Thursday, August 7, 2014

Question of the Week: Demon Possession or Mental Illness?

   I'm curious about the relationship between whatever is mental and whatever is spiritual.
   It seems to me that a lot of mental processes are often attributed to the spiritual. For example, maybe I have a subconscious desire to do something. I could easily interpret that desire to be God telling me to do something, when in actuality it's just me.
   Or, I could feel angry for no reason. I could then attribute my anger to spiritual warfare, when in actuality, maybe I'm just having side effects from medication. And I guess this question troubles me because, um, attributing our mental processes to the spiritual can certainly give an easier answer than looking within ourselves.
   So: I suppose I see why it's easy for people to dismiss the mentally ill as influenced by demons. Our brains aren't really diseased, we're not really weak - it's forces we didn't create and can't contain.
   Of course, I don't believe this. My depression was caused by anxiety, which in turn was caused by untreated wounds from my past. Not demons.
    Yet in the Bible, God is said to have sent a spirit to afflict King Saul with depression.
    Moreover, the New Testament if rife with people who seem to display symptoms of epilepsy or schizophrenia, yet in the Bible they're called "demon-possessed."
    Naturally, this raises a mountain of questions that can only be answered with speculations. Ick.
    Oh, right, I love those questions.
    First and foremost, I'd love to ask: were these people actually possessed/afflicted by the spiritual realm, or was misunderstood mental illness the cause of their suffering?
    Some people stick to the demon interpretation, pointing to the fact that the "demon-possessed" people in the New Testament seemed to have knowledge of things they should not have known, such as the serving girl who knew that Paul proclaimed Jesus as God or the young man who could apparently discern those who truly believed in Jesus and those who didn't. They claim that most mentally ill today are probably suffering from a legitimate mental, and not spiritual, disorder.
     I suppose my objection to this theory is simply that, well, aside from suprerior knowledge, the descriptions seem nearly identical to mental health issues. And why would demons inhabit children, like the epileptic child?
     A second interpretation assumes that the Biblical writers simply attributed mental illness to demons because they lacked sufficient knowledge of mental processes. Jesus either just didn't bother to correct people, or, since he was in a human form himself, was limited in His knowledge (I think C.S. Lewis once said that he saw no incoherency between Jesus' deity and limits to his knowledge in human form, so please don't kill me for saying this).
    I suppose my main objection to this theory is, if Jesus knew, why didn't He say something? You know, a lot of mentally ill have been treated like crap throughout history due to misunderstandings like this (in fact, they still are). Maybe He could have helped us! And if He just didn't know, what do we make of His seemingly psychic abilities with the woman at the well?
    So: I'm in a bit of a conundrum. Problems abound with either answer, I think.
    Like I said at the beginning of this post, I don't think it's possible to find a definite answer to this question.
    I suppose the answer of Jesus to the mentally ill - love, compassion, yes I'll help you - is the real takeaway, the more pressing question from these stories, be the culprit demons or a troubled brain.

     Still, I would love, lovelovelovelovelove, to hear your perspectives on this. Pretty please?
Love you all,

No comments:

Post a Comment