My good blogging buddy Cate from over at Infinite Sadness or… hope? very kindly gave me the heads up on an article that someone had shared with her.
The article, entitled – “Jesus Christ ‘may have suffered from mental health problems’ claims Church of England” appears in the Express Newspaper’s online site.
It opens with the statement “Written by the Rev Eva McIntyre on behalf of the Church’s Archbishops’ Council and the Time to Change mental health campaign, it suggests John the Baptist, St Paul, St Francis and other figures from the Bible may all have been mentally ill.” which is then followed by a paragraph reading… “It even asks followers to consider accusations made in the New Testament that Jesus “had lost his mind”.”
Putting aside the whole issue of churches assigning “sainthood” on certain people – which I find erroneous and misleading – and the fact that, from what research I have been able to do, the Express appears to have completely misshaped and misrepresented the original piece written by the Rev McIntyre – gee now there’s a shock!
But even so there are some interesting points to be raised as a result of this article and I can understand the problems folk are having as a result of this piece.
As a Christian I have for some time now been very much aware of the difficulty that can be had reconciling the understanding that Jesus Christ was fully man and yet fully God. Likewise I can certainly understand how the mere suggestion that Jesus may have had mental health problems could seem offensive to some and difficult to comprehend for others.
As a Christian who suffers with mental health problems myself, I find that my mind is drawn to the question – “So what if He did, does that make Him any less the Messiah or any less Holy or indeed any the less worthy to be used by God?”
And there within lies one of the difficulties with this whole issue does it not? The extremely fragile counterbalance between Christ’s deity and his humanness appears extremely impacted by anything which appears to emphasize or increase his humanness.
And yet there is another consideration that arises from this article, one which speaks directly into and challenges not Christ and His human qualities verses His Godly qualities in respect of any mental health, but with we believers and our human qualities versus our Christlike qualities in respect of mental health.
It calls into question our own individual and Church attitudes as believers, to the whole issue of mental illness, poor mental health and those who suffer from them. But then is that not the whole point?
The Revd Eva McIntyre makes the statement that “Many of the people we read about in Bible stories might today be considered as having mental health issues.” and asks “Would Jesus’ family maybe on occasion have said, “Cousin John is a bit odd, bless him!” when John the Baptist took to his eccentric style of life?”
And I for one can see some validity in this point, but would have to make the observation that just because someone’s actions do not fit within the ‘norm’ it doesn’t mean that they are suffering from mental health issues. And I would make the point that the very fact that these biblical characters were being used by God for supernatural purposes indeed places them outside of the ‘norm’.
But it is an interesting point isn’t it?
If indeed “many of the people we read about in the bible” did have what we today would consider to be mental health problems and God still used them, what does that say for the way we believers and especially the church currently responds to folk who do have mental health problems today?
See here’s the deal as far as I see it. We simply don’t know if those biblical characters of old did have mental health problems or not. And the truth is that, as far as I can see, there is not enough real evidence to support any suggestion of such beyond the realms of it being pure conjecture.
So the question then becomes an “IF” based question. “IF” they did have mental health problems and yet were still, as we know from the bible, used by God, then why are so many folk who do experience poor mental health today seemingly either too frightened to admit it within a church setting or, as seems all too often to be the case, being hurt and driven away from our churches when they do admit it?
And having asked that question I do feel the need, in the interest of openness and fairness to make a personal statement here.
I personally am very open about my mental health and have not to my knowledge at any time experienced anything other then love, understanding and acceptance from the leadership of the church that I currently attend. Likewise in terms of it’s members I have received similar love, understanding and acceptance apart from in one or two instances where opinions where questions about my mental health were asked in clumsy ways. But I would expect that from any group and after all we are all human and do all make mistakes.
Similarly in my previous fellowship where I was far more involved and was also involved in leadership, my mental health was not seen as any great obstacle and I was again met with love and understanding and acceptance in most things.
That having been said, sadly the same isn’t always true for everyone and there is without doubt a very real need for the kind of questions raised by this article as a result of Revd Eva McIntyre’s piece to be asked by each and everyone of and by our churches and fellowships.
I have to be honest here, whilst the headline of the article and indeed some of it’s content appears, to this writer, to have been manipulated for dramatic effect, there are some interesting points made in it and some interesting questions asked.
And let’s face it, it is high time that all churches prayerfully considered they way they respond to the whole question of mental health.
Does my mental health challenge my faith? Yes absolutely, and yes absolutely it challenges it in ways that lots of folk simply can’t understand. BUT the truth is that all of our walks are to some degree or another unique and we all face individual challenges and more than that, so much more than that, my faith also challenges my mental health and provides me with such a richness of security and strength in the face of that mental health and I for one praise God for that!