Some years ago the Center for Practical Bioethics, based in Kansas City, began a program called Sabbaths of Hope in collaboration with Mental Health America of the Heartland. Its goal is to help educate members of the clergy to identify and get help for people suffering from depression.
The problem of depression has not gone away. Indeed, my own pastor, Paul Rock, spoke about this last Sunday in one of his sermons in his "Stained and Broken" series.
Another pastor who is helping to bring this matter to more widespread public attention is Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church in California.
In fact, Warren and his wife Kay (pictured here) are focusing on a broad range of mental illnesses in the wake of the suicide a year ago of their 27-year-old son.
As the Sacramento Bee story to which I've linked you in the previous paragraph reports, "One in four Americans will experience mental illness in their lifetime, mostly in the form of anxieties or depression. One in 17 live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds."
But the story notes this: "Yet many evangelicals are outright hostile to psychiatry and the mental health profession. Almost half of evangelical, fundamentalist or born-again Christians believe that prayer alone is the answer for mental illness, according to a poll by Lifeway Research, an arm of Nashville-based Lifeway Christian Resources. To some, the voices heard by a schizophrenic are demons visiting a sinner, Sigmund Freud is anti-Christian, and psychology is an invasion of God’s territory."
Here's one more example of an anti-science bias that has roots in a literalistic reading of scripture, with the result that many people don't get the professional help they need.
Good for Warren for opposing this narrow thinking. There surely is a role for faith communities and faith itself to play in confronting mental illness of various kinds. But there's also a role for qualified mental health care professionals to play. The former does not make the latter unnecessary.
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ANOTHER CULTURE WAR LOSS
The blogger who wrote this piece says that "evangelicalism is losing a generation to the culture wars." And using World Vision's recent embarrassing flip-flop on treating homosexual employees equally, she may well be right. And, mainly, that would be a good thing, in the end.
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P.S.: Do you have my new book yet? It's Woodstock: A Story of Middle Americans, and I think you'll find it engaging. You can read about it here. If you want an autographed copy, e-mail me at email@example.com and I'll tell you how we can make that happen.
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ANOTHER P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter now is online at http://bit.ly/1oqrZre.