The Church, Mental Health and Kanye West

The Church, Mental Health and Kanye West July 21, 2020

Earlier in the week David Murray of Crossway wrote an article on the issues of depression. It was a curious blend of some factual things with the whole Evangelical nonsense of mental issues always being sin somewhere along the line. The article was titled “5 Questions About Mental Illness”

The author blames all mental illness on the fall of Adam to start with. But Adam gets a lot of blame for so many things in Evangelism. Eve gets more.

“All depression, anxiety, bi-polar, schizophrenia, PTSD, personality disorders, etc. can be traced to that terrible turning point in world history. Mental illness is not a new invention, but a sin invention. “

He goes on to explain that some mental illness comes out of brain chemistry being off, or a genetic predisposition, which is radical thinking in the church. The church as a whole will blame it on personal sin. We went through this for many years during my husband’s depression that wasn’t depression at all in the classical sense, but malignant tumors on his parathyroid glands.

The author goes on to state one of the biggest problems with mental illness is that is causes you to turn away from your spiritual life, then goes on to claim the opposite, that not having a spiritual life can cause mental illness. Which is it?

“Our spiritual life affects our thoughts, feelings, bodies, and relationships, and, if unhealthy, it can be the cause of mental illness.”

And then we end up here, a familiar, wrong and predictable place.

“We may have wrong lives. Although we should normally not run to this first as our default, we must acknowledge that our sinful attitudes, desires, and actions can cause, or at least contribute to, mental illness. The most common spiritual causes of mental illness are addictions, immorality, greed, overwork, bitterness, anger, hatred, pornography, idolatry, and unbelief. This is partly because some of these cause physical damage. But there’s also a spiritual element to all these sins. Shame and guilt wear and tear our bodies, God can chastise us, sinful thoughts and desires that we choose can also damage us.”

I will give the author credit, his answer on how to solve mental illness is more correct than most bloviating Evangelicals. He suggests that a team approach of medication, therapy, exercise, diet, friendships before adding in the typical Evangelical you just need Jesus.

Knowing that this is what the Evangelical world believes, that it’s mostly sin, makes me fear for Kanye West. For those of us that do not follow or try to exploit celebrity gossip it’s been pretty obvious over the course of the last week that Kanye seems to be experiencing pretty significant mental health issues.  This is, of course, as he’s running for president against Donald Trump, set to release a new album titled “Donda”, and apparently holed up in the recording studio tweeting all sorts of disturbing things.

I cannot believe I am about to say this, but I feel bad for his wife Kim Kardashian, Having spent significant time around manic people suffering from bipolar disorders her role is a hard one. She’s not responsible for his behavior, or even if he stays on his medications, which many bipolars struggle to do. She can only talk to him, give her imput and sit back, and watch him disintegrate until she can do a medical intervention to hospitalize him.

The reason I mention Kanye is two-fold. First, he’s set himself up as an Evangelical powerhouse, a player in a religion that holds those views I posted above. They eat their mentally ill own, with no compassion, but a heaping helping of blaming and shaming, which is so not what he needs at this point. I am hearing silence and crickets chirping from all of his high level Evangelical buddies right now.

The second point is a stickier one. The need for privacy, compassion, helpful conversations, and destigmatizing mental health issues. We desperately need to change as a society is how we speak of the mentally unhealthy. Sometimes the language and talk sounds just this side of a lynch mob.

How do we do that? I think the first step is shunning those who are trying to sensationalize the mental struggles of others. Yesterday I ran across a YouTube blogger who made no less than two long videos in a very short span that illustrate the problems of mental illness in people. She spent the first one continually yapping out blaming and shaming language insisting that Kanye’s wife Kim Kardashian ‘do’ something.

She does not know either Kim or Kanye. She’s not a mental health professional. She’s just another gossip hag picking over the bones of some juicy scandal without considering how her coverage might affect the treatment of the victim. Plus this isn’t even the first time she’s put people in risky situations by what she’s said in her videos. I am hearing that this particular blogger also put her own neighbors at risk by lying about their harassment to her fans, who tend to take everything she says as the gospel and have physically threatened others in her life.

When people indulge in this type of behavior they are just adding to the overwhelming problems the mentally ill already struggle with, and feed the illusion that the mentally ill aren’t really people. Well, not normal people. They perpetuate the stereotypes, making it harder for those who need the help to reach out to those who could help them. We need to speak kindly, helpfully, and with compassion.

Here’s hoping that Kanye gets the help he needs, and Kim gets the support she’ll need to keep navigating this complex issue.

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About Suzanne Titkemeyer
Suzanne Titkemeyer went from a childhood in Louisiana to a life lived in the shadow of Washington D.C. For many years she worked in the field of social work, from national licensure to working hands on in a children's residential treatment center. Suzanne has been involved with helping the plights of women and children' in religious bondage. She is a ordained Stephen's Minister with many years of counseling experience. Now she's retired to be a full time beach bum in Tamarindo, Costa Rica with the monkeys and iguanas. She is also a thalassophile. She also left behind years in a Quiverfull church and loves to chronicle the worst abuses of that particular theology. She has been happily married to her best friend for the last 34 years You can read more about the author here.
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