Stigma in the Church

It’s hard for us to face stigma toward our mental health. It’s even harder when it’s somewhere close to home. As a Christian I’ve noticed some of the worst stigma comes from church. This isn’t because church isn’t understanding enough or doesn’t care, it’s mostly due to an inexperience with something none of us want to talk about; the demonic.

When we read the Bible, and we look at mental illness, parallels start to form. On the surface it seems very simple, mentally ill is demonically possessed; however this isn’t the case.

For those of us who have actually seen demonic possession we shake our heads at this attitude, because mentally ill aren’t possessed, they’re more spiritually sensitive.

All day we are all barraged with demonic influences and thoughts, no I don’t mean television. Psychologists call this “intrusive thoughts” and the studies behind it indicate that we have no idea [scientifically] where they come from or why our brain would cause us to think such things. Generally these thoughts are destructive in nature, toward our selves or others, and can involve violence or other destructive acts of a sexual or hedonistic nature. They are random, they aren’t wanted, they’re intrusive; they are demonic.

People with mental illnesses tend to be more sensitive to these “thoughts”. They can hear them louder or feel they are in fact their own thoughts and this is only due to the fact that their brain isn’t healthy enough to fight it; they aren’t evil.

People with healthy minds try to ignore these thoughts and lock them up, they wouldn’t want anyone to think that they’re a deviate. The fact is intrusive thoughts are the thoughts that cause us to sin; and we all sin.

A mentally ill person is no more possessed than a mentally healthy person. It’s just that for someone who is mentally unwell it’s much louder and is more intense. The feeling of “you must do this”, commonly referred to as “temptation”, is much stronger in those with an unhealthy mind, so it’s easy to see how someone with behavioral issues would be seen as possessed; but in truth they are just acting out the things which others also think and feel.

This doesn’t excuse bad behaviour, but it does require sympathy. We can’t go around demonizing people because they are more susceptible to demonic attack; we should be protecting them, praying for them.

You can be mentally ill and follow Jesus in the same way you can suffer from cancer and do likewise. All illnesses are not from God. We weren’t originally created to get sick or even die.

The truth of the matter is that it’s not invisible illnesses that come from the devil, it’s all illnesses.


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