Pastor Rick Warren: ‘We’re All Mentally Ill’

“We’re all mentally ill,” declared megachurch pastor Rick Warren this past weekend, when he returned to the pulpit 16 weeks after his 27-year-old son Matthew, who had mental-health problems, fatally shot himself. In his sermon, aimed at lessening the stigma of mental illness, Warren said,

In any other organ of your body there’s no shame or stigma if it breaks down… But if your brain doesn’t work, why are you ashamed of that? Why should there by any stigma attached to that? It’s just as much a part of your body as your heart and your liver.

Quite. I fell prey to clinical depression myself in 2006, an ordeal I won’t soon forget. Despite the patience and support of my wife and the sweet presence of our four-year-old daughter, I existed in bleakness and misery — laboring under a heavy, oppressive miasma that wouldn’t lift until, nine months in, physicians got my brain chemistry under control with medication that worked, in doses that provided permanent (?) relief from thoughts of suicide.

As a former depression sufferer, I applaud Warren’s words as true and well-spoken.

But he probably didn’t do the cause any favors when he explained what he meant by “We’re all mentally ill.” This is how he followed that remark:

You have fears, you have worries, you have doubts, you have compulsions, you have attractions.

Sure, we all do. But only the compulsions are a possible sign of mental illness.

Doubts? I’d argue that doubts are indicators of a sound mind, rather than a diseased one.

And Warren’s odd mention of “attractions” will do nothing to stop the rampant speculation (which means it’s possibly untrue) that Matthew was perhaps more interested in men than in women, and that his Christian environment’s rejection of homosexuality might have deepened his despair.

I can credit my life to research and chemistry and medical science. I’m not sure Pastor Warren believes that; for him, being cured of mental illness still necessitates embracing God (even though that’s something Matthew did to no avail).

Says Warren,

Pain is not relieved by explanations; pain is relieved by the presence of God in your life.

It’s another sign that faith and science aren’t always on speaking terms — or at least, that they have trouble using the same dictionary.

The point is also driven home by the tale of Selina Khunkhuna, as told in the Guardian the other day. When, at age 20, she was diagnosed with depression and psychosis,

… “[T]here was a desire among my extended [Sikh] family to turn to spiritual help instead of seeing it as an illness.”

Khunkhuna’s grandmother took her to temples, and once invited a priest and a faith healer to her house to pray for her. Another time, she was given a coconut and told to throw it into a river.

Strangely enough, that didn’t help. But openness and more acceptance might.

“There is already a stigma in talking openly about mental health. But in many [British] Asian communities, there is an added stigma. Depression is often seen as a western illness and sometimes people view it as a test of faith rather than a medical condition,” explains Raheel Mohammed, director of Maslaha [a mental-health advocacy group]. “There isn’t even a word for ‘depression’ in Urdu or Bengali so it is hard to get people talking about it.”

Another expert quoted in the Guardian story says that it’s important to

… demystify the negative assumptions about [poor] mental health in Asian communities, where it is often considered a sign of black magic or God’s will, or a shameful problem that needs to be kept secret.

Faith may have its place, but not as a cure-all for what ails people. Rick Warren deserves credit for openly grappling with his son’s fatal illness, but if he still thinks that “trust in Jesus” is part of a halfway-useful answer, it would seem he has barely begun ascending the learning curve.

(photo via CBC News)

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder and Main Mischief Maker of Moral Compass, a site that pokes fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    In any other organ of your body there’s no shame or stigma if it breaks down…

    WTF? He gets it wrong out of the gate. No one feels shame in sexual dysfunction, for example?

    • 3lemenope

      FWIW, that shame has decreased concomitantly with the discovery of and access to medications that fix the performance problem (though obviously lopsidedly; many great strides have been made to combat male erectile dysfunction, whereas female sexual dysfunction is not as well studied). The shame of mental illness has not declined nearly as much, in large part because treatment for (and even understanding of) many conditions is still scattershot. People get really weird when they are confronted with powerlessness, and nothing makes people feel more powerless than being in the presence (or possession) of a malfunctioning mind.

      • GubbaBumpkin

        When such drugs became available, the marketers had to walk a very fine line, reassuring ad viewers that they were really studly studs even though they just had a little trouble getting it up. It was a delicate operation.

        • 3lemenope

          Quite so. As a result of that delicate operation, many men feel comfortable getting their penis pills whereas before the campaign even mentioning it to a doctor would have been problematic.

          What we need is a penis pill campaign for schizophrenia et al.. Of course, before we can do that, we need the schizophrenia pill.

          • GubbaBumpkin

            Schizophrenia is going to be tough. There are some decent drugs for bipolar and depression, but schizophrenia tends to be a catch-all diagnosis for stuff that doesn’t fit in the other bins.

            • 3lemenope

              Yep.

      • Bdole

        Innies are always more difficult than outies.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Consider it hyperbole for effect. It’s wrong in fact, but aimed at making a point that needs to be made.

  • Hat Stealer

    Wait, you mean throwing a coconut in a river didn’t help Selina overcome her depression? She must have been doing something wrong.

    Also, way to go Rick Warren. You took something that could have been positive and spun it in the completely wrong direction.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Gotta add some spin on the throw for distance and to appease the football gods.

    • cipher

      Wait, you mean throwing a coconut in a river didn’t help Selina overcome
      her depression? She must have been doing something wrong

      Turns out it only works if you’re allergic to coconuts.

  • Gus Snarp

    Proof that religious people can think and say good and decent things, but as soon as they start trying to relate them to their religion, it ruins everything.

  • raytheist

    “Pain is not relieved by explanations; pain is relieved by the presence of God in your life.”
    So, God is about as good as an aspirin? If you break your leg, an aspirin (or stronger narcotic) might make you feel better for a bit but it won’t God won’t do a dang thing about setting the bone and causing the bone to grow together again.
    “If God is the answer, you didn’t understand the question.”

  • The Captain

    Sigh, this entire piece is ruined by one paragraph.

    Look, I really, really hate Rick Warren too. I mean really hate the guy. But, there should be some standards for intellectual integrity around here and to say that the “rampant speculation” that his son was gay might be “possibly untrue” is frankly putting a Fox News word play like spin on something to push a political point. Hell this is almost Dick Cheney level of spin and manipulation. In reality not only is it “possibly untrue”… BUT it hasn’t been shown to be even remotely close to true!

    Sure, he might have been gay, but the link you give to the “speculation” he was is seriously just a bunch of twitter users saying he was gay. And this is important… twitter users who didn’t know, or have any contact with, or ever meet his son are the ones saying he was gay. How the bloody fuck does that mean anyone, especially one writing an article for a web site like this one, should even entertain that “speculation” he was gay? Why do random people on twitter saying stuff they know nothing about constitute evidence for anything? Why would you even include that in this piece, and why would you give such things said by people who know nothing so much it credence by by playing the “he didn’t deny it so it is probably true” shit? To say something is “possibly untrue” is to push the position that it is in fact true.

    “rumors” and “speculation” in relation to news stories (or ones personal opinions) used to need to have at least some connection to the person they are about. If these tweets had come from someone close to the family, or close to his son, then perhaps they could be treated as carrying some weight. But no one should give credence to internet rumors that are started by those who have no connection to the people involved at all.

    That paragraph is nothing but made up crap on the internet you played as probably being true. Very disappointing to see that around here.

    • SeekerLancer

      I totally agree. It was completely unnecessary and unfounded to speculate about Warren’s son.

    • Terry Firma

      It would have been irrelevant except for Warren’s curious mention of the word “attractions,” which reopened that Pandora’s box. This site documents, among others things, the harm done by religion. That harm extends to verbal and actual gay-bashing, and to the suicides that too often result. Don’t tell me that has no place on this site.

      • 3lemenope

        It could have easily been an attraction to chocolate cake or slot poker. It was not specific enough to get more out of it than a concept of general temptation without copious mind-reading.

      • The Captain

        I never said religious harm done to homosexuals doesn’t belong on this site. Please cite where I said that or retract your remark or reread my post and try to understand it this time..

        Now again…What doesn’t belong on this site is unsubstantiated, unsupported, rumors about a dead kid made by people who never knew him at all, and is most likely done so to place the blame for the death of that kid on his father who no one likes (or should but that’s beside the point).

    • Terry Firma

      The other thing that’s odd about your reaction is that you seem to think that being bi or gay is worthy of embarrassment, something that you can be accused of. WTF is THAT about? Presumably, you wouldn’t have been needlessly offended if I’d mentioned that speculation was that Matthew Warren was left-handed, or a sleepwalker.

      I clearly didn’t say that he was suspected of defrauding pensioners or murdering children — THAT kind of speculation would have been irresponsible to pass on without clear proof.

      But the possibility that he liked GUYS? That’s shrug-worthy. The only shameful or embarrassing thing about that is not on Matthew Warren, whatever his sexual proclivities were, but on the good Christians who condemn non-straight people as abominations and sinners.

      • The Captain

        I’ll take each point separately.

        “The other thing that’s odd about your reaction is that you seem to think that being bi or gay is worthy of embarrassment, something that you can be accused of” no not at all, I never made a judgement either way on the subject of sexuality in my post. That’s you reading into something that doesn’t exist.

        “Presumably, you wouldn’t have been needlessly offended if I’d mentioned that speculation was that Matthew Warren was left-handed, or a sleepwalker.” Well, first off I can’t be “offended” by someones sexuality… don’t care. What I am concerned about is the use of anonymous, internet rumors made by people who never knew someone being used as evidence as anything and in such a way as to convey those rumors are probably right. So if you “speculated” that he was left handed and the reasons for that is because you heard it said by some guy who never knew him on twitter, yea, I would have a problem with that being used as a source.

        Now to the big part. You’re playing a coy little game here.

        “But the possibility that he liked GUYS? That’s shrug-worthy.” O.k. then why did you bring it up…? Seriously, YOU are the one who injected this (according to your words) “shrug-worthy” possibility into this story, what possible benefit does this bring to the reader if it’s so “shrug-worthy” then???

        Oh that’s right, It’s not really that “shrug-worthy” in the context of Rick Warren now is it? Let me ask you, do you insert a paragraph based around internet rumors of the sexuality of all the people you write about? I don’t think that you do. And that’s because in the context of Rick Warren the sexuality of his son could have implications to this story.

        Look, a lot of people obviously want Warren to have had a gay son, it would allow them to blame him for his sons death, and sadly would probably serve as “justice” for many on the internet. Frankly you seem to be one of them, but you’re doing so with the least amount of journalistic integrity I’ve not seen around here since that Ron Paul pushing guy left. I mean seriously you work as a journalist right… when is anonymous commenters with no connection what so ever to a person a source for anything about said person? What editor outside of TMZ would allow you present an internet rumor made by people who never knew someone as probably being true?

        • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

          I’m not interested in speculating about why a young man would kill himself, but I too find it odd that we can speculate about anything other than his sexuality. To me that says that there’s still something shameful about being gay in our culture. Otherwise why would it be a big deal whether he were gay or straight?

          • J-Rex

            In this case, it’s not about whether or not being gay is shameful and speculation is therefore offensive. It’s that if he was gay, people would have more reason to hate Rick Warren because they would assume that his anti-gay beliefs had something to do with his son’s suicide.
            The speculation is offensive, not because of what it implies of Matthew, but because of what it would say about Rick if it was true.

            • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

              Why is that offensive? If Rick’s son had been gay, his anti-gay views and statements, including being up to his neck in the Ugandan “kill-the-gays” bill, could well have been a factor in his suicide. It’s not at all unusual for gay kids growing up in various kind of anti-gay religious households to kill themselves because no matter how hard they pray to not be gay any more, the still are. The only thing offensive in any of that is Rick Warren’s anti-gay bigotry. No one should apologize for stating the obvious. I wouldn’t go there because I have no idea if it is true or not, but considering how often such things happen, Warren has most certainly led at least indirectly to other people’s children committing suicide. Offensive? Yes, people like that most certainly are offensive. Why should anyone apologize for calling bigots out on their bigotry?

              • J-Rex

                Yes, of course he’s a bigot. However, it is unfair to make accusations that he had a role in his son’s suicide when there is no evidence to back that up.
                Not saying he hasn’t done horrible things, but it sounds like this is something people really want to be true because they can hate him more for it. It’s hard to feel pity for someone you dislike, but if people try to blame him for his son’s suicide, they don’t have to feel any pity for him at all.

                • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

                  I will agree that we should not come to conclusions for which there is no evidence. The scenario suggested is but one possible situation. It seems (from Warren’s previous statements) that this has been an ongoing problem. As I said elsewhere it is good that he is speaking out on this issue. Too many fundamentalists are negative about psychiatric treatment. Warren is doing some good here. I only responded because of the tone regarding the entire issue of homosexuality and Warren’s involvement with brutal anti-gay regimes in Africa (about which he also routinely lies to the American press…lies which are widely believed by our idiot media who are too lazy to check the facts). But that is neither here nor there. If some Fundamentalist parents will now seek actual medical treatment from qualified doctors and counselors instead of hoping that they can pray away the depression, then that is a good thing. It’s time someone with his influence said these things. Too many say the opposite.

    • Blacksheep

      how on earth can you “really hate, I mean really hate” someone simply because you disagree with their faith? I’ve never experienced hating someone who disagrees with me – or even thinks I’m a bad person – how can that produce hate?

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        It’s not so much about “disagreeing with his faith” as it is the fact that Rick Warren has had heavy influence in anti-gay circles, and is therefore complicit in the needless suffering of many, many people.

        Surely that is worth some hate….

      • allein

        It’s more about the actions that his beliefs lead to, than the belief itself.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I wonder if he considers his doubt that Allah is the creator of the universe to be a mental illness.

  • SeekerLancer

    “Pain is not relieved by explanations; pain is relieved by the presence of God in your life.”

    The first step to conquering (or at least learning to deal with) any mental illness is understanding it. I really thought Rick had good intentions in increasing awareness for the mentally ill but all he’s done is made it an excuse to proselytize.

    You should be encouraging people to seek professional help, not a church pew.

    • allein

      Exactly. I find it helpful to have at least some plausible scientific explanations of where my depression and anxiety might come from on a physical level (even if there is still plenty left to learn). It helps to figure out what I can do to alleviate it. It’s how I learned to control anxiety and panic attacks without relying on medication (though I was extremely appreciative of that prescription until I got to the point where I could cope without it). Reading some actual medical literature about anxiety is what got it to click in my brain that no, I’m not dying here, and then I could calm down and learn to control the symptoms.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Damn damn damn. Warren is so close. The footpath is ten feet off to one side, and while he knows it isn’t far away, it just isn’t occurring to him to to swing his flashlight in a wide arc.

    • 3lemenope

      A big part of the problem is his intended destination isn’t where we want it to be. He keeps missing our target because he keeps hitting his own.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Terry, I’m very glad that you survived and recovered from your depression. A few of my patients died by suicide because the social stigma prevented them from asking for the help they needed. It can be hidden, and they hid it well, and doing that cost them their lives. So thank you for speaking openly and accurately about it. Every time an articulate person talks about mental illness and evidence-based successful treatment, he or she helps others get past the stigma that they have internalized, and they go ask for proper help. The odds are high that several people who are reading your post have this challenge.

    I’m disappointed but not surprised that Rick Warren has decided to turn his son’s tragedy into yet another sales pitch for his religion. He’s essentially plugging mental illness into the “original sin” idea, that all people are born broken and can only be fixed by the Repairman in the Sky. In so doing, he has convinced several of the people who are listening to him to eschew consulting a psychiatrist for their own or their loved one’s mental disorder, and to rely on preachers and prayers.

    He has helped several people edge closer to dying the way his son did.

    Clinical depression is not at all the same as being “bummed out.” Seeking help for clinical depression from a minister, preacher, priest, rabbi, imam, or other holy man has exactly the same effect as seeking help for an infected wound from a rain forest witch doctor. The poultice of feathers, guano, pureed salamander, bone powder or whatever the hell it is doesn’t just not work, it makes the problem worse. Adding the idea of “You’re no damn good in the eyes of the Lord” to depression, and then futilely reciting magic spells as the remedy only deepens the despair and self-loathing.

    • Caroline Miller

      As a sufferer from depression and anxiety, I agree that religious leaders should not serve as a substitute for a psychologist or counselor. However, a patient needs the support of his or her community, and if their relationship with a religious leader is a healthy and affirming one that helps alleviate their illness, it should be nurtured as well.

      • Stev84

        Not when those religious leaders pretend to help at the expense of real help. Which is what usually happens.

    • Michael W Busch

      Well said.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      Even people who are “bummed out” might benefit from help from a trained professional. Maybe they just need counseling. Or maybe they need antidepressants for awhile. That determination needs to be made by a professional, not someone trained in theology.

    • Blacksheep

      “He’s essentially plugging mental illness into the “original sin” idea, that all people are born broken and can only be fixed by the Repairman in the Sky.”

      I actually thought (unless I heard / read wrong) that Warren made sure to get the best medical care for his son, and said as much from the pulpit. My understanding is that he’s looking at it holistically, as a mind/body/spirit thing, with the spirit part looking to Christianity, but not instead of doctors.

      • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

        I sincerely hope you are correct. If there is a larger context than what is in this post, where Warren is representing this issue as you say, that’s great. I don’t care about discrediting Warren just because he’s a preacher. I’m concerned because he’s an influential person, and the effect he will have on people’s views toward mental illness will be widespread, for good or ill. His influence on his flock’s attitude toward LGBT people is definitely for ill, so I have that in mind when I think about this issue. His efforts to refute the general social stigma about mental illness are admirable. I just hope that the final takeaway idea for his followers is not a simplistic “God will fix it,” or “God didn’t fix it because the mentally ill person didn’t have strong enough faith.”
        We’ll have to wait and see.

  • C Peterson

    I think he’s basically correct. Just as we all have physical illnesses of varying degree, so too do we have mental illnesses of varying degree.

    One particularly damaging mental illness is excessive credulity and irrationality (which often leads to religiosity) – damaging not just because of its negative impact on the ability to reason, but damaging because it isn’t recognized as a generally correctable thing, with the result that efforts to fix it are generally not made.

    • Michael W Busch

      Again, irrational behavior and religiosity are not mental illness. This is not the place for you to push your nonsense.

      • C Peterson

        No, irrational behavior is a symptom of mental illness, particularly when it becomes excessive enough to interfere with normal operation.

        • Michael W Busch

          You are wrong. As I have explained to you before, many irrational behaviors are entirely normal and are not symptoms of anything. And since I have explained this to you before, I will not continue your derailment of this thread.

          And your moving of the goalposts with qualifiers such as “interfere with normal operation” is noted.

          • C Peterson

            I’d say from your responses on this subject matter that you show signs of mental illness yourself. Probably ought to have that checked out.

            • Michael W Busch

              So now people who disagree with you and call you on your nonsense have to be mentally ill? Your ableism is incredibly offensive.

              • C Peterson

                No, people who disagree with me aren’t necessarily mentally ill. People who continue on the same incorrect and irrational tangents, as you do with respect to mental illness, are certainly displaying symptoms, however.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Right, it’s “incorrect and irrational” to fight against bigotry….

                  Ridic.

                • C Peterson

                  Busch’s problem is that he stigmatizes mental illness. He treats it as oddly different from physical illness. He comes across to me as a bigot, not somebody fighting bigotry.

                  It is a fact that irrational beliefs and behavior are symptomatic of a large number of clinically recognized types of mental illness, and arguably types that are not currently recognized clinically. To deny that is crazy.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Pain is not relieved by explanations; pain is relieved by the presence of God in your life.

    Next thing he’ll be telling us is that exorcisms are the way to deal with mental illness.

    • Smiles

      But the presence of someone else’s god in your life has caused a great deal of pain and death…(not going to bother with examples…) That statement is supremely ignorant…

    • smrnda

      Pain can also be relieved by pain-killing meds, which doctors are often hesitant to prescribe because we still see something shameful in refusing to ‘tough it out’ and excessive worries about the potential for pain-killer abuse and dependency.

  • Michaela Samuels

    Mental illness strikes close to home for my family, as well; my husband was diagnosed as bipolar a couple of years into our marriage (rightly so) and the awareness of this clinically-defined disposition gave him the ability to make huge strides in his life and offered understanding for behaviors that had previously limited our relationship greatly. With this background, I wholeheartedly argue the significance of explanation. I won’t even get into what exactly “the presence of God in your life” is supposed to mean.

    It is comforting to see an advocate for mental health awareness in the Christian community, as my husband was written off by several well-intended people; conversely, it is frustrating to see it trivialized by equating it simply to “doubts” or “attractions” without even the benefit of further clarification. That is offering people the opportunity to view any avenue apart from fundamental, dogmatic doctrine as an illness that should be corrected. It does absolutely no good for the cause.

  • BenFromCA

    “’We’re all mentally ill,’ declared megachurch pastor Rick Warren this past weekend”

    Speak for yourself, Rick.

  • BrandonUB

    “We’re all mentally ill.”

    This rather depends on who “we” in this context is, doesn’t it? I attended Warren’s church for a service a few years ago with my then girlfriend, and I would certainly be inclined to agree that the people in his flock are exhibiting symptoms of mental illness, from what I saw.

    • Michael W Busch

      Religious beliefs are not “symptoms of mental illness”. They are simply wrong.

      And by saying “if you follow Rick Warren, you’re mentally ill” instead of “it is wrong to follow Rick Warren”, you’re using mental illness as an insult and contributing to the stigma against it. Don’t do that.

      • BrandonUB

        Religious beliefs are not “symptoms of mental illness”. They are simply wrong.

        Have you seen the sorts of churches that folks that Warren run? We’re talking about people literally falling over in the aisles in some sort of rictus of pleasure, brought on by someone talking about Jesus. That seems pretty consistent with mental illness of some sort, to me.

        And by saying “if you follow Rick Warren, you’re mentally ill” instead of “it is wrong to follow Rick Warren”, you’re using mental illness as an insult and contributing to the stigma against it. Don’t do that.

        Those are not my words. If you read something someone wrote and think, “I’ll rephrase this in such a fashion that it looks worse”, you’re being disingenuous. Don’t do that.

        • Michael W Busch

          Have you seen the sorts of churches that folks that Warren run?

          Yes, I have. And “falling over in the aisles” and glossolalia/”speaking in tongues” and other altered states of consciousness in religious contexts are not “consistent with mental illness”. They’re simply primarily learned emotive behaviors that people associate with and to express in certain contexts – just like people rocking out in a mosh pit or soldiers in military trance or programmers deep in the flow.

          Ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altered_state_of_consciousness , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossolalia and its sources.

          Those are not my words.

          They may not have been your intent. But your intent does not magically erase the harm you do by wrongly equating believing wrong things with mental illness.

          • BrandonUB

            And “falling over in the aisles” and glossolalia/”speaking in tongues” and other altered states of consciousness in religious contexts are not “consistent with mental illness”.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/07/health/07brain.html?_r=0

            The description there certainly makes this seem like it’s consistent with mental illness. Breaks from reality where a person ceases to control their body isn’t what I’d describe as being consistent with good mental health.

            They may not have been your intent. But your intent does not magically erase the harm you do by wrongly equating believing wrong things with mental illness.

            Spare me the nonsense. I didn’t say anything about my intent – what you settled on saying is quite literally not what I said. I realize that the “intent isn’t magic” trope is gratifying for you to trot out, but I’ve said nothing of intent. I flat out didn’t say what you suggested I did.

            • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

              Mike is a little sensitive about mental illness and expresses this at every chance he gets. I think if he dealt with those issues he would less inclined to overreact, but I suspect he holds onto his feelings for some sentimental value or just out of fear of being healthy.

  • smrnda

    I’ve had serious psychiatric problems. The solution? Medication, some check-ups, and a few lifestyle changes when possible. You don’t solve a real world problem with an imaginary solution.

    The support of a religious leader or community *might* be helpful, but there’s a tremendous potential for harm when people with no qualifications decide they can do the work of therapists, social workers and psychiatrists.

    • 3lemenope

      That’s why i’m not totally wild about this message, despite it being overall a good one. The end to the phrase is “We’re all mentally ill…and what I have here will treat what ails you.” Identifying the problem is a good step, but if your solution is still “Jesus”, it ain’t gonna get much further than that.

    • Michael W Busch

      there’s a tremendous potential for harm when people with no
      qualifications decide they can do the work of therapists, social workers
      and psychiatrists.

      Quoted for truth.

  • rg57

    “But only the compulsions are a possible sign of mental illness.”

    Do you, by chance, have a psychology degree?

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

      Do you by chance have a linguistics degree? Are you an epistemology major? Do you lack the ability to comprehend implied meanings?

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    It’s good to hear this from a fundamentalist. My aunt has suffered from chemical imbalances her entire life. She had a pastor who was against psychiatry. She really couldn’t function without her meds (as in couldn’t get out of bed for weeks at a time). I’m glad to see someone this influential make such an announcement. Mental illness should be thought of as any other illness. We don’t consider it a moral failing if you have to take insulin because your pancreas doesn’t work properly. Why is it any more shameful to take meds because you are bipolar or depressed or any other diagnosis. it’s too bad that like the rest of the fundies it took a tragedy close to home for him to figure this out, but this statement might help people who might not otherwise get the help they need.

  • WingedBeast

    What bugs me is that, even within the confines of the Christian worldview, there’s just a MUCH better thing to say than “Be really really good Christians and that will make it better.”

    You could very easily say “It is not for us to judge why God gives some people some burdens. It is not for us to claim that some burdens do not exist or are to be belittled or are not real burdens or are, in any way, shameful. Our only place is to help. To help shoulder a burden, to help in whatever small way we are blessed to have available to us.”

    It could, so easily, be a call to humility not just before God but before a life and situations that you do not get to judge and, therefore, can only do what you can to help. It could be a call to compassion and checking of the blocks one has to compassion.

    But, instead, Rick Warren goes with the “Jesus makes it better” stance. He goes with the stance that, rather than uplifting true humility, actually gives license to make presumptions about what other people need in order to deal with their own burdens. Rather than compassion, he encourages people to focus on throwing Jesus around, like a snake oil.

    As an atheist, I cringe for Christianity that people like Rick Warren are the voices of authority.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

      I suspect outside of the confines of a xian family all xian’s feel that other xians are not true xians.

  • Robster

    Even for the fans, this christian god fantasy fails dismally. Surely the death of a loved one, besotted with the same god/jesus/spook fantasy would have the pastor questioning his faith? Is this bloke a bit slow perhaps or in some way mentally compromised? Be interesting to know because his god’s a complete failure.

    • Blacksheep

      There is plenty of death and suffering in the Bible, look at Jesus himself. And the disciples are said to all have been martyred in some way. (not in the Bible, though – that’s more of a catholic thing). Still, death of a loved one would not steer someone away from the Christian faith, since much of it is based upon the idea that we live in a broken world that will ultimately be set right by God. I would agree that it would be a failure if the Bible somehow promised that Christians would never suffer – but that’s simply not the case.

  • pamsfriend

    He had such a good start, but had to succumb to “pray away the gray.”

  • Without Malice

    Tell people you’re trusting in God to heal you of some terrible disease and (at least in America) you’ll be treated as someone deserving of praise for your faith. Tell the same people your trusting in your fairy god-mother to heal you and they’ll think your nutty as a snickers bar, even though there is no more proof for the existence of one as there is for the other. The only thing that separates the sane from the insane in holding these beliefs is the collective agreement on the part of our society that there really is a being called God but that the belief in things like fairy god-mothers and Santa Clause are reserved for children and the mentally crippled. There are, in fact, no so-called proofs of God that cannot be used to justify the belief in “any” other imaginary being and it is beyond question that believers in one religion hold the beliefs of other religions to be ridiculous superstitions that no sane person would, or should, believe.


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