I was reading this BioLogos Forum discussion that was discussing whether some forms of Young Earth Creationism (YEC) overlaps with mental illness. The discussion initiator thought that since the new ICR museum teaches that biblical references to dragons are really about dinosaurs, who not only lived on the ark but were seen by Alexander the Great; that such a delusion might be reflective of a type of mental illness. A delusion being defined as “a belief firmly held in spite of strong contradictory evidence”. Other commentators were quick to point out the insulting nature of this assertion with one commentator making the point:
“I don’t think there is such a thing as a human being with no delusions (unless it is somebody who can’t engage in any formal thought process at all, such as an infant). If anyone thinks they have no delusions, then that is their capital delusion right there – along with the inevitable pile of your other delusions that they are blind to.”
The Scientific American article that gives this post its title was referenced. I was reminded again of the Scientific American article while reading Ruth Tucker’s post at Jesus Creed about missionary Amy Carmichael. Carmichael was born in Millisle, Northern Ireland in 1867. According to Tucker, Carmichael served in India without home leave for more than 55 years. She founded the Dohnavur Fellowship, an independent mission (including orphanage), as well as the Sisters of the Common Life, a community of women who made vows of celibacy. According to Tucker, Carmichael criticized other missionaries as too lax in their work. They took vacations and joined together for celebrations. Not those at Dohnavur. Amy did not take furloughs, or holidays; neither would her workers. She made a vow of celibacy, so also her workers.
Now, I’ve blogged about this issue before, for example, here, and Tucker’s description of Amy Carmichael would seem to fit that description. Defenders of Amy Carmichael would assert that her motivations are pure; she’s “doing it all for Jesus” and she is simply “on fire for the Lord”, and is a “fool for Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:10). They would point out Jesus Himself made such radical demands as in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple” or Mark 9:47, “And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell”.
The Scientific American article, by Nathaniel P. Morris, a resident physician in psychiatry at the Stanford University School of Medicine, does a pretty good job of examining the nuance and ambiguities of the issue. At the one extreme you have the Richard Dawkins types who assert all religion is a delusion and a manifestation of mental illness. At the other end you have the Amy Carmichael types who are so convinced they’ve heard from God they have no problem treating those who disagree with them as unworthy of even being Christians. Can you be a jerk for Jesus? I’m gonna say… no.
Many of us here at Imonk are post-Evangelical. Part of that moving on is the realization that we are recovering jerks. And that jerk-aspect of our religious practice is not, in fact, a healthy mental state. Wretched Urgency, Michael Spencer called it. And in another famous post he inveighed against “weird Christians”. If your religious fervor is turning you into a jerk then maybe it’s time for a reality check. How do you know? Here’s a couple of things from my experience:
- You always feel you have to be “on” there is no relaxing… relaxing is slacking.
- People are telling you that you are a jerk.
- You don’t have a sense of humor about “the issue”.
- You only talk about one thing, that thing being, the thing you are fanatical about.
- You are unwilling to even consider opposing points of view.
- If everyone doesn’t hold the same point of view as you on an issue, it will mean the end of the world, and they are your enemy.
Get some help, my friend…