December 14, 2017

Theology, Depression and the Unsolvable Problem of the Right Church

I’ve written another essay (March of 08) on this topic called “The Happy Enough Protestant.” I recommend it highly, but it doesn’t deal with depression.

I am going to write rather directly to those of you who feel that you are experiencing some measure of mental anguish, anxiety and depression in regard to theology and, especially, the church. I have in mind, particularly, those who are tormented about the so-called “Search for the true Church.” I’ll be relating at least some of this to the subject of depression, which has been a major part of the menu here at IM this past week.

1. Depression has a variety of causes, from strictly bio-chemical to completely event related. There is no simple, one-note description of depression. If you are confused about what is depression, find a diagnosed and successfully treated person and let them describe to you what depression was like. Read a few accounts of depression. Realize it’s not just being down or feeling bad. It is the closing in of the mind, hope, and clarity. It is a kind of abyss and it doesn’t give up easily.

2. A particular person’s depression has a trigger (or triggers), and a route and a resolution (or resolutions.) All are part of depression, but each part is different for each person. Some triggers seem non-existent. Some are unfathomable. Some are obvious. Some resolutions come from treatment. Some out of nowhere. Don’t generalize from any one situation.

3. Some depressions come and go and are never cured. Some end in tragedy. Some come once and go away. You won’t know.

4. Pastors and Bible teachers (and bloggers) are not to be trusted as expert authorities on depression. See a licensed pastoral counselor and a medical doctor. (I am neither. If you write me a long letter describing your depression, I will tell you that 1) I’ve prayed for you and 2) go see a doctor.)

5. Is depression related to theology? A better question is this: Are persons with tendencies toward depression likely to get involved in theology? Oh yeah. Oh yeah. They get involved in church looking for love, acceptance, God, truth, community, help. All the big holes we all carry around. They bring their intellect into the arena of Bible teaching or preaching. They bring their heart into the church as community and experience. They take seriously what preachers and teachers say is serious and important. When someone says “the Bible teaches this,” or “the Church has always believed that…” they take it in. When depression comes- for whatever reasons- theology is going into the experience. GOD is a big word to someone who really believes that God matters in everything and that GOD is working through the church.

6. I think it’s also something like this: Some human beings are susceptible (in varying measures) to the “unsolvable puzzle” syndrome. This can happen in any discipline: math, music, medicine or theology. There are people that have to raise a perfect kid. There are people that have to have the perfect body. I heard Ron Block, banjo player for Allison Krauss, say that his perfectionism in the studio almost cost him his job with Union Station.

So there are people who get into predestination or various Biblical issues or some aspect of the mind of God or religious truth and they don’t ever solve the puzzle. It won’t cooperate. If they begin to associate that unsolved puzzle with their life, feelings, GOD, etc., then you can have a volatile mix laying the foundation for problems.

Notice that there are some people who are able to leave the questions of theology and “unsolvable puzzles” in the book and be perfectly happy. My father-in-law is a bright theologically and Biblically astute guy, but he can shut the book, or teach the lesson, give his view, accept that we aren’t going to answer all the questions before lunch and go back to work. He’s been a happy Baptist his whole like with no axes to grind at anyone else.

7. Look at the pages of intense apologists for a particular kind of tradition or denomination. Triablogue or Bryan Cross, for example. Now realize this: there are a percentage of people that are driving themselves into depression and anxiety hell because they aren’t that certain, that confident and that knowledgeable. There is a much larger section of the population that either don’t care, say “good for them,” or just don’t see the need. If you are in the first group, if you believe you need this level of knowledge and certainty to know for sure, for certain, for real that this is THE truth, THE absolute truth, THE truth from God, THE truth that answers the questions, then you are, in my view, a fairly high target for depression, obsession, anxiety and constant doubt and insecurity. Not necessarily, but higher than average, and I think our discussion this week bears that out.

8. You need to admit something: the voices you hear on the internet, in conferences, and in the bookstore are human beings with certain characteristics. They may be compulsive workaholics. They may be holy men of prayer. They may never sleep. They may be huge liars. They may have IQs of 170. They may have such low self-esteem that they can’t stop trying to prove their worth. They may be closet homosexuals trying to fight off the urges. They may be anointed of God. I don’t know….but I do know this: THEY AREN’T LIKE ME. I’m different. I’m me. I’m the person God made this way. I have a different set of motivations, sins, flaws, gifts and quirks.

This makes it pretty likely that I am never going to be as smooth as Keller. As arrogant as Driscoll. As productive as Witherington. As gracious as Challies. As smart as White. As confident as Macarthur. And they don’t blog/podcast as much as me:-)

The point is that the people selling you certainty or their brand of Christianity aren’t you. And those human differences make a huge difference. You may not be able to be that certain, etc. It’s just not you and won’t be. You will have to find another kind of happiness. If you want what is only in someone else, you’re headed down a road that isn’t healthy.

(BTW- there is a whole industry in most religions telling you that human factors don’t matter. That it’s all just doctrine. Bullxxxx. Look at the Reformed Baptists. Look at the Catholic apologists. Look at the LCMS stalwarts. Those aren’t “clumps” of similar personalities? That’s a forest and those are trees.)

9. Now, I want to get down to this matter of the One True Church. If you judge that you are a person who believes there is only one true denomination, then I believe you should check out the candidates from the RCC to the EC to the LCMS to the local Church of Christ (if you are in west Kentucky) and reduce your choices to the actual candidates. You simply don’t need to mess around with denominations that don’t believe there’s only one true franchise or that believe we are all part of the broken, fragmented body of Christ. If you are in a typical Baptist church and you really believe that Jesus made the successor of Peter the living authority, then go to the RCC…please. Whatever the issues are that are keeping you from doing that aren’t very important.

Now, if you say “I just don’t know….” you should keep reading.

10. I am a critical and analytical person. Send me to ten churches, and I will find ten things to like and ten things not to like at each one. I do not believe that any congregation is an expression of the one true church so much that there aren’t problems. But this is my nature. It’s EASY for me to see the brokenness and hard for me to see anyone’s claim to being the one, divine “it.”

Now, if I am convinced that one Denomination is right, my problem is going to be this: I still have to belong to a congregation, and a congregation is the place where the “essentials” are worked out in real life, not just in my head. So if I believe that the RCC has it right, I won’t be hanging out with B16 or Scott Hahn. I’ll be at Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, a fine congregation that doesn’t have a piano, that has congregational meetings that make me want to be Shinto and a priest who thinks a homily is practice for his missed career in stand-up. Oh yes, the Catechism is in the church library, but THIS is where I am a member, out here where no one knows what I’m even talking about.

If I believe the Southern Baptist Convention is the church Jesus started, then I’m clearly insane, but for the sake of the illustration…..here’s this wonderful statement of faith, and a great missions network, and Al Mohler and those fine Calvinistic Ascol boys. But at my church….doctrine has been replaced with “How to be a great parent” sermons, the deacons have fired the last three pastors in less than 4 years, the music is a cross between an 80’s metal band made up of fat 45 year old men and the senior adult choir singing from the 1956 hymnal. We haven’t baptized a convert since 1993. Our current pastor looks like Ryan Seacrest and the youth minister looks like the Mindfreak guy.

That’s your church. Oh sure, you can drive elsewhere and you can improve. (I drive two hours each way.) You can work for improvement. You can do all that stuff. But here’s my point: You chose the one true denomination, you still have to deal with your local church. It is the place you do or don’t hear the Bible. It’s the place you do or don’t start churches and do evangelism. It’s the place you are or are not taught the faith you read about on that great web site.

The search for the one true denomination will drive some of you into depression, especially if you can’t admit that no such church exists and that you may never be happy if you find it. That every church is a compromise. That they all require you to live with some tension. You are convinced the LCMS has it right doctrinally? Great. Been to a local LCMS church lately? It’s a dice roll. That’s not an indictment. That’s the grown up world and it’s true across the board.

11. In his book Is the Reformation Over? Mark Noll makes this point very clearly. When you get Protestant converts to the RCC to answer researcher’s questions, they have a list of things they miss that’s not short or insignificant. Tears are shed. The broken body of Christ has the better sacramental thinking in one place and the better missional/evangelistic ministries in another. It’s the real thing. You want to be depressed? Go down the rabbit hole of endless despair? Just walk into ANY church saying “This is going to be great,” and forget how far short we all fall, how broken the body is, how much we all contribute to that brokenness.

There is no paradise in the SBC, the EO, the RCC, the megachurch, Redeemer Presbyterian, Mars Hill or the house church in Frank Viola’s living room. We’re all still working on this thing. We are all experiencing the brokenness and our part in it. We are all holding onto some part of the treasure, but none of us have it all. (Though as I said, if you believe someone does, then reduce your choices and go there.)

My friend Phillip Winn at the BHT is a good example. When I first met him on line, he was a member or a large Charismatic megachurch. Over time, he decided his family needed something more catholic and evangelical, so today he is a leader at a conservative ECUSA church working for renewal in that denomination. But Phillip is passionate about Jesus. He knows the flaws of his church. He knows the contributions his churches have made to the good and bad of the unity/disunity in the body of Christ. He loves his church, but his love for Jesus is what has transcended all the other aspects of his journey. If one church has nurtured that journey more than another, that doesn’t mean one is all right and the other all wrong.

Phillip is off the treadmill of looking for the perfect church. As a believer, he’s made a choice and he’s experiencing the ministry of Jesus in and through the church….imperfectly.

12. If you are depressed over this to the point of despair or atheism, I would advise you to step back; step back to the place you can see the goodness of God and the simplicity of faith. Move forward only as you are able to experience God along the way. If you believe God is playing a game with you, hiding the truth and holding out the carrot of really knowing Jesus if you choose the right door, please don’t go further down that road. God is good. Jesus love you. All that God has for you is there in Jesus, available to all who trust in Jesus alone by faith.

Comments

  1. I find this truly helpful. I tell people that there is no perfect church or denomination. We have to trust God, decide to follow Jesus, serve others, and persevere. Sure, the “grass might look greener” at a megachurch, a congregation of another denomination, etc. Your point #12 puts it well.

  2. In my response to your previous post, “Spiritual Depression and the Search For the One True Church,” I said the contradiction of “I’m saved” with “My life doesn’t show it” leads to depression… but you’re right: In many cases, people begin with depression, turn to Jesus hoping that He’ll cure them, and when He doesn’t, they wonder if there’s anything to Him.

    My roommate, for example.

    And diagnosing him was delayed a bit by the fact that we’re pentecostals. We believe God can give us visions. The trouble is that he was having visions—which people in our church encouraged him to continue in—but his visions weren’t coming from God.

    Nor were they coming from the devil. They were coming from his condition. But you talk to many Christians and they’ll deny that psychology even is a third option. It’s either white or black, God or devil; and part of the reason some Christians walk around undiagnosed is ’cause their psychosis resembles God just enough. Or resembles someone’s idea of God, anyway: If someone’s got nothing but angry judgment roaring through their brain, they’ll think it’s Wrathful God rather than recognize that there’s no condemnation in Christ, especially in a holiness-focused church.

    Even so: A few of the pentecostals I know are also psychologists. But they didn’t catch it either. (Of course, they weren’t in any diagnostic position in my roommate’s life, so why would they?)

    Anyway, he’s getting therapy, he’s taking meds, and he’s slowly learning to sort out what’s God and what’s not. For now the “right” church, for him, is one that was less pentecostal and more skeptical about the voices in his head. Likewise the folks at my church have had a little wake-up call about spiritual versus psychological discernment. Thank God, we’ll all come out wiser for it.

  3. 4. Pastors and Bible teachers (and bloggers) are not to be trusted as expert authorities on depression. See a licensed pastoral counselor and a medical doctor. (I am neither. If you write me a long letter describing your depression, I will tell you that 1) I’ve prayed for you and 2) go see a doctor.)

    And my I add fellow christians – there is little more destructive than will meaning Christians who heard some pseudo theologian/expert on “Christian” radio and now knows what you need to do (usually some combination of trust/pray, but God forbid you take any medication).

    Not that I am bitter about it……

  4. “All that God has for you is there in Jesus, available to all who trust in Jesus alone by faith.”

    Amen and amen and amen!!!

  5. Thank you so much for posting this. For those of us who are unable to “leave the questions of theology and “unsolvable puzzles” in the book and be perfectly happy” this post is a comfort.

    We often speak of the brokeness of the human race but don’t see that every church is built on each others frailties…bound yes in the strength of the Lord, strengthened yes in the call of Christ…but still , in the end, a mass of imperfect yet redeemed souls.

    I greatly enjoy and am challenged by your posts. I am so glad I found you!

  6. Christopher Lake says:

    Every theology has tensions that are not completely resolvable before the bar of human logic (including my own as a Calvinist). Every church has problems, as they are full of sinners (including me, the chief!)! Accept these truths, and you will have at least part of the answer to peace.

  7. Thanks, iMonk. Wise, mature, realistic, pastoral, and truly helpful. Your words exemplify what pastors ought to be doing at the local level, rather than “running churches” and trying to market theirs as the only place to be.

  8. “Now, if I am convinced that one Denomination is right, my problem is going to be this: I still have to belong to a congregation, and a congregation is the place where the “essentials” are worked out in real life, not just in my head.”

    Oh, yes. By God, yes. We all have our model of the perfect church in our heads; it’s when we walk in the door that the fun starts. And there probably never has been the absolute perfect church on this earth.

    The Last Supper? Guy named Judas sitting at the table, remember? Calvary? All the rest ran away and only John and the women stuck around. Easter? Thomas telling the rest of them “Are you guys nuts? I won’t believe this crazy story unless I see it for myself.” Pentecost? The onlookers saying “Boy, these guys have been hitting the bottle early!”. Paul? Yes, read about the wonderful, perfectly obedient, completely well-instructed congregations Paul had to deal with 🙂

  9. Thank you-I need the reminder and exhortation-I’ve been avoiding committment to a local church -I needed to be reminded that there will only be perfection of fellowship on the other side of the grave. Sometimes ones heart get so bruised that leaving a church is like leaving a marriage-theology is one thing but relationships can kill hope, faith and joy in the local church as much as any “bad” theology. Sin really sucks and it’s not left at the door of the church-it dances down the center aisle sometimes.

  10. “(BTW- there is a whole industry in most religions telling you that human factors don’t matter. That it’s all just doctrine. Bullxxxx. Look at the Reformed Baptists. Look at the Catholic apologists. Look at the LCMS stalwarts. Those aren’t “clumps” of similar personalities? That’s a forest and those are trees.)”

    Thank you for stating the obvious. It needs to be talked about. It can be crushing to leave this types of churches, because you are “leaving the faith.” It is good and healthy to keep this stuff in perspective. Too much “rightness” can actually be abuse.

  11. Michael,
    God bless you, sir. I have never understood why it seems like I have spent everywaking hour of my adult life trying to untangle the “unsolvable puzzle” of the church, and other people (more godly than I) sleep soundly every night.
    I hope I can meet you and sit down and have a conversation some day.
    Don’t ever doubt that you are doing a world of good with your writing!

  12. Michael I think you did a very good job on this topic, one that would be worthy of a published journal article.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the grand disillusionment with Evangelicalism, at least on an emotional level, often follows a similar pattern as Kubler-Ross model in acceptance of death itself. That would include corresponding levels of; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

    So, the Denial phase is where you keep pretending the Emperor IS wearing clothes, as you are being duped by wonderful Christian leaders, 5 steps to godliness programs, 7 methods of righteous living, etc.

    The anger comes where you finally realized you were being duped (the wonderful Christian leader was in bed with the devil if not some friend’s wife). Or, on the other-hand, when you realize that the “steps,” which you’ve followed faithfully didn’t work for you, and it is YOU who is in bed with somebody, or some bad trait.

    The Bargaining phase, is where you start out on this insatiable expedition to find the right leader, the right theology, the right (if not perfect, at least ideal) church, or right methods. The bargaining goes, “If only I can find the right place, then I will finally have peace with God and life will be swell.”

    When that fails, then the depression comes in and it can be hell. The paths out of that abyss can be many, including agnosticism, suicide, pantheism or others.

    I really think, only because I’ve been on my journey for two decades, that I’m in the acceptance phase. I know the Fall of Adam much better now and I know I will never find the ideal, either in others or myself. But I do know, much better, the mercy and grace of Christ that covers the fallible.

    I can still get frustrated about the particulars imperfections of my church or my . . . self. I can still get depressed, over an assortment of triggers. But I don’t find myself in the despair over the previous things like I did years ago.

  13. I find myself curiously agreeing and disagreeing with you. But, you are absolutely correct that eventually your Christianity has to work itself out in a certain place at a certain time. And, regardless of where you end up, it will have problems. In fact, its very imperfection may be precisely what your personal life needs in order to deepen in the knowledge of God. Yes, tribulation worketh patience . . . leading to the perfect man.

  14. Great post! It all makes sense now… sort of.
    Every church I go to seems to better than the previous… Until you get to know them.

    Once the flaws are more apparent, and the infatuation wears off, then things can start to feel like they might fall apart. Praise God for the times that make it so clear how deeply we need Him and Him alone!

    Oh yeah, Him and christian aerobics. What is a church without that?

  15. In the classic western, Lonesome Dove, there is a great line that Capt Agustus McCrea tells Lori, the very depressed workin’ girl. Her life has fallen apart in attempt to get to San Francisco, which is probably her version of the true church. Gus kindly explains, “Lori darlin’, life in San Francisco is still just life.”

    And just like cities, some churches are older,or richer, or better planned, or have better trash pickup, or better parks, and better views. Some have earthquakes like SF too.

  16. Thank you for sharing this great post!

  17. Yes, Michael — can I call you Michael, since, in my opinion, that is your name 🙂 — (I’m Chuck, btw, I do believe ….)

    Great post. Reminds me of why I buy Pepsi instead of Coke or Royal Crown — I just like it better. But if I’m in a fast food joint that doesn’t have Pepsi, I get the meal with a medium Coke and I don’t even notice. I don’t even know if it’s something from my past that is triggered by logos or brand names or I really like the taste better. I know that I stopped buying Heinz ketchup 9unless it’s on sale, of course) because it was something of a religion in my dysfunctional household (where we believed we had no religion, unlike everybody else we knew) — telling my mother that I liked the Hunts ketchup better at the devout Catholic household of my best friend was a serious betrayal — never said that again.

    One thing, im — “If you are in a typical Baptist church and you really believe that Jesus made the successor of Peter the living authority, then go to the RCC…please. Whatever the issues are that are keeping you from doing that aren’t very important.”

    I can’t imagine someone converting to the RCC for that reason alone, or even as a major influence.

  18. Best observation about depression/theology/church/Christianity I’ve read or heard. Thanks.

  19. A week or two ago, in another conversation, I mentioned that I’m not much of a denominationalist, and you’ve covered most of my reasons why, Michael.

    I’m grateful to my parents (mother, particularly) who taught a few things about the church that help keep me in my pew:

    1. We are the church; this means that when I am mad at the church, hurt by the church, disappointed in the church — part of my response has to be to fix what I can (and insert the Serenity Prayer here).

    2. The church is made up of people

    3. People are sinners

    4. Although it’s important to find a congregation/denomination where you fit — church hopping isn’t healthy, because see points 1, 2, 3 and 1 again and again.

    I don’t have clinical depression (although close family members have/do), but I do have a panic disorder. I tried for a long time to self-treat without medication, but I was becoming agoraphobic. My pastor’s wife (who is also a nurse), bless her, encouraged me to talk to my doctor, but listened to my reasons why I wasn’t, and then prayed with and for me, talked to me. When my condition worsened, she finally told me when she thought I should talk to my doctor.

    Other things happened (I got pneumonia) that took me to my doctor’s office, and I finally gave medication a test run. It was a failure. I gave it a second chance, and it was successful. And although it hasn’t cured all those sinners I have to endure in fellowship (kidding here, I’m their chief), treating my medical condition has brought perspective back to my life, and I am able to worship and fellowship without wanting to run out of the church (at least until the topic of politics comes up; it’s medication, not a miracle). 😉

    I think we all accept in one way or another that the small-c catholic church is broken, if for no other reason that we’re divided. Even those of us who are from traditions which profess to be the true or best expression of Christ’s body on earth know that all who profess Jesus as Lord should be united, and we see all the hurdles between us and that goal.

    I think just as God uses individuals in and despite our brokenness, he uses the worldwide body of Christ in and despite its brokenness. So…there shouldn’t be all these rooms off the hallway — but we made them, and because God is infinite, if we truly seek him, he will meet us where we are. He won’t leave us how we are, and he may not even leave us where we are, but he wants us to seek him. He doesn’t play games with us.

    I now have to go to my broken church for both the service and the annual business meeting (!!!). I’m going to go take my pill (actually today, I’ll take 2) and get ready. When I come back, if I have time, I want to tell you about the associate pastor who once told us that if people got enough of the right kind of fellowship, those with depression wouldn’t need medication. No. Really.

    Peace.

  20. Also? I’m going to keep this in my head when I need a laugh, today:

    If I believe the Southern Baptist Convention is the church Jesus started, then I’m clearly insane

    …(only I’ll be inserting the name of my own denomination, there).

  21. It seems to me that Jesus came into this life proclaiming the Good News of salvation and the unconditional love of God for all:

    The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to preach good news to the poor.
    He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
    to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. Luke2:18-19

    Every denomination adds its own “buts” to this unconditional proclamation.

    Considering all the serious problems that this causes for God’s beloved poor, imprisoned, blind and oppressed, I think we’d all better watch our “buts” … He’s coming back ….

  22. Back in September, you reviewed Saving Paradise which I am reading now. Agree with all or not, and probably no one will swallow everything, but the authors do a good job of showing changes over the years in the life of the church. Anyone today claiming to be a NT or 1st century Christian probably has no clue what that means. I’m simply saying that reading some church or even denominationl history gives some much needed perspective.

  23. Michael,
    “If you believe God is playing a game with you, hiding the truth and holding out the carrot of really knowing Jesus if you choose the right door, please don’t go further down that road. God is good. Jesus love you. All that God has for you is there in Jesus, available to all who trust in Jesus alone by faith.”
    I really needed to hear that.

    Thank you for this, and all the time you’ve put into discussing similar issues; this is truly helpful to me, as a person who has been tormented over the last few years by the “truth claims” of the RCC.

  24. iMonk, you may not be a liscensed counselor, but you’ve done a lot for my sanity, through this post and many others. Keep writing, and as a previous commenter said, get this published. The wider Christian subculture needs to be challenged with these thoughts.

  25. iMonk, I wanted to let you know that I read this article and had a good chuckle, a good think, and a good eye-roll. In other words, well done.

    😉

  26. J. Jenkins says:

    If you want the right answer, you have to ask the right question: is anything important in a church other than whether it teaches what Christ taught?

    If I want a place to pursue my passion for justice, maybe I’ll be Episcopalian or Catholic, depending on my politics. If I want a better life, Rick Warren or Joel Osteen will tell me what I need to do. If I’m looking for aesthetics, I can find high church beauty (orthodox) and more plebian forms (megachurch). If you want a church with no “problems” then try Unitarianism.

    I appreciated many of these things, and dabbled in these churches (except Unitarianism), but I kept coming back to doctrine. I enjoyed evangelical churches but could not get past their attempts to domesticate Christ’s mysterious words: “This is my body” (really? yes!) and “go and baptize” (why, what does it do? Jesus commanded it and says it saves!) Catholics deny Christ’s assurances of salvation, which I could not survive without, and (frighteningly) make my efforts matter to my fate. I could understand Orthodox about as well as I can Buddhism.

    Ultimately, because of the question I was asking, what church teaches what Christ taught, I wound up where I last expected to: the place I had been baptized and confirmed: the LCMS. Of all the things I’m thankful for about the LCMS, the most important is that it taught me to ask the right question.

    I began to see political issues as not very important to the realm of the church, gave up trying to figure out single predestination and the other Biblical paradoxes, grew to appreciate the single-minded focus on pure doctrine, and found beauty in the theology of the cross. Confessional Lutherans aren’t much fun sometimes, but I’m not at church because I like to socialize with the people there. I’m there because I’ll hear Christ’s assurance of his love and receive his sacraments.

    Nothing seems important enough to get me too down after that.

  27. iMonk, I want to thank you for posting this. It illuminates to me some personal discouragement I go through as a pastor.

    Before I was the lead pastor, I saw the gap between where the church is and where it should be, but it didn’t bother me that much. But when I became the pastor that changed. Partly because I began to think about what church could be like in all its beauty, truth and justice. But also because I assumed I had a large part of closing that gap. It IS frustrating to see the promised land, but, because of your own weaknesses as a leader, not be able to bring God’s people to that land.

    I still know I do have a lot of responsibility in this regard. But your post helped me to see and enjoy where we are.

    Thanks

  28. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    But you talk to many Christians and they’ll deny that psychology even is a third option. It’s either white or black, God or devil; and part of the reason some Christians walk around undiagnosed is ’cause their psychosis resembles God just enough. Or resembles someone’s idea of God, anyway… — K W Leslie

    We had a spectacular example of that out here in SoCal some 15-20 years ago. Remember the guy in the rainbow fright wig who’d hold up this “John 3:16” sign for the media cameras? He was the darling of Christian Media for his “Witnessing (TM)”, inspiration for Steve Taylor’s “Bannerman”, spoofed in crowd scenes from Saturday Night Live to The Simpsons, and given his own entry on the Kooks Museum website. At first, an eccentric turned semi-accidental celebrity.

    His career came to an end in 1992, when after planting smoke and stink bombs at various places he ended up the perp in a God-Told-Me-To attempted-kidnapping-turned-hostage-situation on an upper floor of what was then the Los Angeles Airport Hyatt. (Just this morning, I drove by that very hotel, dropping someone off at the airport.)

    Took a few hours before the LAPD SWAT team dug him out of there, with the surrealistic touches of demands to Witness The End Is Nigh on broadcast media and Bible verses sprayed on bedsheets and hung out the windows of the room where he was holding a hotel maid hostage.

    After his bust and conviction, there was a lot of hot air on Christian media about “PERSECUTION!!!” I asked then and still ask now how or why nobody noticed this guy going round the bend until he finally snapped completely. He had to have had associates — friends, pastor, brothers-in-Christ — who should have noticed him going from eccentric to crazy. Was it that as he was losing it, he said all the right Christianese things? Quoted the right chapters and verses? Put enough God-talk into his craziness that everybody mistook his crazy-talk for the Holy Spirit?

  29. I realize i’m a bit late to the conversation, but nonetheless, it was very timely for me (just subscribed to your blog today)… particularly the part (!) about depression and “figuring things out”. I actually just blogged about this a couple weeks ago after having somewhat of a theology-induced crash at the end of last semester (I’m an MDiv student at TEDS). Anyway, you’re definitely on to something… you’re finger’s on me anyhow, and it’s good to know someone ‘gets it’. Stop over sometime and chat.

    Shalom,

    matt

  30. Very well put. Someone once said if you did find the perfect church here on earth that you would ruin it as soon as you stepped through the door.

    Bottom line, we need to change ourselves looking only to Jesus and no other for our example. As long as the Pastor preaches the truth from the Bible and the whole Bible at that we should be able to tough out the non-essentials. But in the end it is all about what we personally did when it came to Jesus and His lordship of our lives.

  31. This is probably the first comforting thing I have read about in a long time to alleviate my fears and feelings of hopelessness about not being in the church of Christ anymore.

    I have longings to be in it, but I have experienced so much manipulation and emotional blackmailing from the elders and my ex-husband who used church doctrine to put me into submission until I finally got a restraining order put against him. He still goes to that church of Christ, spreading awful stories about me, making me look like the “bad guy.” He thinks that just because he is in the church, he can do all sorts of sinful and evil things outside church life and still be in God’s mercy for salvation.

    My low thoughts lie in these issues, mainly. Outside of religion, I have a wonderful independent life with a bubbling career and wonderful children I have been blessed with. But my religious state has put me in a situation where I feel that I am condemned to eternal damnation, no matter how good I am, and no matter where I go to worship GOD, because these “bandaid” churches only last for so long.

    What is a person like me to do, really?

  32. As a spirit-filled born again Christian I battle constantly with depression and being a Christian. After reading this article and the responses, I would like to share a little which I hope is of encouragement.
    I am currently doing Theological Studies and know God’s word, the Bible, quite well. I know that despite how I feel, God loves me and I am precious in His sight. I also know that if it wasn’t for God, I would not be here because it has been Him that has kept me going, even in my darkest times.
    I don’t understand why I suffer from depression, including suicidal, but I know that I need to trust God to get me through. My involvement with my local church has been like a physical sign of God’s love, as the friends that I have there love me and accept me as I am and try to help as much as they are able.
    As Christians, we need to find a church in which to Fellowship as we are instructed to be Jesus. Which church is best? The one where the people live out their faith and love for God through their ministry to all who enter the doors of that church. Also a church who will not treat a depressed person like a leper as I know some churches do.
    Above all else, learn to love and accept yourself as God loves and accepts you as you are. (this is as much for me as anyone!)