Differentiation and Emotional Cut-offs

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Kamaljith K V. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Kamaljith K V. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Sarah Henderson’s blog Feminist in Spite of Them. It was originally published on her blog on September 15, 2013.

Murray Bowen’s theories on differentiation of self and emotional cut-offs provide an excellent lens for viewing the complex relationships that exist between family members who were raised in quiverfull and Christian patriarchal families. In such situations, family roles are artificially skewed by religious influence and the necessity for sibling-parenting due to sheer numbers in the family.

Bowen’s theory on differentiation of self describes how people are inherently dependent on each other. At the same time, each individual needs to balance how much to conform to a group for acceptance (a universal need) and to what extent to be emotionally independent in order to deal with unavoidable conflict without having to take sides or dissolve emotionally. (You can read more about Bowen’s theory here.)

Bowen’s theory of emotional cutoff describes how sometimes people with complex relationships in their families may choose to create distance from family members or declare a permanent separation from them. The theory explains that this is not always a good solution because there are patterns of relationships that are formed in childhood that dictate how the individual relates to new people in life, because they may look to new people to fill emotional roles that are inappropriate to the relationship.

I left my quiverfull family when I was 17. I was the oldest daughter (second child) of nine. For a while I remained in contact with many of the people who contributed to the safety of the patriarchal environment, including my father and leaders of the church he attended.

Acceptance in a group is a universal need, but a problem arises when the cost is too great.

I had not really found a new group yet at this point, but the cost of acceptance in the former group was to return home and submit to my father. That was not an option for me.

*****

Conflict happens, it is unavoidable in order to take part in social connections. By conflict I do not mean drama or arguments. However, not everyone will agree with everyone else. Thus there needs to be a way of dealing with this between friends or loved ones without meltdowns and emotional cut-offs, simply because instituting an emotional cut-off when the going gets rough is not a sustainable method of remaining in social connections. Even if you were surrounded by people who were willing and able to float in and out of contact on a whim related to an emotional incident, at some point a complete lack of trust will be reached and one side will not be willing to reconnect.

If a person flees from painful social and family connections to others, they will come to new relationships with a greater emotional need than is typical in a friendship. They may find others who are also looking to fill that greater emotional need in themselves, which is how co-dependent relationships are formed. This is also not a good solution because co-dependence will eventually harm someone, whether one side moves to a new co-dependent relationship and drops the other, or if they sink too far into their emotional relationship to the detriment of their own mental health.

The goal of differentiation is to avoid emotional cut-off but also stay away from inappropriate emotional connection while remaining in acceptance in a group.

For me when I left the patriarchal system, I had to find a new social group to obtain acceptance from, while learning how to avoid the pitfall of an inappropriate emotional connection. Those inappropriate connections did take place, but eventually I learned what was happening and how to avoid it.

Differentiation means being able to be a whole person in spite of what is going on for other people or what negative stimulus is experienced.

There is a saying that other people are not responsible for how you feel. This does not mean that people can treat each other poorly by any means, and if they are involved in a social contract that states that they will treat each other well, they are bound by that contract. Triggers and negative stimulus will happen all the time in life; it is impossible to exist in a safe vacuum without these. The bottom line though, is that you are responsible for how a trigger makes you react. Everyone is at a different place, and there cannot be an expectation that everyone will be able to take responsibility all the time. Self-awareness and growth takes time, and people deserve the help that is required to get there.

When I was working on my social work degree, I provided counseling to women who had experienced domestic violence. This was obviously a very triggering experience for me, but I was working with two very wise women who suggested that rather than hide from what was triggering me, I actively face those triggers and deconstruct them. This means that rather than dissolve emotionally when I heard a sad situation, I perform my job in that room and help the survivor process what had happened, and then later when I became sad about it, acknowledge why I was feeling sad, that it was because something happened to them and I could relate to it, instead of just feeling sad and then taking that sadness into other relationships.

There are a very large number of intricate relationships in my family. Some of us do not talk at all. Some of the siblings talk rarely. I have made it clear to a few of my siblings that if they have something that they would like to talk about, they can text me and let me know what they would like to discuss and we can do that, but that I will not take surprise phone calls from them. Interestingly, the siblings I have that arrangement with do not text and let me know when they want to discuss something. They try to call and I let it go to voicemail, and they do not leave voicemails. They just try again and again, and I usually send a text asking what is going on, and get no response.

I have one sibling I get along very well with. We do not share exactly the same views on everything, but we certainly respect each other’s right to hold different views. We spend time together but respect each other’s space. We have fun times but only discuss the past when we both agree to do so. I have another sibling who has quite a different lifestyle than I do, but we still get along. We discuss what is different about our views without the intention of getting the other to change her mind. We do not spend much time together because our different lifestyles put us on such different time tables and locations that it is rarely possible.

I have another sibling with which I have a more confusing relationship, and we have a relationship when she wants one. Currently she does not, although she didn’t end a relationship in a dramatic fashion, more so she faded out of my life. I have three younger siblings who still live with my mother. I do not see the two little brothers much because I do not go to my mother’s house. I do see my youngest sister on a regular basis, and we have a good relationship.

My relationship with my mother is complex; I am not spending social time with her. I do not have a social relationship with my father. On the few occasions I have seen him in the last several years, I have taken a moment to make sure he knows I think he is an abhorrent human being. I’m not loud about it, but he knows. I have refused opportunities to meet with him in the past several years to discuss our relationship, and he doesn’t try anymore. As far as I know, it has been quite some time since he has even mentioned my existence to anyone. I have sometimes seen him around town without talking to him.

In the past, I would have described some of these relationships differently. Some of what happens in these relationships is triggering. However, I believe that I am responsible for how I feel after interactions with my family. I don’t think I always was responsible. I had to learn that I was responsible and learn how to take care of my own emotions, so there was a time that I was not responsible. There is also the chance that at some point there will be such an overwhelming amount of negative events and triggers that I could lose responsibility for a while. However now that I know, I am still responsible to eventually move on or to get help to do so.

People need acceptance, and people need other people. They need to take part in a social contract where they receive help and help others. It facilitates such relationships if they can take responsibility for their own emotions and be whole people in spite of what happens. No one can be perfect all the time and shouldn’t feel pressured to try to be perfect. People can work toward emotional independence and an ability to stand firm in their own heads even when everyone around them is doing something that they shouldn’t.

Learning about yourself is a powerful enterprise.

When A Stay-At-Home Daughter Rebels: Reumah’s Story, Part One

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Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Reumah” is a pseudonym.

Part One: Return of the Daughters

My parents represented typical suburbia during my early child hood; my Dad with his upper middle class corporate job, and my Mom puttering around the house taking care of us and making our lives happy and healthy.   We had the brick three bedroom ranch-style home you see in the magazines; two or three cars in the garage, money in the bank, a good circle of friends, and a cute little church with a steeple we attended religiously on Sunday mornings.  Church services were always followed by lazy afternoons where my Dad grilled out on the back porch while we children played in the fading sunlight.

My parents had always been good Christian people. They raised us in the church, took us to Sunday school, taught us about Jesus and the Bible at home.  Christianity was a fundamental pillar of my early childhood. It fit comfortably into our lives, right along with everything else we held dear.  But sometime around my eleventh birthday, my parents transitioned from mainstream Christianity towards something more radical, conservative, and polarizing.

My parents became exposed to the teachings of organizations and individuals such as Doug Phillips (Vision Forum), Bill Gothard (IBLP), Geoff Botkin (Western Conservatory), and Mike & Debi Pearl (No Greater Joy). On the surface, these people seemed like admirable champions for morality, truth, and wholesome family values.  What could be better? My parents wholeheartedly subscribed to their teachings, and eventually steered the direction of our family away from mainstream Christianity and into the ditch of these extreme right wing fundamentalists.

These organizations promised the world if you followed their “Biblical” teachings; perfect families, obedient children, protected daughters, reprieve from all heartbreak, answers to every problem you could imagine. These God-like men fiercely taught the tenets of patriarchy; they eschewed all forms of feminism; paraded the perfection of male authority and total female submission; warned of the great dangers of the world, and lauded those who welcome as many children as humanly possible into their families.  After all, we were at war with the culture, and we needed to out-number them.

We left our mainstream church with the friendly steeple and started a “home church” with two or three families who felt the same way as my parents did. Home church consisted of singing hymns at home on our couch, while one of the fathers “preached” on the dangers of the world and how we needed to be protected from it lest we be corrupted.  Gender roles were strongly emphasized and the liberal agenda was held up as the devil of our age; something we needed to defeat lest the homosexuals, abortionists, feminists, and the government take over the world.

But my 11 year old mind couldn’t wrap around these concepts.  All I knew was that my parents were happy; they’d found the answer to their problems and the solution to all future familial woes. They taught us the principles they believed in, and as children we knew no different.

 We took to this new patriarchal fundamentalist culture like bees to honey; it was easy, we knew what the rules were, and it made us feel better than the rest of the lazy Christians our friends talked about.

But little did I know where these teachings and philosophies would lead our family, my parents, and myself.  How could I have known? I was just a kid, doing what I was told and learning what I was taught by my well-meaning parents.  How could I have foreseen the heartache, the lost time, the lost opportunities, the emotional bondage, and the dreams I would have taken from me before they even had a chance to develop?

Fast forward to 2008 – my excitement was palpable as I unwrapped the most recent birthday gift from my well-meaning parents; Vision Forum’s newest DVD release “Return of the Daughters” promoting Biblical womanhood and a return to the supposed woman’s role in the home.  I turned over the shiny DVD and read the beautifully crafted summary on the back;

“This highly-controversial documentary will take viewers into the homes of several young women who have dared to defy today’s anti-family culture in pursuit of a biblical approach to daughter hood, using their in-between years to pioneer a new culture of strength and dignity, and to rebuild Western Civilization, starting with the culture of the home.”

Christian patriarchy taught that the woman’s role was in the home.  Her purpose in life was to further the vision of her husband by supporting and obeying him.  Women were to be under the protection and authority of their father until they married, and the time after high school graduation didn’t include college or jobs outside the home. These were deadly distractions that would only corrupt our innocent minds and hearts with feminism and the liberal agenda.

To my innocent and sheltered sixteen year old mind, this sounded like the ultimate ideal. Controversial? Check. Counter cultural? Check. Revolutionary? Check. These ideas all sounded so exciting to me, post high school and bored as I was.

After graduating from high school at the age of seventeen, I hadn’t given college a second thought. According to the teachings of Christian patriarchy, college was no place for the Godly woman. Modern day institutions of higher learning, I was taught, were bastions of liberal thought and hatred for God, and no good could ever come of me leaving my father’s protection for such a place. If higher education was to even be considered, online classes in herbalism, nursing, teaching, or other such womanly arts were the only options I had available to me. But I was far from being deprived by my parents – I’d been taught these ideals for so long that I was the one vehemently asserting that I would never attend college.

My place was at home, waiting for Prince Charming to come along and sweep me off my feet.

So, there I was; post home school high school, insanely bored, and more sure of what NOT to do with my life than what TO do with it. The Botkins’ revolutionary documentary Return of the Daughters was just the fanatical fodder I needed to fuel my ever increasing disdain for modern ideals of the woman.

By this time, we’d joined an actual church that sadly subscribed to all the same beliefs as my parents. One Sunday, in lieu of a sermon, this stomach churning documentary was shown in church. Looking back, the thought of all the little girls (and boys) sitting in those pews watching a film teaching them that girls weren’t mean for education, experience, or college life makes me sick to my stomach. But back then, it was the norm. I watched in awe as my female ideals, Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, looked into the camera with their poised grown up demeanor and proclaimed their truth; that feminism was all a lie. An evil ploy by secular humanists to destroy the family and take women away from their God given sphere. A Communist plot to chip away at the fabric of Christian society. That by going to college, holding down jobs, and leaving our father’s protection, we were unwittingly playing right into their hands and helping them destroy God’s design for families. And what’s worse, is it all sounded so plausible. So righteous. So moral. And I ate up every word.

As a home schooled sheltered child, I’d never been exposed to anything different. Anything resembling a feminist idea had been quickly removed from our home, and we’d been consistently taught that women were to be in submission to men. That by submitting to our father, we were practicing for the day when we would be submitting to our future husband. According to the Bible, our job was to support and obey our husband. Our sphere was the home; cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and raising the children while our male authority figure went out to do battle with the real world. Anything not directly supporting this God given mission, we were told, was only the world’s attempt to draw our attention away from our purpose in life.

With this background, I had no trouble swallowing what Anna Sophia and Elizabeth Botkin were all too eager to dish out. In their documentary, they portrayed graceful young women in their early twenties busily staying at home helping their mothers, teaching their young siblings, cooking delicious dinners for daddy, and sewing modest clothing just like the Proverbs 31 woman.

They made it all look so important. So purposeful. Godly women were submissive. Godly women were graceful and modest. Godly women respected and revered their fathers. Godly women spent their days being a servant to their family, without thought to their own wants or desires. And one day, if we were Godly enough and obedient enough, we would be rewarded with a husband of our own – the ultimate goal for a stay-at-home daughter.

I embraced my mission in life vehemently. I cooked, cleaned, and ironed with a passion. I crocheted blankets, sewed skirts, baked bread, copied recipes for my own collection, and washed dishes. After all, I didn’t have to worry about where to go to college, or how to survive on my own as an independent woman. I didn’t have to worry about finding a job, or picking a career. Money wasn’t my problem…..I would be provided for by my future husband.

But my personal version of paradise wouldn’t last.

I was trapped.

Part Two >

How Modesty Teachings Hurt Men, Too

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on June 26, 2013 and is modified for HA.

Someone posted this article today on Facebook, from a famous Christian author and blogger:

If Only She Knew ~ Thoughts On Modesty

I read this against my better judgment and honestly, I’m sitting here furious. I have said for years that boys in conservative Christian homes are conditioned to struggle with “modesty” and everyday normal things regarding female bodies. That they are programmed to see non-erotic body parts as erotic. This article is the perfect example of that. This poor boy, and every boy like him have been set up by their parents for a lifetime of failure and shame. Then they have the audacity to blame all the women in the world for their terrible parenting. I’m just so angry at this type of spiritual abuse and bondage!

Here’s how the article starts out:

“Avert your eyes, Son. His dad started saying it to him from the youngest age – when he was only a little boy. Might have been an alluring commercial while watching the ballgame. Or a billboard while driving down the highway. A pop-up on the computer screen. As parents, we had purposed to teach him purity from the beginning.  

Temptation can be found anywhere. Even in Target. Target? Yeah, I know. That’s what I thought too. Until one day we popped in to pick up some flip-flops for the summer and I remarked how he kept bumping into things. What is your problem, Son?? “I’m just looking down, Mom,” And with a nod, he indicated the ads placed strategically above us. Billboards for the lingerie department. Yikes. I’d not seen them. “

I’ve written about how modesty teachings enslave women, well this is the perfect example of how they enslave men too. The first few sentences infuriated and shocked me. They created their son’s struggles. They conditioned and brain-washed him to think there was something wrong with seeing females in clothing they didn’t approve of. That looking at a woman is somehow shameful. They did that to their son and they are patting themselves on the back for it. They didn’t teach him “purity”, they taught him shame and objectification of women.  They taught him that natural attraction is something to feel guilty about and be avoided at all costs. They should be ashamed of themselves. They have set their son up for failure, and now he is going to be under such a heavy burden his entire life for things that are not wrong. He’s going to struggle with “sins” that aren’t sins but that he’s been brainwashed to think are “impurity”. The sight of normal American women all around him is going to send him into such a frenzy of natural emotion and arousal that he’s not going to know how to function in the real world. This poor boy! I cannot imagine doing anything that unhealthy to my sons.

Oh, but it gets worse:

“It was a hot July day and we all packed up and headed out for fun and fellowship with a bunch of other believers. Picnic blankets, cold watermelon, and squirt guns. It was promising to be a great day. 

So I was surprised to see our oldest son hanging back from the festivities. He’s an outgoing guy and usually one of the first out there mixing it up. Except not this time. He stayed close to our small spot and played with his little brothers instead. What is your problem, Son?? 

He hesitated for a moment. Then answered, “Mom, I don’t know what to do. Dad’s taught me to ‘avert my eyes’, but there doesn’t seem anywhere I can turn here.”

Nowhere he can safely look. Because women in swimsuits and summer clothes are everywhere and he’s had it drilled into him from a tender young age that women in swimsuits are off-limits, tantalizing, and “impure”. This poor boy cannot even go swimming or play outside because of his parent’s brain-washing. How is this “purity”? It isn’t. It’s heaping guilt and legalism on a child’s head and causing untold confusion. This isn’t healthy. This is so very toxic. He’s just a little boy. Yet his innocence is being trampled into the ground.

My cousin Matt said this when he read this article:

“He [the boy in the story] wouldn’t have a problem with it if his parents didn’t make it a big deal. If they approached sexual attraction as a normal thing, and taught him how to control his actions, he wouldn’t have to live in fear of seeing bare skin. Now, it seems like he is afraid to even go out in public, because of all the eye snares around him. Its almost as if he – or his mother, at least – expect girls to cover up for her son’s sake, as if the world revolved around him. 

If he was in the real world, you know, the one that inhabits the spaces around his stifling mother and father, then he would find that real men really don’t worry about bare skin. Those of us who control our desires know it is not wrong to look or enjoy the sight of a beautiful woman. We also don’t expect them to serve us because we know they aren’t the temptresses this mother is insinuating that they are. 

What he needs is for the walls of his little world to come crashing down. People like his parents think they are helping him walk in victory, but it isn’t victory when you are afraid of the world around you. It isn’t victory when you demonize something God created: beauty in a woman. It trivializes His creation. It makes it seem as if women are there to set you up for failure. 

What’s wrong is not the world around him, but the world in which he lives. Open your eyes, son, look up. Nothing says you have to look at the lingerie ad, but you won’t go to hell for lingering a second longer on it. Look at it and move on. It is part of the world around you. Your urges are part of your world. Your desires are part of your world. They aren’t your whole world, as your mother seems to emphasize.” 

In essence, these parents are crippling their son. There’s no way around that. And this mother is encouraging other mothers to cripple their son and to see all women as objects of temptation.  Not to mention using emotionalism and spiritual-sounding language to urge all women to cater to her dysfunction. This is a glaring example of spiritual and psychological abuse.

I’m not going to post the rest. It’s an appeal to emotion that ends up blaming all the women in the world for this boy’s and every good boy’s “struggles”; blaming women for toxic, spiritually abusive parenting they have inflicted on their son. You can read it but be warned, it’s painful.

This is a real, serious problem, but I’ve never seen it outlined so perfectly as this post does. Making normal, non-erotic body parts erotic does a grave disservice to boys and men. And this is a wide-spread problem among conservative Christians and homeschoolers.

Here’s what my friend Katie had to say in a conversation we were having on this topic:

I believe the ultra conservative teaching many of us grew up under modesty-wise, has hurt men as well as women. Men who grow up so sheltered that they find a cap sleeve enticing and whose moms cover their eyes if a woman with cleavage walks past, never learn how to deal with normal American dress. It is no wonder they experience such trouble at a beach or a pool. Regardless of how you personally believe God would have you to dress, you have no right to control the rest of culture. Your husbands, brothers, sons, etc. will be exposed to cleavage, shorts, bikini’s, mini skirts, etc. We do boys no favors when we raise them so strictly that such normal clothing is hyper erotic to them. Instead of sheltering them we end up hyper sexualizing them. I feel sorry for guys raised that way that struggle thru normal daily life like going to the grocery store.

I hope our generation will do better than our parents at teaching our children (boys and girls alike) how to view the opposite sex. Lust is not a sin that only effects men. Women can struggle with it as well. Part of the problem is that we call sin things that are not sin thereby heaping guilt on men and women for simple biological hormonal reactions.

It is not sin to find a person attractive. It is not even sin to feel turned on by them as they walk past you. That is just a basic function of biology and hormones. It is a sin, to dwell there and savor the moment, to go back to it time and again, or continue to fantasize about that other person (ie undressing them in your mind or worse). We need to teach our children the difference between a hormonal reaction that is biological, and choosing to expand or camp in that reaction and indulge in lust. We need to practice personal responsibility in our handling of situations that are struggles for us personally, and we need to teach our children personal responsibility for their own reactions to others around them. Men and women alike need to dress in ways that do not violate their conscience, but they also need to realize that they can never control anyone but themselves and master their own thought lives.”

Fear, shame, guilt, rules, “temptation is everywhere”….a little boy whose innocence was taken by the very people supposed to protect him. And all in the name of “purity”. My heart is breaking. I may be a woman, and I experienced these lies from a woman’s perspective, but I saw what they did to the men in my life. To the boys programmed with shame. I continue to see the effects of such teachings as the boys I grew up with are now men. An entire generation of men who were raised with shame and fear, like this little boy, have grown up and their stories are enough to keep the tears flowing and the hearts breaking. I have two little boys of my own. And I cannot imagine raising them to fear the world, women, and themselves as the parents of  the boy in this story are doing. I hope they see what they are doing to their son before it is too late to undo it

(Warning: I would suggest that if the above sickens or triggers you, don’t read the comments on the post I linked. Some of them are worse by far than anything in the post and completely disgusting.)

Wisdom Homeschooling and Child Abuse: Mahlah’s Story

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Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Mahlah” is a pseudonym.

I grew up in Alberta, Canada with a single mom and three siblings. We were low-income and we moved around a lot, from rural Alberta to cities like Calgary.

In highschool, my oldest sister experienced some bullying and so my mom decided to homeschool her. Since my mom worked full time, often two jobs, my sister was expected to keep on top of her studies by herself. In elementary school, my brother and I experienced some minor bullying as well. So my mother pulled us out and homeschooled us as well.

I was only in the first grade.

We were homeschooled through the group Wisdom Homeschooling, a faith-based group whose credentials are not recognized by Canadian Universities and whose credits are not convertible to standard provincial diplomas. Essentially, it sets you up to fail because you are not a holder of any recognized high school diploma when you are 18.

The majority of our school books came from US publishers such as Apologia Educational Ministries, which taught everything from how evolution is a lie to how great manifest destiny is. Often my mother had not ordered all the books we needed, so when I should have started grade 4 math, I started grade 6 instead.

Every year we would have a program facilitator from Wisdom Homeschooling come and do a review to see how we were making progress. It should have been clear that we did not have appropriate school books, that our mother was too absent to properly administer any supervision, and that on any given year myself or my siblings were not doing sufficient work that children in public education would be completing.

By the time I was a teenager I began realizing how dire the situation was.

My two older siblings technically did not graduate, even by Wisdom Homeschooling’s standards. I was very worried. I knew I wanted to go to university, but nothing I had done up until that point would be accepted by any university, except private Christian schools.

Except, I didn’t know that.

My program facilitator told me I could compile a “portfolio” of my work, essentially self-testing that I had completed and kept a record of, some of my art work, a list of books I’d read. Clearly that was a lie. Universities would not accept that.

I wanted to go to public school and finish highschool. I begged to go to public school. But my mother said no.

By 14 I was working full time. I spent more time working than completing my totally useless fundamental Christian studies. I used my money to help pay for groceries and save for university.

Again my facilitator was willfully ignorant of the fact that I was not doing nearly enough work on my school books.

At 16 I called him to ask more questions about university. The conversation took a turn when he asked me about my mother. He asked me if she had been drinking the last time that he had come for his scheduled visit. I said yes.

During that visit, my mother had an outburst at me. She yelled in front of the facilitator and it was extremely awkward. She always yelled at me when she had been drinking.

She had a problem. I wanted to get out so badly.

On the phone with the facilitator, I broke down crying. I told him everything. I told him about the drinking, I told him about the emotional abuse I had been enduring. And my fears for my education. I didn’t want to end up like her. Poor with 4 kids.

I basically asked him for his help. The facilitator told me he can’t confront her, because she will feel attacked and may feel that she should pull us out of homeschooling and put us into public school.

That was his biggest concern. 

That we stayed in homeschooling. 

That we didn’t tarnish the name of Wisdom Homeschooling. 

A year later I moved out. I took American SATs to use as entry into Mount Royal University in Calgary and the process was complicated and daunting.

Homeschooling ruined my life. Even today I am struggling to overcome social anxieties and awkwardness due to lack of socialization.

I have no math skills and I struggle to understand basic science.

When I wanted to join the military, they denied me because I didn’t have a high school diploma, even though I am a university student.

Somehow, I have managed to get control of my life. Today I am working for the government and I am about to graduate from university. I have not spoken to my mother in years.

I did not receive a real education. In the face of flagrant child abuse, I was ignored.

HSLDA’s Core Agenda: Abolishing Compulsory Education

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on December 22, 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 8.25.20 PMProminent HSLDA attorney Chris Klicka elucidated on HSLDA’s agenda in a 2001 book, and frankly, when I read it I found even myself slightly surprised, not so much by what their agenda is as by how willing they are to publicly admit it.

The framers of the Constitution, unfortunately, never specifically mentioned in the Constitution the right of parents to educate their children. They took it for granted that parents alone had this right and could choose whatever form of education they saw fit. Since biblical theism was dominant in early America, this right of parents was recognized as a God-give right derived from the Bible and codified in English common law.

In the last fifty years, however, the U.S. Constitution has been so twisted in many areas that it no longer reflects the intent of the framers. The most devastating example of the perversion of the original intent of the Constitution is the creation of the “right” to an abortion, which has resulted in the deaths of millions of babies. This has happened in spite of our Bill of Rights which clearly protects life.

Similarly, the right of parents to chose their child’s education, as held sacred by the framers, has also been gradually eroded in favor of state intervention and control. The parents are no longer solely responsible for the education of their children as established in the Bible and common law. Now the courts recognize the state having an interest in education and the power to regulate that interest. As a result, prior to the 1980s, home schooling was virtually stifled by the state.

However, the tide is slowly being reversed through the application of the various Constitutional or technical defenses in the courts as described in this section or by the legislatures as seen in chapter 19. The ultimate victory will not be reached until the compulsory attendance statues are repealed in every state. However, at this time, repeal of such laws is a long way off. Therefore, the strategy of this author and the Home School Legal Defense Association, in the meantime, is to push back the interest of the state further and further in education, limiting its power to regulate, until that interest finally evaporates. This will take time, relentless efforts, and a great deal of education of our judges, law enforcement officials, and legislators.

If you don’t read anything else of that excerpt, read that last bit in bold. HSLDA’s ultimate goal is to get rid of compulsory attendance. And in the other bit that I made bold, Klicka makes it clear that he believes (and by extension HSLDA believes) that parents should have the right to choose what sort of education their children would get—to choose any form of education they saw fit. Klicka claims that this is what the founding fathers believed, and therefore it should still be so today.

Now first of all, if we did everything like the founding fathers did I wouldn’t be typing this. For one thing, I’m using technology that didn’t exist, and for another thing, I’m a woman, and at the time women were expected to confide their thoughts in private journals or to other women rather than in public. But more than that, Klicka’s claim that compulsory education laws were foreign to the founding fathers, and that the founding fathers took for granted that it was the parent’s god-given right to choose how to educate their children, is simply false.

Check out the Massachusetts Bay School Law of 1642:

Forasmuch as the good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any Common-wealth; and wheras many parents & masters are too indulgent and negligent of their duty in that kinde. It is therfore ordered that the Select men of everie town, in the severall precincts and quarters where they dwell, shall have a vigilant eye over their brethren & neighbours, to see, first that none of them shall suffer so much barbarism in any of their families as not to indeavour to teach by themselves or others, their children & apprentices so much learning as may inable them perfectly to read the english tongue, & knowledge of the Capital Lawes: upon penaltie of twentie shillings for each neglect therin. . . .

Yes, you read that right. Massachusetts Bay Colony, as it was then called, authorized officials to go check whether parents were teaching their children to read, and to fine those who were not. Somehow this does not sound like allowing parents to educate their children “however they see fit”—it rather sounds like the state deciding the minimum education children must receive. Why? “Forasmuch as the good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any Common-wealth.” Yes, that’s right, for the good of the state. Methinks HSLDA has their history a bit off.

There’s more, too. The Northwest Ordinance contained provisions for creating schools because the founding fathers believed that education was critical to a healthy democracy. Have a look:

George Washington: The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail.

Thomas Jefferson: If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

James Madison:  Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.

Noah Webster: It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country.

Benjamin Franklin: A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district—all studied and appreciated as they merit—are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.

This sounds literally nothing like Klicka’s claims about the founding fathers in the paragraphs quoted from his book above.

And now back to Klicka:

Although you will see in this chapter that parental liberty historically was held to be virtually absolute, many state courts and the passage of compulsory attendance laws in the 1900s have gradually eroded this right. These states have used the language of the United States Supreme Court which recognizes that the states have an “interest” in education. During the past seventy-five years, the power to regulate that interest of the state has steadily expanded.

Home schools have been involved on the cutting edge in pushing back the interest of the state. In 1983, the Home School Legal Defense Association was established for the purpose of shackling the interest of the state by gradually limiting the state’s power over parents. Eventually, I would like to see the interest of the state totally erased, but that may take some time while we educate the judges and legislators.

Meanwhile, it is important for us to master the history of parental rights, especially as established in the courts, so that we are better prepared for the battle for our children that is presently taking place. We need to work to reestablish the historic foundations of parental rights in our country and restore respect of the parents’ right to choose and control the education of their children.

Klicka does not think the state should have an interest in education. Indeed, Klicka would like to see the state’s interest in education “totally erased.” Education, then, would be solely and completely up to a child’s parent.

What I am unclear on is whether Klicka wants public schools abolished, or simply compulsory attendance laws. Regardless, he makes it clear that parents should have the sole and final say on their children’s education and even whether their children receive an education, and that he doesn’t think the state should have any interest at all in ensuring that its citizenry is educated. Ironically, this places him soundly at odds with the very founding fathers he earlier cited as supposedly supporting his position.

So next time HSLDA comes out against this homeschool law or that homeschool bill, bear in mind that they’re not just interested in keeping homeschooling legal, or in reducing oversight of homeschooling. They’re interested in abolishing compulsory education altogether.

Why Mocking the Duggar Children Should Be Off-Limits

Image from the Duggar Family Blog, links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on December 23, 2014.

I’ve said it before on social media and I’ll say it again here. The mocking of Duggar children is not something I can get behind. Criticize the Duggar parents for what they’re doing to their children, criticize Jim Bob, Michelle, and Josh for their anti-LGBT activism, that’s fair game. Mocking the kids isn’t.

Kids like the Duggars, who aren’t being given a real education (you don’t get a real education from ATI Wisdom Booklets), who aren’t allowed college, and who aren’t even allowed a single private conversation with someone of the opposite sex until they’re married, are the ones I’m trying to help.

TLC may put a pretty face on it, but make no mistake, the Duggars are part of a high-control, authoritarian cult. ATI creates an alternate reality, complete with their own version of history and science, and a theology that seems, on the surface, to be orthodox Christianity but is anything but. ATI even redefines language, Scientology-stype.

This is but one small example of the way that ATI indoctrinates its members, but check out their definitions of the character qualities that Bill Gothard decided were important. I’ve included a few of those character qualities below. Notice how most of those definitions are nothing like the dictionary definitions of those words?

When I was a kid some ATI friends gave us the “Character Clues” game, which was supposed to teach you those traits by having you match traits to definitions. Apart from being the world’s most boring game, we gave up on it quickly because the whole thing was redefining words. We could give up on the game because learning Gothard-approved definitions of words was dull, but for people who are part of the ATI cult, learning an entirely new vocabulary is a step in the cult indoctrination process. A process the kids have no say in.

The Duggar kids’ entire version of reality, down to the meaning of the words they use, is the one created by being raised in the cult. Unlike Jim Bob and Michelle, who lived lives outside of the cult before joining, the Duggar kids have nothing to compare anything to. Their entire reality is shaped by the cult and everything they see in the rest of the world they’re seeing through the lens of the cult. TLC gives them a broader set of experiences than most ATI kids have, but they’re still experiencing it through the filter Bill Gothard created. That’s all they know.

Mocking the kids for doing the only things they’ve ever known isn’t doing anything other than entertaining yourself at the expense of kids being raised in an extremely controlling, if not outright abusive, home. That’s cruel. It needs to stop.

It’s Not Just the Religious Homeschoolers: Alianne’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Lee Haywood. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Lee Haywood. Image links to source.

Pseudonym note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Alianne” is a pseudonym.

We’re both in our twenties now, but my brother and I were homeschooled from elementary school through high school graduation. To put it simply, the entire experience was an absolute nightmare. However, it didn’t appear that way to other people nor did it appear like that on the surface of the image our mother and father tried to present to everyone.

When I was a child, people would comment on my writing or math skills and would give credit to homeschooling or my parents who happily bragged about it. But the reality was that my mother taught me absolutely nothing. She wasn’t even remotely skilled in either math or essay writing. I taught myself how to be very skilled with math and writing techniques, without any help from my parents whatsoever.

In my older brother’s case, the “education” he received was also absolutely zero and he didn’t fare as well as I did. Our parents rarely tried to help him, and hardly mentioned him or any skills he had to anyone, let alone bragged.

Our mother and father epitomized the braggadocio of homeschool parenting:

Always mention the “good” side that’s beneficial to them, and lie and stretch the truth of anything negative that would prove the opposite of the image they’re trying to present to everyone as truth.

Now that we’re older and we’re more capable of understanding what our mother and father really did to us, we’ve both realized that many of the common phrases and rationalizations that homeschoolers use simply aren’t true. To keep it simple, I’ll only post the main three misconceptions we came to realize:

1. Socialization:

Homeschool parents will use the excuses that their children are socialized because they join groups, have many activities, even have friends from public school, etc. However, parents will often neglect to mention the fact that in many families these activities only happen occasionally or just a few times per week. Many children don’t have any real interaction on a daily basis with other children and are only allowed to interact at the parent’s convenience, not in the way what the children really need.

My main point aside from that, though, is that many children are not being socialized properly or learning how to deal with regular social situations, or aka the “real” world. For example, the majority of the people my brother and I grew up around (we lived in a middle class, nice neighborhood, not a terrible one) had addictions, and were dangerous people who had many issues (although neither of us really recognized that until we were in our teens). Being surrounded by dangerous and unsafe people all day isn’t what I would call a safe, healthy, or normal environment for a child to grow up in, let alone the “real” world. Public school may be bad in some instances, but at least the kids will be surrounded mostly by other children (and also, not all public schools are huge terrible places of bullying or drugs/alcohol/sex, now that I’ve heard the stories of people who actually went to public school, I understand that) and not grown adult men and women coming off drug and alcohol highs first thing in the morning.

2. The parents know their children better than anyone:

No, many parents think they do, but they certainly don’t, and neither did our parents. I had anxiety issues and anxiety attacks all throughout my childhood, and was very shy until my late teens. In my brother’s case, although he was very social, he was bullied in elementary school, and had been a target for other children since the day he started. However, once we both reached late teens/adulthood, our issues went away for the most part. Why? Because we were away from our parents’ influence for longer periods of time than before, so their own anxiety and emotional issues no longer had any effect on us. We were both able to act normally for the first time in our lives.

So while our parents would have said that they knew we both had different issues and that’s why we had to stay at home, our issues came directly from being around them. So their decision to homeschool the two of us did absolutely nothing to benefit our lives. We honestly would have been far better off in public school and with two working parents.

In other words,  forcing the child to become the main focus of the parents doesn’t necessarily help them to grow.

It may temporarily stop the problems and it may even help their education to an extent, but it won’t really help the child to deal with situations on their own terms. How can you have your own terms, when the belief system you have and everything surrounding you is dominated by your mother and father?

To be fair, I’m aware of the fact that public school can have the same negative effects on children. However, I’ve met plenty of people who went to public school and who aren’t monsters, drug/alcohol addicts or terrible people by default. Public school doesn’t force every child on the planet to have issues and problems. There are many kids who go to regular school and turn out perfectly fine, don’t have bullying issues, are extremely intelligent, very self-motivated, etc.

I realize people use those same justifications to homeschool, but what I’m trying to say is this: When a child goes off by themselves and isn’t surrounded by the parents’ influences all the time, they will be exposed to different points of view, not just their parents’ main dominating viewpoint. They’ll also have the opportunity to develop their own selves when they are away from their parents. Thus they have the opportunity to choose by themselves to not do dangerous and unhealthy things. By finally being away from our mother and father, my brother and I were able to make safe and healthy choices and set boundaries with other people by ourselves, finally, and for the first time in our entire lives.

Also, I’ve read horror stories online about children who want nothing more than to be homeschooled because the bullying is so severe. Some of their stories actually sounded very similar to what my brother went through. I’ve also seen firsthand the emotional and physical effects of what he endured from other kids. So I’m not naive regarding what can happen to children in public school systems, or dismissive of what happened to my brother in the slightest. However, I’ve also talked with him about it, and as a grown man in his twenties he completely agrees with me that the homeschooling was a horrible idea that helped neither of us. It was all for our parents’ emotional benefit.

Furthermore, as an adult he’s now perfectly able to stand up for himself and will tell people exactly how he feels about something, even if it’s rude, might incite people, etc. He’s able to do so because as he got older he handled people by himself, without our parents influencing everything 24/7 and learned how to deal with it. Our mother and father were both very weak people emotionally, and that definitely rubbed off on both me and my brother.

3. Homeschooled children are almost always better, more educated, and amazing awesome kids — especially compared to public school children:

No, that’s not even remotely true. There are sites and forums where you can read many of the stories from homeschooled kids who had miserable and dysfunctional childhoods. And to make it clear, I’m not just referring to the religious families. My family was semi-Christian and semi-New Age. My brother and I had never attended a church or sermon a day in our lives. My parents never forced religion on us in the slightest manner.

Also, most of the Homeschool/Unschool blogs you see on the internet are written and promoted by the parents. There aren’t very many positive blogs written by the children, because whether anyone wants to admit it or not, the majority of homeschooled kids aren’t happy or well adjusted in society, so they can’t write something that isn’t true. Yes, I have read stories from graduated homeschooled kids who say they were happy the entire time they were homeschooled. Yes, they might honestly have been.

However, to have the audacity to deny and pretend that there aren’t many, many homeschooled children living and interacting in dysfunctional families is absolutely ridiculous.

Of course, you could say the same for public school, but at least in that situation the children can actually get away from their households. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t always places where the families get along wonderfully well, or the children are always happy to be around them. Homeschooling may seem to work very well for a young child, but I’ve never in my life met a homeschooled teen who was happy. Some of them would put on a facade and pretend they were, but once I got to know them… Well, I’ll just say drugs/alcohol/having sex at a young age/depression isn’t only for public school kids, not even remotely.

The parents might not be aware, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Many of the blogging parents will exaggerate how awesome the homeschooling is and leave out all of the negative effects, or how the children really feel about everything. In our case, my brother and I were miserable 24/7, but our mother and father never mentioned that to anyone. We didn’t mention it, because we were afraid at how angry our parents would have been if we told the truth about how we really felt. Also, we felt very isolated; we interacted with public school kids too, but for the most part we knew that anything we said would eventually get back to our parents. Having a close knit community, or living where your parents schedule everything doesn’t exactly give a good opportunity to be honest about anything. And for the record, our parents weren’t extremists who did the forms of abuse found in many of the stories on Homeschoolers Anonymous. For the most part, they acted fairly normally and mainly just had social anxiety issues.

Yet my brother and I weren’t more educated in the slightest. The only reason I was able to even graduate highschool was because I used an online school program. My brother wasn’t able to get past highschool level, and so he suffered a lot academically as well. One thing I can’t stand more than anything else I see parents write on the homeschooling blogs, is how homeschooling takes so much effort. That’s not true in every case, and it’s certainly not true by default of being a homeschooling parent.

Both of our parents didn’t put in much effort at all for our education. Our father put in absolutely zero of any kind of effort, and left everything to our mother. She stayed at home, and I can honestly say that she would spend 8-10 hrs of her day watching television, and taught us absolutely nothing. Also, there are many other homeschooled kids with similar stories, who suffered a lot academically due to being homeschooled/unschooled.

On the other hand, I have read stories of successful unschool graduates who made it through college. So, I’m not denying the fact that it can be done. However, my point is that if a child can survive being homeschooled/unschooled and still make out okay, and doesn’t have any severe issues to deal with, then public school would be effortless for them, and in my opinion that’s where they should stay.

Finally, I understand that public school doesn’t work for children with special needs, or who have more extreme issues to deal with. However, I absolutely believe that (aside from children in very complicated situations), homeschooling should only be used very temporarily, and not ever seen as a permanent solution. You can solve some issues with homeschooling, but that doesn’t mean you should just stick to it for the rest of the child’s life. Whatever issues the children have will need to be dealt with eventually.

Hiding them from the world and people for the rest of their childhood doesn’t solve or fix anything.

Public school may not be seen as the “right” environment, but it’s the main environment the majority of people grew up in. So if they haven’t dealt with their issues, when they finally reach the adult world people will still be acting and functioning the same way they were before, so trying to pretend that doesn’t have any impact later on isn’t realistic. Most importantly, it keeps the children away from other opportunities and situations that could have actually been good, and far better than the homeschooling.

A Quickie on “Defrauding”

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Photo Monkey. Image links to source.
CC image courtesy of Flickr, Photo Monkey. Image links to source.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on January 3, 2013.

It was a popular teaching by Bill Gothard that clothes on women could “defraud” their brothers. He used a verse in 1 Thess. 4 to prove this:

“3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: 4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; 5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: 6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.” (A better interpretation of verse 6 says: “and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.”)

He took this verse to mean that all women should be careful how they dress so as not to “defraud” their brothers in Christ with their clothing, which he defined as causing them to stumble or lust. Besides the obvious stretching of the context and content of this verse, there are a few problems with this definition of “defraud.”

de·fraud 

verb (used with object)

to deprive of a right, money, or property by fraud

Some synonyms of “defraud” are: “bamboozle, beguile, burn, chouse, circumvent, clip, con,  deceive, delude, do number on, dupe, embezzle, fleece, foil, hoax, jive, outwit, pilfer, pull fast one, rip off, rob, shaft, sucker into, swindle, take to the cleaner’s, take, trick, victimize”

In order to say that a woman’s clothing can “defraud” a man, you would have to prove that

1. A woman’s body is the right or property of another person

2. A woman is wrongfully offering her body to any man who gazes on her

3. A woman is lying by offering her body to another without intent to follow through with the deal

4. A woman is taking something from any man who looks at her, just by the piece of clothing she is wearing.

5. A woman is responsible for a man being deprived his rights any time he thinks something immoral about her

I really hope I wouldn’t have to detail why all of the above is wrong, but in case I do, here goes:

I am not anyone’s property or right. No one owns me except myself. I am not offering anything by the clothes I wear. If you think I am offering you something by my clothing, I am not responsible for your wrong thoughts.

I cannot steal anything from you by the clothes I wear, especially not something that is owed to you, since I owe you nothing.

I cannot control the thoughts of everyone who sees me, as I do not expect everyone else to control my own thoughts. I am not responsible for your thoughts or actions, as you are not responsible for mine. You are not a victim of my clothing if you desire me sexually. I have not bamboozled you out of your property by wearing a short skirt. I cannot dupe, hoax, trick, or rob you of anything by the jeans I wear. It doesn’t even make logical sense.

Quite simply put, one cannot “defraud” anyone else by one’s clothing. Or, as another wise person once said, “I do not think that word means what you think it means”.

Transcript of Voddie Baucham’s “Nebuchadnezzar Loses His Mind”

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 3.14.31 PM

HA note: The following is a transcript of Voddie Baucham’s sermon “Nebuchadnezzar Loses His Mind.” Baucham delivered this sermon on the subject of mental health on April 8, 2012 to Grace Family Baptist Church. It provides his answers to the following 2 questions: “What is the Biblical view of mental health? How should we as Christians (and especially Pastors) look at the ‘mental health’ industry?” Baucham is the Pastor of Preaching GFBC; GFBC is the host of Baucham’s Voddie Baucham Ministries and a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. This transcript was created by HA Community Coordinator R.L. Stollar.

Click here to read other transcripts by and posts about Voddie Baucham.

See the “highlights” from the episode here. Content warning for transcript: mental health denialism and blaming mental illness on personal sin.

*****

We cannot walk through Daniel, Chapter 4, and avoid the topic of mental illness. We cannot look at a picture of a man who, had he walked into a hospital today, would have immediately been diagnosed with schizophrenia and medicated until he was drooling, left there without any hope. We cannot read this text that ends far differently than that and starts for reasons other than those supposed according to our contemporary psychological and psychiatric models without asking the question, “What does this mean for those of us who are born again, blood-washed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and yet live in this real world where people have real problems and real difficulties?”

Do we just act like Daniel, Chapter 4 is not here? I mean, you can. You can act like Daniel, Chapter 4 is not here and we can not deal with the question of schizophrenia. But then you gotta read Job and you gotta deal with clinical depression. “Oh we’ll just act like Job is not there.” That’s fine. We’ll deal with the Apostle Paul and the murders he oversaw and then we can talk about post-traumatic stress disorder. “Well, I don’t really want to talk about that.” Ok, fine, if you don’t want to talk about that, let’s talk about Jesus, shall we? In the Garden of Gethsemane, where he experiences a classic instance of anxiety. Or better yet, when he comes to the tomb of Lazarus, weeping, there in depression, but then resuscitates Lazarus, and they celebrate — now he’s bipolar. Let’s not even talk about the Psalms, where you find every manner of what we would define as “mental illness” expressed by the psalmist himself.

So even if you want to avoid the subject here in Daniel, Chapter 4, which you absolutely, positively cannot, and must not, you have to face it somewhere. And you have to ask the question, “What are we as Christians supposed to do?”

We’ve got a couple of possibilities. Possibility Number One is we can simply say that that is not a place where we belong. “We don’t understand it, but there are other professionals who do. So let’s just leave it alone.” Well, that’s an untenable position because it’s right here in the Bible. So we can’t leave it alone.

Well, what’s our other option? Well, the other option, there’d be a ditch on the other side of the road, where we acted like we understood things completely just because of what we have here in the text as it relates to what’s going on in people’s minds. The Bible’s not designed as a mental health textbook, so to speak.

So what do we do? Well, we take this little excursus and we talk about the main issues involved here. Let me tell what I’m not here to do this morning. I am not here to give you an exhaustive understanding of the way the Bible deals with the issue of mental illness. I am not here to give you an exhausting understanding of psychology and psychiatry. That’s not my goal here. My goal here, however, is to give you a basic lay of the land so that we can at least talk about this in a way that honors our Lord Jesus Christ, recognizes what it means to be born again, to be saved — and that recognizes what it means to be “bipartite human being”: having physical and spiritual abiding simultaneously together.

Now, let me just say, full disclosure: It’s a blessing, in a church this size, I was able this week to pick up the phone and have conversations with: one, a family-practiced specialist; two, a psychiatrist; and three, an emergency room physician — all of whom are members right here in this church. Imagine that!

So I did that. Why? ‘Cuz this is not my area of expertise. And yet because this text is in the Bible, and because I shepherd real people with real problems, it is incumbent upon me to know something about this. It is not an option for a pastor to see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil when it comes to this issue of mental illness. That is not allowed. That is dereliction of duty. We’re responsible to walk with people who have real difficulties.

So why is it so hard for us to talk about this issue? Several reasons:

Number one, because of our psychologized culture. There are presuppositions with which we live that make it difficult for us to talk about this passage or even think about this passage in the right way. For example, the number one most completed class in college is Psychology 101. More people complete that course than any other course on the college level. Everybody takes psychology. Very few people — I’ve talked to a couple engineers who said that they didn’t take psychology, but I mean, some people, just a few people, will get away with not taking psychology. But more likely than not, if you took any class in college, you took Psychology 101. And it’s terrible, because you think you now know psychology. It’s like people who take one class in philosophy and think that they can philosophize about everything in the world. We take one class in psychology and think we know psychology.

Secondly, the acceptance of psychiatry into the medical community has changed the way we think about this issue of mental illness and has gone a long way toward psychologizing our culture.

Thirdly, over-diagnosis. All of us know someone who has been diagnosed with something. I can give you a brief list and it would hit most of us in the room when it comes to the people whom we know. We start with the one that is most popular today which is bipolar disorder. Secondly, depression. Thirdly, anxiety disorder — or social anxiety disorder, known as “SAD.” Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — ADD or ADHD. Post-traumatic stress disorder. As long as we’ve been engaged in wars across the world, this one has become huge. It’s on everybody’s list these days.

And of course, the ubiquitous “chemical imbalance.”

All of us know somebody with one of these diagnoses. Many of us are somebody with one of these diagnoses.

Another reason that we’re psychologized — because of these drug commercials. [in mocking voice:] “Where does depression hurt? It hurts everywhere.” K? We see these commercials and they come at us — and folks, we believe that mental illness is actually the new norm. Movies and television programs, dramas, police dramas, where the psychologist is the one who knows everything about the person who’s doing this crime. Why? Because if you’re a psychologist, you are all-knowing. “This person is probably this age, and he probably grew up like this, and he probably has the” — all the while, you over here are looking at the other part of the movie that the cops are not seeing and what are you being told? The person with the psychology degree is god.

And “destigmatization”? Far from there being a stigma anymore with mental illness — and I’m not saying that it’s good or bad or whatever, for stigma — but there was stigma attached to mental illness — now we’re proud of our mental illnesses. We wear them like a badge. We won’t tell people our phone number but we’ll tell them our diagnoses.

We are living in a psychologized culture. Not only that, but there has been a marginalization of the church in this regard. How so? The overwhelming number of pastors who have any theological training have basically been given this kind of training when it comes to mental illness and mental disorders: “If somebody has a small problem you can help them. If they have a big problem, call a professional. Because God cannot handle mental illness.”

Pastors are taught that. Christians are taught that. And we believe that with every fiber of our being. And so we will run to a mental health professional, go get treatment, get put on psychotropic drugs, and not even consult our pastor. Why? “None on his business. Not his area.”

We’re gonna talk about how dangerous that mentality is.

Then of course there’s the history of psychology itself. We can spend a lot of time talking about this journey but let me just give you a picture because I want you to understand something. We believe that psychology and psychiatry are “sciences” like chemistry or physics. We believe that if somebody says you have a chemical disorder or a chemical imbalance that actually what has happened is they’ve given you a test and they have tested the level of chemicals in your body and because of that scientific test they now know your outside of ra—[cut off] we think about it, we think it’s sort of like blood pressure — “your systolic ought to be between here and here, your dystolic, you know, ought to be between here and here, and we, we can test you with a machine, and you’re not between here and here, therefore you have high blood pressure, you have low blood pressure.”

We think about the term “chemical imbalance” in that exact same way. Because we assume that these people are doing science. And most Christians don’t know that there is no such thing as chemical imbalance. There’s no test for it. There never has been a test for it.

Here’s the other thing: everybody’s chemistry is different. It’s like blood pressure, where you can go, “Here’s where these chemicals are supposed to be in your brain and here’s where they are in—“ — No, not like that.

Had a dear friend of mine over my house, we were having a discussion about this. Almost lost a friendship over this because somehow this issue came up, this whole chemical imbalance, bipolar, whatever. And I just sorta alluded to the fact that there’s no test for it and that it is not a scientific diagnosis. It’s not a medical diagnosis. And he said, “No, no, it is! Because I have a family member who has this and they’re treated for this and their doctor tested them for this!” And I said, “No, actually, they didn’t. They had a conversation about how they feel and how they function and then they were drugged.”  “No!” Picks up the phone in the midst of the discussion, calls his friend who’s also his family physician, and says, “Listen, I got, this is my buddy, my real buddy, but I think he’s out to lunch ‘cuz he’s trying to tell me that, there’s this chemical imbalance thing, that there’s no test for it, that it’s not scientific, that you guys, you know, treating my family member and you haven’t actually done any real medicine in order to determine that this —“ and you can just see him on the phone, his whole countenance changed. “What? What do you mean there’s no way you can test for that? What do you mean that there’s no way you can know for cert — what do you — what are you telling me?”

It’s a fact, folks. That’s why we use the term “syndrome” or “disorder.” There is no test for it. And if you look at the history of psychology what you see is a movement historically from one world view to the next to the next to the next to the next. And we believe a certain school of psychology, we start with structuralism and Wilhelm Wundt, then we moved to functionalism and people like William James, and of course psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud, and — Why do we move from one of these to the others? Because we prove that they don’t work. And then Freud is found to be fraudulent and so we come to behavioralism. And in behavioralism we know people like Pavlov and B.F. Skinner and we, we’re there, and we get that, and we understand that that’s the new school of thought. Eventually you move from there to humanistic psychology. After that you move to Gestalt. All of these based on differing roles, norms, and morays within the psychological community.

Lot of people also don’t realize that the way these diagnoses come about — is, again, if it’s not through testing, ‘cuz here’s what you’re saying to me, “Now wait a minute, you’re saying these doctors aren’t testing people to determine that they have the — how do they come up with these diagnoses?” They vote. The psychological community gets together, they talk about groups of symptoms that they see, they give it a name, and if enough people in the room raise their hand, it gets into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and it becomes an official diagnosis.

Why is that important? Because that’s the only way that you can get insurance companies to pay for it. That’s it.

Can you imagine doctors voting on whether a heart attack is a heart attack? Taking a poll as to whether high blood pressure is high blood pressure? Opening you up, taking things out, hoping it solves your problem? “You feel better? We stay here. You don’t? We’ll go take something else.” We would not stand for it. But in the mental health community, we don’t even question it. That, my friends, is a huge problem.

Well, what’s the main problem with psychology, psychiatry? I don’t argue they’re of absolutely no value. But there are problems. Let me give them to you. And then we’ll look at Nebuchadnezzar and talk about some of the implications of these things.

Number one, it’s quasi-scientific at best. It’s quasi-scientific at best. That’s a problem.

And it’s really a problem because of the second problem, which is a lack of accountability. You see, if a physician, an MD, a heart specialist or whatever, if they go in and take out the wrong thing, you sue them for malpractice. Because they were supposed to test you, they were supposed to take images, they were supposed to know what they were doing — if they go in there and do the wrong thing, you’re in trouble. They make a mistake, you’re on the table, you die, they’re in trouble. There’s a malpractice lawsuit.

If a psychiatrist, based on a syndrome that was voted upon another group of psychiatrists, gives you a diagnosis and then gives you a drug and then as a side effect of that drug you go and commit suicide, you cannot sue them. Why? Because it wasn’t a scientific diagnosis in the first place. Therefore, they cannot be held specifically accountable when there is no specific thing they’re dealing with. And they hide behind this thing called “standards of practice.” Estimated that as many as 40,000 deaths a year are directly related to psychotropic drugs. And yet psychiatrists are not held accountable. Why? Because they’re not doing actual scientific tests. They’re not treating actual medical illnesses. Therefore, there’s a lack of accountability.

There’s also an absence of results. Let me say this and please hear me clearly: Psychiatry and psychology have never cured anyone of anything nor do they claim to be able to. Let me say that one more time slowly. Psychology and psychiatry — and they’re not the same thing, one’s a medical doctor who goes to medical school, a psychiatrist, gets a medical degree, k? And they can dispense drugs, and, and that’s pretty much all they do, just dispense drugs and [unintelligible] drugs — and the other one, a psychologist, you don’t go to medical school, that’s a complete different degree, k? But in both instances, psychology and psychiatry have never cured anyone of anything. By the way, in order to cure somebody, you need to be able to diagnose them accurately, right? If you can’t diagnose someone accurately, and there’s no test to demonstrate what a person has, how could you know if you cured them? You can’t. They’ve never cured anyone. They don’t claim to be able to cure anyone of anything. These things are important to know, folks. I’m not telling you my opinion, by the way. Everything I’ve stated for you up to this point is just pure fact.

Fourth problem. Dangerous side effects. Dangerous side effects. Just listen to one of the drug commercials. Dangerous side effects. “Here’s an antidepressant medication, k? You’re depressed so we want to give you this medication. By the way, if you start thinking about wanting to kill yourself or somebody else, call us immediately.” “Why?” “Because it’s one of the side effects of your medication.”

Wrong worldview. This is a problems with psychology and psychiatry. Wrong worldview. It’s based on a materialistic worldview that sees nature as a closed system and man basically as a machine. It does not account for the bipartite nature of the human being — that there is a physical side of him and that there is a spiritual side of him. They only treat the physical side, are not equipped to deal with the spiritual side. Don’t acknowledge it. Don’t account for it. They can’t.

And then there are the theological inconsistencies. Listen to this. Thomas Szasz, by the way, is a psychiatrist who is sort of at variance with his profession. ‘Cuz some of you right now are a little uncomfortable with the things I am saying. ‘Cuz we don’t talk about this about psychology and psychiatry. They get a free pass. They’re not questioned. Somebody says you’re bipolar, you’re bipolar. Somebody says you have clinical depression, you have clinical depression. Somebody says you have a chemical imbalance, you have a chemical imbalance. No questions asked. “Take this pill.” “Yes sir.” So we’re not used to talking like this. So, again. And who am I, right? I’m just a pastor, just a Bible-teacher guy, ok. Thomas Szasz is not a pastor. He’s not a Bible-teacher guy. He’s a psychiatrist. In 1961, he penned the classic “The Myth of Mental Illness,” where he refuted the idea that mental disorders were on par with physical illness and could therefore be treated with medication. In his view mental illness does not constitute actual disease but rather problems in living. I didn’t say that. A psychiatrist said that. I wouldn’t dare say that ‘cuz that’s not my field. I don’t have the authority to say that. He sorta does. And that’s what he says about his field.

And there’s no way to prove anything other than that.

Now as we move forward, let me help you here real quickly. If I want to say something this morning, I will say it. If I don’t say it, I didn’t mean to say it. Amen? I didn’t say there’s no such thing as mental illness. I didn’t say all psychologists and psychiatrists are going to hell. I didn’t say that nobody has real problems and that there’s nobody outside of the church who can help people — I didn’t say that. If I want to say that, I’ll say that. If I don’t want to say that, I won’t say that. But when a psychiatrist says something like this, I pay attention to it. ‘Cuz it’s his area that I am trying to understand.

But I also know that my area has a great deal to do with people’s problems. And whereas I recognize these folks, they don’t recognize me. That means they’re in the weeds, as far as I am concerned. Not because I’m anybody worth recognizing, but because this [picks up Bible] is not just worth recognizing, it demands recognition.

And so let’s look here at Nebuchadnezzar. We’ve looked at part of this and for the second time, let’s read over the main issues. First, let’s look at Nebuchadnezzar’s warning. Going down to verse 19, we’ve looked at much of this, but let’s go over verse 19. We’ll repeat some of the things that were there before:

“Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while—“ again, the king’s had a dream, he’s called his guys in, he finally calls Daniel in again, tells Daniel what the dream is, he’s amazed for a while and his thoughts alarmed him.

“The king answered him and said, ‘Belteshazzar, let not the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar answered and said, ‘My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all; under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived — it is you.”

So that tree, that’s you. That’s the first part of the dream, there’s the interpretation. So far, so good, right?

“It is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it,’”

— not so good anymore —

“‘— but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field; and let him be wet with the dew of heaven; and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him’; this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, that you shall be —“

— by the way, it’s a decree from the Most High. This is not God telling Nebuchadnezzar what is going to naturally happen to him because of a defect in his brain. This is God telling Nebuchadnezzar what He is going to do to him —

“— that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time shall pass over you,” —

— seven years —

“— till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men, and gives it to whom he will. And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you for the time that you know that Heaven rules” —

— Or, “from the time that you know that Heaven rules” —

 

“— Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you; break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”

The warning is due directly to Nebuchadnezzar’s sins. Directly because of his sin. Period. End of discussion. “This is what’s going to happen to you because you have sinned against God. This is what lay ahead for you because you have sinned against God.” And so here in Daniel we see a direct link between sin and mental illness. And when I use the term “mental illness” I’m using the term that we all understand. And you’ll, you’ll see why I make that clarification here shortly. A direct link between his sin and what in an emergency room or in a primary care physician’s office would clearly be diagnosed as schizophrenia. A direct link to his sin.

Does that mean that everyone who has this issue has a sin problem? Well the answer to that of course is yes. Because we’ve all got a sin problem. But does that mean that everyone is struggling with this as a direct result of this sin problem? I couldn’t say that. I couldn’t say that.

But here’s what you also can’t say, and this is what psychology and psychiatry say: “People aren’t struggling with this because of a sin problem.” I would never say that everyone who has this, this, this, and this going on, it’s directly related to a particular sin. I wouldn’t be that arrogant. But psychology and psychiatry are arrogant enough to ignore the spiritual dimension of this altogether.

What are those sins? Well, particularly: pride, rebellion, a lack of repentance, and ultimately, mistaking God’s kindness for weakness. We see that beginning in verse 28:

“All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, ‘Is not this Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?’” —

— Now, don’t miss this. It’s twelve months later. It’s a year later. You know this is what happened. Nebuchadnezzar probably got real scared for a little while. “This is what’s going to happen to you, King” — and then it didn’t happen. He probably changed his ways for while. And nothing happened. But his heart wasn’t changed. So twelve months later, what does he do? He’s walking around and he says, “Look at my kingdom and my greatness that I have built.” —

— “While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; and you shall be made to eat grass like an ox; and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you have learned that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.’”

There is a direct correlation here, is it not? Nebuchadnezzar says, “Look at what I have done! Look at what I have created! Look at how great I am!” God says, “I could make you eat grass, man. I could make it so you don’t even recognize this place anymore. I could make it so you don’t even know your own name anymore. Who do you think you are?” And that’s precisely what he does. God humbles this proud man and because his pride was inordinately large, his humiliation was inordinately significant.

Let’s look at Nebuchadnezzar’s “symptoms,” shall we? Verse 33:

“He was driven from among men, and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.”

He’s gone. He’s living out in the woods. That’s the idea of him being driven from among men. Hair’s not being taken care of, it’s just growing long and wild. Nails growing long like claws. And the man is literally eating like an animal — just stuff on the ground, and grass, and bugs and whatever else.

Now I alluded to this earlier. But go with me in your mind’s eye for a moment to today, when a man shows up in the emergency room — or in his primary care physician’s office — probably be the man and his wife, or maybe just the wife ‘cuz he’s over in the woods somewhere — and she says, “I was kinda wondering if somebody could come check on my husband.” “Well, what’s wrong with him?” “He’s lost his mind.” “Ok, m’am, that’s kinda of, you know, broad. Can you be more specific?” “Yes, he lives in the woods and he eats grass.”

Immediately they’d go get him. And then there would be a team assembled. What would the worldview of that team be? The worldview would be naturalistic materialism: “Nature is a closed system and everything we know, we know from our observation in nature.” That’s the worldview that guides this team. It is not biblical theism, but naturalistic materialism.

What is their anthropology? Their anthropology is that man is the result of evolutionary processes and that ultimately, though there may be a mind-body dichotomy, it is all physical. All physical. That’s their anthropology and that’s their doctrine of man. There is a mind-body dichotomy but ultimately all of that is physical. They do not see him as a bipartite human being, they don’t see the world as having a spiritual component, a supernatural component and a god, therefore they do not see man as having a spiritual component that relates directly to God.

And so what’s the team? Well, the primary care physician or the emergency room physician, they’d first go and talk to a neurologist. Somebody’s acting like this, you want to get a picture of their brain and make sure there’s not something in there pushing against their brain that’s making them act like this. And in that case, you go in there and you get it out. And there can be a cure. That’s what happens with medicine. But in this case, it’s not a tumor. Then you would get a psychiatrist.

Remember: a psychiatrist has one tool and one tool only, and that’s psychotropic drugs. To the man whose only tool is a hammer, everything in the world looks like a nail. Psychiatrist has a single tool — and it’s these powerful psychotropic drugs.

A clinical psychologist and a social worker, or a case worker. Why do you need a social worker or case worker? Because you’re going to have to house this man somewhere and that individual is going to oversee that part of it, where this person goes, where they’re housed while they’re being treated.

What about the treatment? Well, a psychotropic drug cocktail. Not a single drug, but a fistful of drugs in order to control and maintain this man to give him palliative care. In other words, to maintain him, to keep him from harming himself, and to give him some sort of reasonable expectation of a decent life.

What about the outlook? Here me when I say this: This team will have absolutely no hope of anything other than keeping this individual comfortable. They will not speak in terms of cure because they cannot speak in terms of cure. They cannot even speak in terms of accurately and scientifically diagnosing what this is. So how on earth could they speak in terms of cure?

Here’s the question we have to ask. Again, we understand and we believe in the sovereignty of God — amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord! — and that God brings this individual to his right mind. But can you imagine trying to get truth and the Gospel through to an individual who is on a cocktail, a fistful of powerful psychotropic drugs, has a flat affect, and stares off into the distance when you talk to him? Do you think that makes it easier or more difficult for a person to hear and heed and comprehend the Gospel?

Again, all things are possible with God. Amen? But we cannot ignore what would be done to an individual in a circumstance like this, can we? Do you notice anybody who’s not on this team? There’s no Daniel on this team. And Daniel is the only one who has an accurate diagnosis and any hope for this man to ever be cured. But he would not be allowed on this team. He would not be consulted by this team. Because his worldview doesn’t fit into this worldview.

Am I saying there’s no such thing as a doctor or a psychologist or a psychiatrist who has a right worldview? I told you consulted three people — remember, right here in this church — so no, that’s what I’m saying. But I’m saying those three people I consulted? They think the way they think in spite of their training, not because of their training. And all of them will tell you that they have been Christians practicing their craft longer than they have been Christians practicing their craft and applying a biblical worldview to it.

Let me explain what I just said. All of these individuals were wonderful, trained Christian physicians who would deal with the circumstance like this — all these individuals whom I consulted — Christians who think through this, who would think through this today biblically — every last one of them will tell you that for a large part of their professional career they were Christian physicians — psychologists — psychiatrists — or whatever — but they were not applying their biblical worldview to their work and their treatment of people like they are today. What that means is, if somebody came to them simply because they go to church and have their name on the roll, they would not have been getting someone who has operating in anything other than this worldview when it came to treatment.

Please understand that just because somebody is a Christian who’s a psychologist or a Christian who’s a psychiatrist doesn’t mean they understand the significant worldview implications and how to apply those in the treatment of people with so-called “mental illness.” So many Christians would lose it at that point: “Oh this person’s a Christian, and they told me to take this, therefore” — they might not know anything about how to apply biblical theological reality to handling these particular issues. And all they’ve got is their training.

They’re not going to put a Daniel on the team. As your pastor, I’m telling you: you need to. You need to. ‘Cuz they won’t. You need to. You need to bring that piece to bear. You have to bring that piece to bear. If you don’t, you are bowing to this worldview that negates your God. You can’t do that. You can’t do that.

Does that mean that this [tapping head] — it’s all good, it’s all fixed? No. That’s not what I’m saying. It was still going to be seven years, even with a Daniel on his team. Amen? Nor am I arguing — let me say this quickly — nor am I arguing that it’s wrong to help people and ameliorate their symptoms where we can. Saul is having when we would probably call anxiety attacks. What does he do? He goes and he gets David to play for him and he helps him with his symptoms. That’s a good thing. That’s mercy. That’s kindness. We don’t have to just let people run around and eat grass. Amen?

If you can help someone not run around and eat grass, let’s help someone not run around and eat grass. But there has to be something between turning him into a basic vegetable with a flat affect and allowing him to run around and eat grass. Can we at least agree on that? There’s got to be somewhere between those two. Amen? I am nowhere — by no means suggesting — that I am the one who knows for certain where that place is.

There is restoration. First, his reason is restored. Look at 34:

“At the end of the days—“

— And I just, you know, sometimes you read the Bible, and unless you’re careful, you just miss it. If, if you’re not, if you don’t read the Bible carefully, you just, you know, you read this “seven periods of time” and then the next verse, the next verse says, “At the end of the days.” And you and I read that within a couple of seconds. It took years. It took years. Don’t miss that fact. It was years. It was hard. There was pain and heartache for everyone who knew him and watched him go through it. They probably did everything they knew how to do. There was embarrassment, there was fear, there was shame, there was — on and on and on and on — all of that between those two verses. Don’t miss that. Please don’t miss that.

“At the end of the days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven,—“

— There’s hope, just there. —

“—and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives for ever; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing; and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand    or say to him, ‘What have you done?’—“

Ha, you know what? When you’re in your right, when — First who’s he talking about? Me, me, me, me, me. He gets in his right mind and it’s God, God, God, God, God. I’m in my right mind because I know who God is. I know my reason has returned to me because I understand the nature of God. The person of God. The attributes of God. I get who God is. That’s where you want to be, folks. But that’s not even what we seek when it comes to these “mental illnesses,” so to speak. What do we seek? [mocking voices:] “I just want to feel better.” “I don’t feel good.”

And unfortunately we’re not talking to people who will take us by the hand and say, “You know what, sweetheart? In light of the way you’ve been living you shouldn’t feel good.” Turn to God. ‘Cuz I can give you stuff to mask the way you feel but it will not deal with the underlying problem. But we don’t believe we should ever not feel good.

God was so merciful — by the way, that’s enough right there. He also restores his fortune:

“At the same time my reason returned to me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven; for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

Amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord! When you get in your right mind, you don’t turn around and say, “How dare God to that to me for seven years!” You turn around and say, “God is good! I didn’t deserve it as good — he gave me grass to eat! I didn’t have to have grass!” God is good. He even restores his fortunes.

What do we take away from this? This, this is what’s important. Please here this carefully. ‘Cuz again, I said to you, this is not about me giving you all the answers today. So what do we take away from this?

Number one, you are a bipartite human being. You are physical and spiritual. Do not ever, ever, ever allow anyone to treat you like you’re not. Not even your doctor. You are physical and you are spiritual. Don’t forget that.

Secondly, remember you live in a fallen world and you’re going to have bad days. You’re going to feel bad. Stuff’s not going to work. As we get older — how dare we think, “I’m going to get older, and my muscles and my joints are not going to work like they used to, but my mind is not going to have any of the effects of the Fall as I get older”? God help you if you believe that! That’s a mental illness right there!—Believing that your mind is not going to deteriorate in myriad ways as you get older. Believing that you’re supposed to be happy all the time. That’s a problem! That’s not the real world! Things happen and we’re supposed to feel bad about them!

I mean, for example, you hear all this talk about “post-traumatic stress disorder” — with the guys coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq. Can I just sorta give you a little bit of perspective on that? Here’s what we’re saying, and unfortunately we’re not thinking this through: A guy goes to a place for a year or two years where it’s kill or be killed everyday. He takes countless human lives, he sees his friends and comrades fall by his side, he sees more than one man who placed his life in his hands go home in a box, he has to kill people — sometimes very young people — who are trying to kill him, he comes back, he has night sweats, he has nightmares and he’s jittery and we say he has a disorder! No, I say the man who comes back and doesn’t have that response is the one with a disorder! That man’s human. We’re not made to do that to other human beings or see it done to human beings in our presence. And when we respond like a human being should respond to seeing something like that, we say it’s a “disorder” because we believe that human life is supposed to always be at peace. We have a problem.

Death comes to your door. You’re supposed to mourn. And we want to drug you so you don’t. You hear me? Teenagers are up one day in the stratosphere, down the next in the doldrums, as teenagers always have been, and we want to drug them. Boys are taken to a school where they are told, “Sit in that chair, be still, look at me, don’t make noise, don’t tap your foot, don’t tap your pencil, don’t hum, don’t look out the window, don’t daydream” — and when they don’t reach that, we drug them — as children, for years, with a drug whose long term side effects we don’t yet know.

We have a problem, people. We live in a fallen world and we act like it’s all supposed to be a bed of roses. “Man, born of a woman, lives but a few days, and those days are filled with trouble.”

Thirdly, your sin has physical and emotional consequences. Your sin has physical and emotional consequences. I did not say everything that everyone ever deals with, is, always, go back to a verse that they need to — that’s not what I said. Hear what I’m saying. Your sin has real physical and emotional consequences. Proverbs 26:13: “The sluggard” — by the way, that’s sin — “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road, there’s a lion in the streets.” The sin of slothfulness — contributing to anxiety! Must need a pill! No, it’s a sin problem at the root of that! Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as lions.” The wicked are fleeing when no one’s pursuing — there’s paranoia, directly related to wickedness! Psalms 31:10: “For my life is spent with sorrow, my years with sighing, my strength fails because of my iniquity and my bones waste away.” Physical consequences because of sin. James 5, beginning at verse 13. We talk about this every week: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” And another one that we read every week, 1 Corinthians 11, beginning at verse 27: “Whoever therefore eats the” — this is talking about the Lord’s Supper — “Whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of who are weak and ill and some have died.”

Four, we come away from this recognizing that there is real evil in the world. There is real evil in the world. And often times — and we haven’t talked about this — often times what we’re dealing with is some of that real evil in the world. Ephesians 6:11 and 12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” That’s real, people. And there’s no pill for that. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete.”

Five, a psychiatric disorder is not a medical disease. A psychiatric disorder is not a medical disease. One more time: a psychiatric disorder is not a medical disease. And I know there are people who will fight you — literally who will fist-fight you over saying this ‘cuz their physician, psychologist, psychiatrist told them they have a diagnosis and you better not challenge that ‘cuz a medical professional said it. How dare you say otherwise? Actually, I’m agreeing with the medical professional. The reason they said “disorder” or “syndrome” is because it is not a disease. The reason they didn’t give you a test for it, is because it’s not a disease. It’s not the same thing. Now, here what I didn’t say. I didn’t say there’s nothing wrong with you. I can’t say that. What I did say is that you do not have a medical diagnosis. It’s not a disease. And, and it’s time to, to, to expose the man behind the curtain on this one. Because he’s been parading as the great and powerful Oz for far too long.

Again, Thomas Szasz (a psychiatrist, not me): “My view is that there is no mental illness and hence also no therapy, psychotherapy. Therapy, then, is a particular kind of human relationship aimed at helping people cope with their problems in living. This makes it necessary to reframe some of the questions you pose.”

Amen! That’s just honest, folks.

Six, there is no evidence that psychotropic drugs cure any problem or disorder. To my knowledge, there is not one recorded cure of a mental illness anywhere on Planet Earth ever, ever, ever, ever, ever — which makes sense, since there’s never been an actual, accurate, scientific diagnosis of anything to cure.

Seven, psychotropic drugs mask or ameliorate symptoms and have severe, potentially deadly, long-term side effects. Again, these drugs don’t cure anything. They mask symptoms or they ameliorate symptoms. They lessen the symptoms but they do not cure anything. And by the way, psychology and psychiatry are not the only places where this is true. Those of us who take high blood pressure medication — that doesn’t cure anything. It’s helpful, keep your blood pressure down, better than have your blood pressure up, but it will not cure blood pressure. So they give you blood pressure medication, you don’t take that and come back to see if you’re cured. You take that and come back and see if you got enough of it — ok, so I’m not, there’s a lot of places where you’re not experiencing cures. In fact, there are very few places in medicine at all where you experience a cure. A surgeon — you got appendicitis — they can go in, they can cut you open, and take out that appendix — that thing’s cured, you’re not going to have appendicitis anymore, k? But there are very few things like that, you know? If there’s, there’s, a bacterial infection, and they give you antibiotics, antibiotics go in there and do their thing, attack that infection, help your body fight off that infection, you can cure that particular infection. Other than that, in most of medicine, there’s only management of symptoms and not cure. K? So I’m not even being unduly harsh here on those who dispense psychotropic drugs by saying that. And let me say again, this is an indisputable fact, not an opinion.

Here’s the other thing. This is what’s really scary, and I really want you to hear this: Psychotropic drugs are often highly addictive and difficult, even dangerous, to quit. I am not telling you today to go get off from whatever somebody put on. Amen, somebody! I’m not telling you that. I’m not telling you that, I can’t tell you that. It can be dangerous for you to go off that stuff. And that’s part of what’s so horrible about this — ‘cuz you never just get one, it’s like Lay’s Potato Chips, you can’t eat just one. They give you a drug, that drug has side effects, so they give you another drug to balance out those side effects. But of course the drug to balance out the side effects of the first drug has side effects, so they give you another drug to balance out the side effects of the drug they gave you to balance out the side effects of the first drug. And so on and so forth and so forth. And then all of a sudden, these drugs are no longer effective, so they have to go find other drugs that will go and will, will, will, you see? You try to get off something like that and your body will rebel and it might shut down. In fact, you can’t even get off of a drug like caffeine without side effects.

There’s some of you in here who are addicted to caffeine. By the way, it’s the exact same principle: I get up in the morning and I don’t feel good. I’m supposed to feel good. There is a drug with which I can self-medicate to make myself feel good. I will get this drug into me so that I feel good and then I will be able to go throughout the day. If I don’t get this drug into me, I will sin against you but I won’t call it sin, I will refer to my self-diagnosis of a lack of caffeine and you must understand that it’s not me, it’s the disease. If you can’t say amen, you ought to say ouch! It’s the exact same thing, people.

So if you can’t just get off of caffeine without headaches and blurred vision, your crankiness and all this other stuff, don’t try to go get off Paxil by yourself, Zoloft, whatever, ok? Don’t do that. Those things are powerful, powerful drugs and they’re addictive drugs.

By the way, you put these together — I can’t give you an actual, real, scientific diagnosis ‘cuz I can’t really test you for what your problem is; I can, however, give you some very powerful, addictive psychotropic drugs that will make you feel differently, not necessarily better, but differently, and if you don’t like the way you felt before, then you will think it’s better but it’s not better, it’s just different, but it will make you feel differently, then we’ll give you some other drugs to balance out those drugs, by the way, there’s no cure, which means for the rest of your life I’m going to have you on these powerful psychotropic drugs — ah, don’t you, somebody’s gotta be making some money off of that, huh?

Most mental problems — know this — are caused by underlying spiritual or physical conditions. Do you know, for example, that a lack of sleep, dehydration, poor diet and exercise, tragedy and loss, sin and immorality, all these things can lead to depression? And if you take medication for depression, none of those things goes away. You just mask the symptoms. If you go see a doctor, and they don’t ask you how much sleep you’ve gotten in the last 7 hours, or 7 days, or, they don’t ask you how you’re eating and how you’re exercising, but they’re going to give you some psychotropic drugs — run.

Finally, I said this before, and I’ll say this again: psychotropic drugs are not the only possible solution. They’re not the only possible solution. We see that here in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. We see it also throughout the Scriptures, do we not? If you feel bad, there might be something causing you to feel bad. You can get to that without drugs. You have a problem focusing? They’re might be something causing you to have a problem focusing. Deal with that. You can deal with that. It’s not the only answer.

You have these kinds of issues, I encourage you to see your primary care physician. We got folks here in this church: biblical worldview, medical training who can help you. There might be something pressing against your brain, making you hear voices or see things that aren’t there. There’s treatment for that. Real medical treatment for that. But there also may be some other underlying issues.

If you’re here today and you’re being treated by someone for a mental illness, and you have not informed your elders — first, I want to ask you a question. Why on God’s green earth would you do that? Why? By the way, I can tell you the answer: Because you’ve bought the lie. You’ve bought the lie that says there’s that side of the world that deals with real problems and there’s this side of the world that gives you pep talks once a week — and that this side of the world has nothing to offer for those real problems that there’s no test for and no cure for on that other side of the world.

Don’t buy that lie. Don’t buy that lie. Again, here’s what I didn’t say: You come to us and all that stuff gets fixed. Back of the room, five minutes, slap you on the forehead, you fall down, you got — [laughter] — that’s not what I said. I would never, ever, ever suggest that. Remember what I said about the time between those two verses? It’s seven years there. Some of these things take a long time but here’s what I’m not willing to accept: the idea that you would walk through all those years treating some sort of mental illness with people who will never even be open to the possibility that there is a spiritual root cause and a spiritual answer and that you at least owe it to yourself to pursue it.

‘Cuz here’s what I know. The God I serve gave his son to die for sin. And he didn’t kinda die, he really died. Three days dead. Resurrected on the third day. Has ascended to and is seated to the right hand of the Father in glory. And as I’ve said before and will say again as long as I live, whatever you are facing is not bigger than a dead Jesus. And if the power that raised Christ from the dead is available to you, how dare you be hopeless! We can be a lot of things. Hopeless? Not allowed. Not if we know Christ. But if you don’t know Christ, here’s what I want you to hear today: You have bad days. You have bad feelings. You have bad thoughts. You have physical manifestations because of the sin in your life and your only hope is psychotropic drugs to treat a problem that cannot be accurately or scientifically diagnosed for the rest of your life — that’s you apart from Christ. There is no hope there. None whatsoever.

But here’s what’s worse: Even if you and I both spend the rest of our lives in despair, mine’s going to end one day at the throne of grace where all will be made right. What are you looking forward to? Run to Christ. He is your only hope. There is hope in none other. Call on him while there is time. Cling to him with everything you have. Turn from your sin and turn to the only one who can redeem you, forgive you, heal you, and make you whole.

Finally, if you’ve been upset or offended by anything I’ve said today, I want to ask you a question: Why? Why? There was merely the assertion of fact rooted in a biblical understanding of the way we are created. What is that you are clinging to that would make you chafe against the Word of God when applied to the most significant things in your life? Be free.

[end transcript]

“Direct Link Between Sin and Mental Illness”: The Mental Health Denialism of Voddie Baucham

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Click here to read other transcripts by and posts about Voddie Baucham.

I recently listened to Voddie Baucham’s sermon “Nebuchadnezzar Loses His Mind.” Baucham is a popular speaker at Christian homeschool conventions — particularly as an advocate of corporal punishment for shy children and the stay-at-home-daughter movement. Baucham is also the Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist, where he delivered this sermon on April 8, 2012. Using a tenuous and strained exegesis of Daniel 4:4-37 and an extraordinarily outdated 1950’s anti-psychiatry worldview from Thomas Szasz, Baucham attempts to answer the following 2 questions: (1) What is the biblical view of mental health? And (2) How should Christians think about what he calls “the mental health industry”?

Here is Grace Family Baptist’s full description of the sermon:

It is difficult to go through Daniel chapter 4 without realizing that, in our day and time, Nebuchadnezzar would have been diagnosed with some type of mental disorder, medicated to the point of absurdity, and put in an institution with little or no hope of returning to a normal life.

But, what is the Biblical view of mental health? How should we as Christians (and especially Pastors) look at the “mental health” industry? In this sermon, Pastor Voddie gives a Biblical look at these issues.

I transcribed the entire sermon, which you can view here. Below are a few of the “highlights” from it (in other words, the more disturbing and triggering parts):

Baucham using Jesus’s simple emotional changes to make light of mental illness:

Let’s talk about Jesus, shall we? In the Garden of Gethsemane, where he experiences a classic instance of anxiety. Or better yet, when he comes to the tomb of Lazarus, weeping, there in depression, but then resuscitates Lazarus, and they celebrate — now he’s bipolar. Let’s not even talk about the Psalms, where you find every manner of what we would define as “mental illness” expressed by the psalmist himself.

Claiming there’s no such thing as mental health stigma:

We’re psychologized — because of these drug commercials. [in mocking voice:] “Where does depression hurt? It hurts everywhere.” K? We see these commercials and they come at us — and folks, we believe that mental illness is actually the new norm. Movies and television programs, dramas, police dramas, where the psychologist is the one who knows everything about the person who’s doing this crime. Why? Because if you’re a psychologist, you are all-knowing. “This person is probably this age, and he probably grew up like this, and he probably has the” — all the while, you over here are looking at the other part of the movie that the cops are not seeing and what are you being told? The person with the psychology degree is god. And “destigmatization”? Far from there being a stigma anymore with mental illness…now we’re proud of our mental illnesses. We wear them like a badge.

Denying the real existence of chemical imbalances:

Most Christians don’t know that there is no such thing as chemical imbalance.

Baucham belittling psychologists and psychiatrists:

Psychology and psychiatry — and they’re not the same thing, one’s a medical doctor who goes to medical school, a psychiatrist, gets a medical degree, k? And they can dispense drugs, and, and that’s pretty much all they do, just dispense drugs and [unintelligible] drugs — and the other one, a psychologist, you don’t go to medical school, that’s a complete different degree, k? But in both instances, psychology and psychiatry have never cured anyone of anything.

This wild claim:

Everything I’ve stated for you up to this point is just pure fact.

Claiming sin and mental illness have “a direct link”:

The warning is due directly to Nebuchadnezzar’s sins. Directly because of his sin. Period. End of discussion. “This is what’s going to happen to you because you have sinned against God. This is what lay ahead for you because you have sinned against God.” And so here in Daniel we see a direct link between sin and mental illness. And when I use the term “mental illness” I’m using the term that we all understand. And you’ll, you’ll see why I make that clarification here shortly. A direct link between his sin and what in an emergency room or in a primary care physician’s office would clearly be diagnosed as schizophrenia. A direct link to his sin.

Trying to make the above “direct link” more palatable by reminding everyone of original sin:

Does that mean that everyone who has this issue has a sin problem? Well the answer to that of course is yes. Because we’ve all got a sin problem. But does that mean that everyone is struggling with this as a direct result of this sin problem? I couldn’t say that. I couldn’t say that.

Worrying more about preaching the Gospel to someone who’s having a medical emergency than getting that person medical help:

Can you imagine trying to get truth and the Gospel through to an individual who is on a cocktail, a fistful of powerful psychotropic drugs, has a flat affect, and stares off into the distance when you talk to him? Do you think that makes it easier or more difficult for a person to hear and heed and comprehend the Gospel?

Encouraging people to tell mentally ill individuals that they shouldn’t feel good:

I get who God is. That’s where you want to be, folks. But that’s not even what we seek when it comes to these “mental illnesses,” so to speak. What do we seek? [mocking voices:] “I just want to feel better.” “I don’t feel good.” And unfortunately we’re not talking to people who will take us by the hand and say, “You know what, sweetheart? In light of the way you’ve been living you shouldn’t feel good.” Turn to God.

Again claiming sin leads to mental illness, and that people should pray their illnesses away:

Your sin has real physical and emotional consequences. Proverbs 26:13: “The sluggard” — by the way, that’s sin — “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion in the road, there’s a lion in the streets.” The sin of slothfulness — contributing to anxiety! Must need a pill! No, it’s a sin problem at the root of that! Proverbs 28:1: “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as lions.” The wicked are fleeing when no one’s pursuing — there’s paranoia, directly related to wickedness! Psalms 31:10: “For my life is spent with sorrow, my years with sighing, my strength fails because of my iniquity and my bones waste away.” Physical consequences because of sin. James 5, beginning at verse 13. We talk about this every week: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” And another one that we read every week, 1 Corinthians 11, beginning at verse 27: “Whoever therefore eats the” — this is talking about the Lord’s Supper — “Whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of who are weak and ill and some have died.”

Baucham linking evil spiritual forces with mental illness:

There is real evil in the world. And often times — and we haven’t talked about this — often times what we’re dealing with is some of that real evil in the world. Ephesians 6:11 and 12: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” That’s real, people. And there’s no pill for that.

This bizarre analogy between caffeine and mental illness:

There’s some of you in here who are addicted to caffeine. By the way, it’s the exact same principle: I get up in the morning and I don’t feel good. I’m supposed to feel good. There is a drug with which I can self-medicate to make myself feel good. I will get this drug into me so that I feel good and then I will be able to go throughout the day. If I don’t get this drug into me, I will sin against you but I won’t call it sin, I will refer to my self-diagnosis of a lack of caffeine and you must understand that it’s not me, it’s the disease. If you can’t say amen, you ought to say ouch! It’s the exact same thing, people.

Baucham shaming everyone into telling their pastors about their intimate medical histories:

If you’re here today and you’re being treated by someone for a mental illness, and you have not informed your elders — first, I want to ask you a question. Why on God’s green earth would you do that? Why? By the way, I can tell you the answer: Because you’ve bought the lie.

Claiming that if you’re upset about any of the above statements, it’s because you just don’t like God’s Word:

If you’ve been upset or offended by anything I’ve said today, I want to ask you a question: Why? Why? There was merely the assertion of fact rooted in a biblical understanding of the way we are created. What is that you are clinging to that would make you chafe against the Word of God when applied to the most significant things in your life?