Thursday, April 30, 2015

Problem People?

"The truth of the matter is that the Church can be the wrong place to have a mental illness. This is a generalization, I know. But many times it is true. We have a strong tendency to offer only token acknowledgement of 'the least among us.' We will smile and nod, and, oh so quickly move away; we feel we’ve performed our ‘duty’ as a Christian. We are somewhat relieved to ‘get away’ and dodge the problem person."
I have, for many years, appreciated the work of Pastor Bryan Lowe who writes at as someone who suffers from a variety of illnesses. He is honest and humble and I thank God for his courage.

This morning he posted what I quoted above. He speaks of "mental illness"; I believe that we often do not know who suffers in that way, and we are rarely told just what labels or diagnoses have been placed on their troubles by professionals. We just see some folks as being "strange" in some ways, or we find our relationships with them to be difficult and we don't know why. Sometimes it's because of issues that come from ways in which a physical organ, the brain, is not functioning in a way that is helpful.

After reading Pastor Lowe's article this morning, I commented about some specific ways in which the church is "the wrong place" to have a mental illness, not because God does not want people with such troubles to be part of the church, but because church people don't deal with these things very well.

Here are my comments. Let me know what you think.
Thank you for this, Bryan. Two points:

+ In the upper midwest region of the United States we prefer to deal with people who are calm or cool or not too emotional. We walk the other way when our non-conforming sisters and brothers cry or shout or refuse to back down from the passion that (perhaps) God has put in their hearts. We pass judgment on what they would share with us and refuse to consider the truth of what they want to share (examining the evidence) because of the way they speak or present themselves. This makes us less compassionate and wise in our dealings with the world. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for the church to avoid passing judgment on the “messenger” before we carefully examine the truth (or not) of what they share.

+ As is true with the economically challenged (poor) among us, we sometimes shove those who struggle with emotional and mental health away from our churches and force them to get help only from professionals, often at public expense. And then we complain about dear and precious people who use public services. God calls the church to step up alongside those who are suffering. I wonder how many local churches truly pursue the suffering instead of tolerating them or perhaps helping once but then rejecting them.

Lots more to say but that’s enough for now.
Check out Bryan's original article and comment if you like at Ignoring a Mentally Ill Believer. Those with mental and emotional challenges certainly are an example of the least of these we are called to befriend -- and often carefully discern and receive uncommon wisdom through their gifts from God.

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