recently, because of the healing that has been taking place, realized that this incident happened within a couple of weeks of seeing the primary molester - the first time I had seen him in more than 10 years. And I had to interact with him in a family holiday setting for 48 hours - and no one else knew.... and it triggered an emotional meltdown. Well, duh!
That brings me to another point. First, I will say that there are some cases of mental illness that are demonic in nature. But to say all are is, to me, profoundly troubling. If you have read my blog, you already know this, but I will do a quick recap for those who haven't been around much before. As a child I was molested - repeatedly - by several people; first when I was 2 1/2 and then again through the period from 7 to 12 years old - all outside my home. In addition to this, I lived in an emotionally and verbally abusive home that was also physically abusive (whippings with a belt were part of potty training). All this in the midst of being in a deeply religious family with parents as church leaders. Straight up - this messed me up. Bad. Even now, after 4 years of therapy, I have trouble really admitting that things were really that bad.... And in order to just survive, I stuffed it all away in a box locked under the stairs in the cellar of my mind. But the contents of that box would not stay hidden (they never do). And finally, God led to a place - and put a friend in my life that would hold my hand through it - where I actually began looking at it and dealing with it. And that has required the help of someone professionally trained for that purpose, not unlike seeking an orthopedic surgeon for a crushed leg.
And I have encountered, over the last five years, religious advice on this. The first was that I had better go to Christian counselors. I asked God about that and got one of the biggest 'NOs' I have even heard/felt. Okay. Then I have been told by someone who was a family friend at the time all this was going on (in childhood) that I needed to let one of the elders at her church pray for me because he was gifted in praying for deliverance. No thanks. I know what that looks like because I grew up in it. If I had allowed an attempted exorcism or whatever, I think it would have sent me around the bend.
Here's another thing - In the process of surviving all these years, there have been moments that..... Well, one was about 20 years ago, I was in a position where I was living with my grandparents and sharing a bedroom/bed with my mother - a narcissist.... and I was sitting outside in my car one night and I began to recognized different facets of my personality - 4 or 5 of them - and realized I was just on the edge of having them shatter. And God reached out and told me I did not have to step off that cliff if I didn't want to. A similar thing happened 5 years ago, when everything was blowing apart with the church/cult I used to be a leader in. What was happening there was stirring up all the childhood shit again - the stuff that had only just barely been acknowledged and never dealt with. And there was a death in the family and my mom was in ICU in a coma.... and I sat in a dark side room in that church sobbing... and I asked God if I could please just let go for a while and go crazy - retreat inside my head. His response was so loving. He said that I absolutely could if I wanted to and there would be no condemnation attached - I had every right to. But he also wanted me to think about whether, if I did, I would be able to come back. He would not guarantee that I would. But just the acknowledgment that I had reason to be distressed did wonders in giving me strength to hang on.
Hmm.... I wish there wasn't this fear within the church that causes mental illness to be labeled demonic. It really has put me in a position that for my own mental safety, I need to pull back from a group of believers - again. And I fear that if any of them read this, they would be concerned that I was 'back-slidden' and in need of having the Word pounded into that. That is the other thing about this teaching that was so disturbing to me. The solution was to read the Word to the person in order to "pound on the rock until it breaks" (referenced Jeremiah 23:29 to back this). To me, that is giving people with more zeal than wisdom (and good intention) the idea that the solution to mental illness is to pound Bible verses into someone. Yikes! In the hands of someone with an abusive/controlling streak, this is a license to abuse with the Word. Is the answer to mental illness really to thump someone over the head with Bible verses? This truly makes my heart hurt.
And I have to say that after I walked out of the church/cult 5 years ago, part of the healing process (that is still in progress) required laying the Bible down and not reading it ... at all... for nearly 2 years. By the definition I heard today, that would be evidence of demonic influence. But I can say with absolute clarity that the reason I had to lay that book down was because it had been used to beat me down and control and abuse and scare me for so long that I could only hear the voice of the abusers through it. And it took almost 2 years of healing before I could read it without hearing those voices and the teachings that had so twisted me up.
And I don't know what to do about this. I know I need to remove myself from the teaching because it is causing too much pain. But the people. Damn it. I like these people and I am so tired of losing friendships over religion. But I don't know how to talk to them about it. To be honest, I am afraid to. I'm afraid they wouldn't understand. I am afraid they would apply the teachings I heard today. It's one thing to be called a heretic and told you're going to hell by some anonymous blog commenter that you don't know and probably never will. But it's a whole other thing when the attack is coming from a friend who thinks they are helping.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
On Being Female....
Marta Layton - The War on Terror and the War on Women
Kathy Escobar - Replacing the "f" Word With the "d" Word (No, Not Those Ones!)
Melody Hanson - Call Me Crazy, But I Talk to Jesus (Thoughts On Being A Christian Woman In the 21st Century)
Glenn Hager - Walked Into A Bar
Steve Hayes - St. Christina of Persia
Leah Sophia - March Synchroblog: All About Eve
Liz Dyer - The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere, The Problem Is That You Don't
Sonja Andrews - International Women's Day
Sonnie Swenston-Forbes - The Women: Named And Unnamed
Christine Sine - It All Begins With Love
K W Leslie - Undoing the Subordination of Women
Carrie Good - The Math of Mr. Cardinal
Dan Brennan - Ten Women I Want To Honor
Monday, March 12, 2012
Freedom: A state of exemption from the power or control of another; liberty; exemption from slavery, servitude or confinement. Exemption from fate, necessity, or any constraint of predetermination or otherwise; as the freedom of the will. Ease or facility of doing anything. Frankness; boldness.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
My real name is.....
Well, after almost four years of blogging, the day has finally come that I am coming out from behind my pseudonym and blogging under my real name.
This is a little scary - vulnerable, but also exciting. I am no longer afraid of being in trouble for speaking up - speaking out - speaking my mind. And the family members I was concerned about hurting are much more aware of the facts discussed here than when I started. So although it will probably still be painful for them to read, it won't be as devastating,,,
So, hi. My name is Jeannette.............