Saturday, 28 April 2012

Malcolm Bowden

Some of you may have heard Malcolm Bowdens slot this last week, where he claims that depression, and other mental illnesses, are the choice of the individual who suffers from them.

He says that a "true" Christian can never be depressed, because it is incompatible with their faith.

He says, on his website, that he has been involved in counseling many people, with what he calls "True Biblical Counseling".

There is so much I could say about him, but I would pick up a few for now. Firstly, he seems to have a real thing about "True" Christians, as opposed, I guess, to "False" ones. This always sounds alarms for me, because, in the end, what he means is Christians who agree with him. It means that people who don't agree, or - more significantly - people who are not helped by his "counseling" are not "True" Christians.

That will really help someone if they are already suffering from depression or self-esteem problems, to be then told that they are not really a Christian either.

The other problem I have though is far wider than this. My problem is that he given Christianity a bad name. Now most people I know will happily acknowledge that his opinions are not representative, but people I don't know may assume that this is a representation of evangelical Christianity.

And what bugs me most is this quick-fix approach to mental illness. Actually, I see it in other places, although this is a particularly bad form of it, where the assumption is that some short term counseling, or a few prayers sessions, can cure everything. The real challenge for the church communities, for evangelical Christians as a whole, is can they live with, work with, and support people who have mental illness over years. Can we provide the long-term care and concern that people need? Can we get away from the quick-fix mentality that is so common in society, and pray with people, spend time with people, support people over the years they may need it?

I hope so. And I hope that Malcolm Bowden and his like are seen as a dangerous and minority extreme, and not the genuine, real, caring side of Christianity.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Hunger Games

This book and film are very hot at the moment, so I decided to read the books, and see what the fuss was about. I recommend it, because the first book at least is a good read.

However, I was also intrigued to see that the story, while being set in the future, is just as true today. Today, we are living in the era of the hunger games.

In the story, the less privileged  have to fight harder for food than the more privileged. Which is completely true in the world - and even in the UK - today. The less you have today, the more difficult it is to provide for yourself and your family. The poorer you are, the harder it is to eat well, to therefore be healthy. And even where there is supposed to be a level playing field - as in the number of entries into the pot - the more common it is that the poor are the ones who suffer.

Even across the districts, the poor ones suffered more than the richer ones. Poverty - and the problems that it produces - goes from generation to generation, in a spiral. Those districts who do not win cannot provide the support for their winners in the following years. So their chances are reduced. And so it goes on.

The parading of the young people before the media is so reminiscent of freak shows like Britain's Got Talent and X-Factor - they get dressed up, they pretend, but this is a show, not them.

And the core message that the Hunger Games gives - that to win you need to kill your opponents - is one we far too often give out. Katriss shows the alternative, that sacrifice is another way. If we sacrifice, if we deal with others as human beings, then we beat the system. Just like Jesus did.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Who gives you your meaning?

Of course the answer is always God. We know that. But is it the truth? I am reading a book at the moment, "So you don't want to go to church anymore", and it has made me think a little bit. Very substantially, I agree with what I have read, but this question is a significant one.

For some people, they find their value, purpose, meaning in their work. And when work rejects them - as it does to everyone eventually - people lose their meaning. Others find their meaning in family, and when their family reject them or disappoint them, they struggle to find their meaning . I could go on.

But what really worries me is that some people get their meaning and purpose in life from the church. Those who are ministers, or childrens workers or members of the congregation, it is easy to define yourself by what your role or position is in church. What is worse, there is a danger that this is seen as finding your meaning or purpose in God. And for so many people, it avoids the real challenges that finding ones meaning in God implies.

The truth is, finding ones meaning and value in God means that these other things will be important, but not driving you. And when they let you down, as they all do very regularly, that will be unfortunate and difficult, but not challenging your personal value. Let me be clear, just because the church tells you to piss off, does not mean that God does. Just because your work and your family tell you that they no longer need you, that doesn't make it the truth or diminish your value.

When you find your meaning and purpose in God, other things may be useful, helpful, productive and help you find more of God. But maybe they won't. And if they don't, then move on. Because your value in God is the most important thing ever. And you need to find those things that help and support that, not diminish it.

TLDR? Find your meaning in God, not some second-rate substitutes.