Sunday, October 25, 2009

Theology and the Scientific Method

It is sometimes stated that theological statements cannot be tested by the scientific method. This must be absurd. Any hypothesis may be judged according to whether or not its truth can be determined objectively. The major flaw in the scientific method, from the point of view of the theologian, is its insistence that the scientist has an explainable but minimal, even neglible, impact on his world. He or she devises and conducts an experiment to test a theory and hopes for confirmation from others to confirm observations, analyses and conclusions. He assumes that his observations were not influenced by his presence. Quantum mechanics has suggested that this is not entirely true and that reality is effectively determined as and when it is experientially observed.

The question of the existence of God has not been tested according to the scientific method precisely because the wrong experiments are tried. Is it possible to test the existence of a divine being? Might it be necessary to set aside the separation of the scientist from his experiment to perform an effective test? What if the scientist must be subjectively involved before a result can be obtained? This does not negate the condition that any conclusions must be subject to independent verification. It merely points toward the need to reconfigure the experiment. The method itself is not compromised.

In fact the theologian reminds the scientist that he/she is always involved subjectively in the pursuit of science and that his/her apparently negligible influence upon his/her experiments can be greatly multiplied in the application of his conclusions in the world outside the laboratory.

We live in a world in which monetary policy is not fully approved or even understood before it is implemented. Wars are waged without consultation and agreement. Expensive medicines are developed before cheaper alternatives are tried. Dangerous chemicals find their way into the ecosystem because ethical guidelines are not considered.

Assuredly, the social sciences are in a different category than the physical sciences. The proper use of the method requires that the scientist take into account his/her presence and modify his/her behaviour. Theology might then be restored to one of its honoured roles as monitor and cleanser of society's ills.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wake up Christians!

Christians everywhere!

Wake up! One out of every ten of us may be dealing with mental illness.

Let's learn again the power of prayer and utter reliance on the blood of Jesus as the only power effective against sin and demonic activity.

Rise from the Dead!

Pray and rejoice without ceasing!

What is theology? Is it helpful?

Theology has sometimes been a great aid to the Christian Church and its work when its study and development has been carried out by intelligent and wise believers for the purpose of edification first of the theologian and then of his or her contempories.

There have been different approaches to this field through the centuries sometimes focussing upon ideals or philosophies, sometimes ideologies and sometimes its more commonly accepted practice, the study of God and godly attributes. Theology has been the domain of Greek and Roman philosophers, priests, kings, courtiers, businessmen, peasants and revolutionaries. It is as varied and complicated in its forms and appearances as the men and women who have shaped it. It was once referred to as the Queen of the Sciences.

Physics, originallly one of its subdivisions, led us into the industrial and information ages. It has provided us with the technological tools with which we now access and interpret our world. Natural theology has provided the foundation upon which rests the so-called scientific method.

Biblical theology has informed and inspired the churches. Systematic theology has butressed our educational institutions. Speculative theology has challenged believers to answer the questions which inevitably come from the world in which we find ourselves.

Doubters and believers alike raise issues for both clarification and encouragement. To the extent that these two goals are acheived, theology has been and will continue to be useful for mankind.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ministry Lessons from a Muslim

I've copied here an article of interest to anyone involved in sharing the gospel. It was written by Skye Jethani and Brandon O'Brien, published Monday, July 6, 2009

The original can be found at:
http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/buildingleaders/ministrystaff/ministrylessonsfromamuslim.html

A Muslim's unexpected message to church leaders:
Fully embrace your Christian identity.

Eboo Patel is not the most likely seminary professor. His credentials are not the issue. Patel earned his doctorate from Oxford University, and he is a respected commentator on religion for The Washington Post and National Public Radio. He has spoken in venues across the world, including conferences for evangelical church leaders.

What makes Eboo Patel an unlikely seminary professor is that he is Muslim.

The editors of Leadership first encountered Patel at the 2008 Q Conference, where he challenged 500 Christian leaders to change the rules of interfaith dialogue. "Muslims and Christians might not fully agree on worldview," he said, "but we share a world." Patel spoke of his enduring friendships with a number of evangelicals and his desire to move beyond the "clash of civilizations" rhetoric that dominates Christian/Muslim interaction. While holding firmly to his belief in Islam, he also affirmed church leaders. "Even though it is not my tradition and my community," Patel wrote after the conference, "I believe deeply that this type of evangelical Christianity is one of the most positive forces on Earth."

We were intrigued, so we contacted Patel to talk more about the ramifications of increasing religious diversity in America, as well as his outsider's perspective of the church's response. Patel gave us more than we bargained for. He invited us to attend a class he was teaching on interfaith leadership at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.

Patel is not on the seminary faculty. He serves as the executive director of the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC)—a Chicago-based international non-profit that brings together religiously diverse young leaders to serve their communities. The seminary invited Patel to co-teach the course on interfaith leadership with Cassie Meyer, a Christian who serves as the training director at IFYC.

Be more Christian

When we arrived in the class, which included twenty seminarians—men and women from diverse racial and denominational backgrounds—the students were discussing a newspaper article. Patel and Meyer were using the report about tensions between Somali Muslim immigrants and Latino workers at a meatpacking plant in Grand Island, Nebraska, as a case study. The Muslims wanted the factory's managers to adjust production schedules to accommodate their prayer times and holidays like Ramadan. Others in the rural community admitted being uncomfortable with the influx of so many Muslim neighbors—particularly after September 11, 2001.

"Imagine you are the pastor of a church in Grand Island, Nebraska," Patel says to the class. "A reporter from The New York Times calls you because he is working on a story about the conflict between Muslims and Christians at the meatpacking plant. The reporter asks you, 'What should Christians do?' How would you respond?" After a few moments of reflection, a student answers.

"I would talk about the fact that this country was founded on religious freedom," he says. "We have to respect other people's beliefs."

"Yes," interjects another student. "But if they allow the Muslims to take breaks for prayer, it will disrupt the factory's productivity. There is an economic reality to consider. If the plant shuts down, the whole community will suffer."

For fifteen minutes the students debate the matter, fluctuating between constitutional rights and economic realities. Finally, Patel interrupts.

"I'm hearing you articulate two grand narratives. First, the narrative of American freedom. And second, the narrative of capitalism and productivity. But remember, the reporter is not calling you because you are an expert in economics or constitutional law. He's calling you because you are a minister. Don't be afraid to answer the question as a Christian. Answer out of the Christian narrative."

The irony of a Muslim challenging a group of pastors to be more Christian was not lost on the students. Heads dropped as they contemplated a different response to the case study. Cassie Meyer assisted the students by adapting the scenario.

"Imagine you're the pastoral intern at the church in Grand Island," Meyer says, "and you've been given the responsibility to preach a sermon this Sunday addressing the conflict between the Christians and Muslims. What would you say from the pulpit? What would you use from Scripture?"

"The greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbors," says one student. "Whether we like it or not, these Somali Muslims are our neighbors and we are called to love them."

"But many in the town don't view the Muslims as their neighbors," says another student. "They view them as intruders, unwanted outsiders, or even their enemies."

"Do you think referring to the Muslims as 'enemies' in your sermon might inflame the problem?" Patel asks.

"I don't think so," the student responds. "Jesus calls us to love our enemies and to show kindness to aliens. But that would have to be made clear in the sermon. The story of the Good Samaritan comes to mind." Patel is out of his chair, energized by what he is hearing.

"I want you to see what just happened," he says. "I want to affirm this. You are using the grand Christian narrative to respond to an interfaith conflict. First, I heard the Christian story of loving God and loving your neighbor. Second, I heard the Christian story of the Good Samaritan and the call to love the stranger. By using these stories, you are defining reality through the Christian narrative.

"Remember, the three most powerful narratives on the planet are narratives of religion, narratives of nation, and narratives of ethnicity/race. You cannot afford to forfeit that territory by talking about economics or the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Don't be afraid to be Christian ministers. If you don't use the Christian narrative to define reality for your people, then someone else will define reality for them with a different narrative."

Patel's call to stand firmly on the Christian narrative isn't what most students expect to hear from a Muslim professor.

"The more theologically conservative students are usually uncomfortable at the beginning of the course," says Patel. "But they leave feeling affirmed. It's the liberal Christians that are more challenged. They're not used to being told to 'be more Christian.'"

A false dichotomy

The exhortation to "be more Christian" is reiterated repeatedly in the class we are attending, and it represents a different approach to interfaith dialogue. Cassie Meyer says that most Christians have been told there are two ways to engage people from other faiths.

"The more liberal side says that Christians need to let go of their unique identity and affirm that all religions are valid; all roads lead to God. The more conservative side holds firmly to Christian identity and belief, but they sometimes see people of other religions as the enemy, so there is little desire for cooperation," she says.

Meyer believes this dichotomy is one reason some people raised in the church abandon the faith as adults.

"The girl who led me to Christ in high school actually walked away from her faith in college," Meyer recounts. "She was the strongest Christian I knew, but once she left home and started becoming friends with Jews, Hindus, and Muslims, she had a crisis. She'd been told these people were going to hell, that they were the enemy. The only way she could reconcile her friendship and admiration for these people was by abandoning her faith and affirming that all religions are true."

Meyer and Patel believe there is another way. Somewhere between religious relativism and religious fundamentalism is a third option—what they call religious pluralism. This is the foundational principle of the seminary course.

"Religious pluralism is different than relativism," one student tells us. "Relativism says you cannot make exclusive truth claims, that everyone is right. Pluralism simply recognizes that we live in a very diverse culture; there are a lot of different religions. Pluralism means talking about how we can live together and still maintain our own religious identity. Truth claims are okay."

Meyer believes church leaders need to model and teach Christians how to cooperate with and befriend people of other faiths without abandoning their own convictions.

"If we don't," she says, "it will either mean more people will leave the church, or there will be more conflict between Christians and other groups." An African student in the class agrees.

"Where I come from, there is so much conflict," he says. "People are killing each other because of their beliefs. As a Christian, I am called to have compassion on the crowds, like Jesus did, and love my neighbor—even the neighbor I disagree with."

Created in God's image

In our increasingly secular society, many people have come to view religion as a problem and the source of conflict between groups. This sentiment was popularized in John Lennon's 1971 song "Imagine," in which religion is presented as an obstacle to world peace and harmony. But Eboo Patel is helping these seminary students turn conventional wisdom upside down. He sees the potential for greater cooperation and coexistence by embracing our different religious identities, not abandoning them.

"If you enter a ministerial gathering as a Christian minister and downplay your Christian identity in an attempt to make everyone comfortable," says Patel, "as a Muslim leader, I'm immediately suspicious. I don't trust you. Embracing your identity as a Christian creates safety for me to be a Muslim." A student from a liberal denomination jumps in to affirm Patel's statement.

"In my experience, the hardest thing about interfaith dialogue is Christians who are afraid to talk about Jesus, and that's a tragedy" she says. "That's what I appreciate about evangelicals. They enter the room and they want to talk about Jesus. They're not afraid to own their identity and their narrative, and that gives freedom for everyone else to do the same."

"We have often viewed particularity and pluralism as mutually exclusive," says Patel. "We think that if you are one thing, you must be disrespectful of other things."

The message of embracing identity and acknowledging theological distinctions brought great comfort to some students in the class. Maria, a self-identified Pentecostal, was initially hesitant about taking Eboo Patel's class.

"I thought the class was a call to believe that all faiths lead to the same place," says Maria, "and I don't believe that." She went on to explain that her denomination is very intentional about not engaging in interfaith dialogue. But now she realizes how important, and how possible, interfaith cooperation is. "Can my church respect another person's identity? Yes. Can we have mutually encouraging relationships? I believe we can. Can we work together toward a common cause? I believe we can.

"This class has reminded me of a basic Christian belief—that we are all created in God's image," she says. "When I'm in conversation with my friend who is a Muslim, can I honor her as someone created in God's image? I believe that's what God calls me to do."

Michael also confessed to being apprehensive about taking the class on interfaith leadership.

"As an army chaplain, I have to deal with religious pluralism all the time," he says. "But God placed me in this class for a reason, because I've had a very negative view of Muslims." Speaking to Patel, he says, "I'm an African-American man from one of the poorest sections of Chicago. I was raised Pentecostal and now I'm a very conservative Presbyterian. But God has shown me that I need to reach out and view you as a man created in the image of God, respect you, and when possible, work alongside of you. God humbled me, Dr. Patel, in ways you can't even imagine."

Maria and Michael, both from conservative Christian backgrounds, were not the only students challenged by Patel's class. Amy comes from a mainline church with a more liberal theology.

"I grew up believing in Jesus," says Amy, "but I was also told to accept what everyone else believed, too. I was supposed to love and accept everyone, and that meant taking different identities, including my Christian identity, and merging them together. But I've never really understood what that meant. It never made sense to me. How can I believe in Jesus and in everything else?

"This class has helped me see another way. Now I understand that I can love others, I can have compassion for others, I can even work alongside others, and still retain my identity as a Christian. I don't have to give up my belief in Jesus."

Eboo Patel and Cassie Meyer hope their class will create more momentum for interfaith dialogue and leadership.

"With religious conflict on the front page every day," says Patel, "you would think there would be a huge, robust field called interfaith leadership. But there isn't because it is really hard."

"It's not easy to engage meaningfully with others and hold on to your own identity," says Meyer.

"The ability to bring mutually exclusive people together is the gift of the great leaders of our time," says Patel. "If religious leaders will not model for their people how to live beside other faiths, then who will?"

Copyright © 2009 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Psychology: Curse or Blessing?

A recent issue of ADVENTISTS AFFIRM deals with mental health, God's answer to the stress of living. The question: Have we unknowingly absorbed faulty methods in our effort to answer human dilemmas?

(Please click on the title above to go to the original article at Adventists Affirm)

Guest editor, Kenneth Scribner, has researched widely in the Bible, the writings of Ellen White, and the broad area of the helping professions. You may be surprised by what concerned writers are saying. Please ask God to give you discernment and a willingness to study the articles of this volume and choose to let God's will be done in your life and practice. I commend a thorough study of each article. Mercedes Dyer, Ph.D.

"It is Satan's constant effort to misrepresent the character of God, the nature of sin, and the real issues at stake in the great controversy. His sophistry lessens the obligation of the divine law and gives men license to sin." (Great Controversy, p. 569)

Israel's example warns the last-day church that if we do not follow the Lord and His will for us we will be in grave danger. Israel wanted to be like the other nations of her time. Her leaders demanded, "Lord, give us a king!" Samuel was not happy, but God told him to give the leaders what they asked for.

1 Samuel 8:6-9 says: "The thing displeased Samuel, when they said, 'Give us a king to judge us.' And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, 'Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. Now therefore hearken unto their voice:...yet protest solemnly unto them, and show them the manner of the king that shall reign over them."

The warning was given, but the people's request remained the same, "Give us a king to rule over us!" You and I know "the rest of the story."

Today, many of God's people, desiring to be "up with the times," have mistakenly sent forth the cry, "Lord, give us psychologians, i.e., ministers of the gospel of psychology, to guide us in these dysfunctional, abusive, co-dependent times. The church has failed us. It has not met our needs, and pastoral counseling isn't adequate, even if the pastors don't charge us anything. Biblical counseling and prayer are just too simplistic for the complex problems and addictions we face today. We need professional helpers, experts, and 12-step groups that understand our psychological diseases and illnesses. Sin isn't our big issue." So goes the request.

Psychotherapy to enhance "mental health" has become modern man's confessional. Where once church members went to God or to their pastor or even to other trusted fellow church members, for help and guidance with the struggles of life, today they are off to what I choose to call psychologians. Could we hear our Lord speak, He would say, "It is I, the Wonderful Counselor, the Prince of peace, whom you have rejected."

I am not alone in my criticism. Dave Hunt is not an Adventist, but hear what he says: "Christian psychology represents the most dangerous and at the same time the most appealing and popular form of modernism ever to have invaded the church. Many of today's staunchest evangelical and fundamentalist leaders, in order to be relevant and professionally respected, are preaching a form of Religion Science, apparently without even recognizing it. Psychology, which entered the church as a Trojan horse, now wields such a powerful and all-pervasive influence, that to call Christian psychology into question is taken as an attack upon Christianity itself. This is all the more astonishing when one realizes that, in actual fact, Christian psychology doesn't even exist.

Gary Almy, another Evangelical, adds that the term, "Christian psychology is an oxymoron. The two religions are inherently contradictory."

Paul warned us: "The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:2-4).

This prophecy is being fulfilled before our eyes. Another well-informed commentator writes, "The church has capitulated and lost its own identity by allowing (and often encouraging) the norms and diagnoses of contemporary psychology to replace the gospel.

Thus the desire today is for psychologians, who will speak smooth things, things that won't "rock the boat" as it were. Counselors who do not press the matter of personal responsibility, the deadly nature of sin, or our need of repentance, forgiveness and transformation are not facing the true issues of mankind.

"Every week," says another commentator, "500,000 self-help meetings are held in this country. The fastest growing of these free, confessional meetings is Co-dependents Anonymous. There are over 1800 Co-dependents Anonymous groups in this country."

Self-help groups are fast taking the place of prayer meetings. Who becomes the center of focus in these groups, God or self?

Psychology sees mankind as victims, not as sinners in need of the Savior. Persons do not want to face the reality that they are sinning. The conscience of mankind is vanishing.

Psychologists play the blame game. Guilt, they say, is detrimental to mental health. Thus the psychological world has convinced many that what was once sin is now actually a sickness or disease and not really our fault. Having a disease doesn't seem half as bad as saying, "I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."

Martin L. Gross makes this comment: "Today, the M.D. psychiatrist and his first cousin, the Ph.D. psychologist, have appointed themselves the undisputed Solomons of our era. The new seer delivers his pronouncements with the infallible air of a papal bull, a stance which intimidates even the most confident of laymen."

I have observed that even ministers, lawyers, and judges too often accept without question these "experts." But there are some 500 studies that show that the results of therapy provided by supposed "experts" are hardly any better and are often worse than the results of the advice of lay counselors. Being "my brother's keeper" would reap better results.

The mental health field today is a confused mass of conflicting theories presented by many who have no belief in God, the Bible, prayer, or Christianity. There are some 250 theories by one count and upwards of 500 theories by other counts, all vying for our attention and dollars. These theories are as varied as their founders. The structure is massive, yet its foundation is flimsy. Psychology would love to be promoted as a science, but it fails to match up to any true science. It is actually a false religion, and if a false religion, integrating it into Christianity will only help to destroy the biblical message on mental health. This issue of Adventists Affirm deals with this problem, but only with a "tip of the dangerous psychological iceberg."


The general subject, mental health, is vital to our church today! A warning needs to be given. "Why Christians Can't Trust Psychology" by the late C. Mervyn Maxwell is an excellent place to begin. Clemency Mitchell shows us how to obtain "positive mental health." Her simple yet profound advice will give us all a NEWSTART. Neal Nedley, a full time practicing physician, deals with one of the most serious issues in mental health today, depression. Vicki Griffin, Health and Temperance Director of the Michigan Adventist Conference office and Paul Musson, a physician in private practice, tell us what happens inside an "Addicted Brain." It is fascinating! Vicki has also contributed an article dealing with her personal struggle with addiction and growth in spiritual and emotional living. Ken Scribner, a pastor on leave, deals with one of the most devastating episodes in the history of psychotherapy, generally termed "Recovered or Repressed Memory." John Treat, a doctoral student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, has written what some may consider a controversial article on self-esteem. Can self-confidence be over stressed? He draws strong words from Ellen White. Also included in this issue is an article written by Ellen White in 1884 for The Signs of the Times. Its message is still relevant today. Judith Vyhmeister, herself a psychiatrist, has contributed a short but powerful article entitled "Deceived." We trust that you will be stimulated by all these significant articles.

(You can paste this url to your browser to go to the magazine where you can find links to the articles mentioned here. http://www.adventistsaffirm.org/article.php?id=107 )


We want to AFFIRM what ADVENTISTS have long believed, that Christ's "divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust"(2 Pet 1:3, 4).


The question is: Can a Christian use psychology as a tool in ministry. Its corollary is : Can a psychologist use faith as a tool for helping people?

The heart of the matter? Any ministry which has no firm foundation in Holy Scripture does not have power to fully confront the spiritual realities behind much of our behavioural and emotional anguish and will tend to act at best as a band aid and at worst as a deceptive avoidance of evil.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Re: Clinical Pastoral Education .... Did You Know?

... that certain types of mental illness could be understood as attempts to solve problems of the soul, and that some patients can find a cure in the power of religion?
At least according to Anton Theophilus Boisen, who lived from 1876 to 1965. His ideas served as the foundation of modern clinical pastoral education. Considering much current education and practice, one might enquire whether the edifice of counsel is off its Rock.

Boisen may have been quite right, but I prefer to defer to the power of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. I know ... that all things ... including incoherent speech, waking nightmares, seven months in a psychiatric hospital and eighteen months in rehab ... all things, work for good to those who Love God, to those who are called according to His purpose, mysterious though it may be!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Church and 'The Mentally Ill'

The following article by Peter Andres, written on Aug. 9th, 2007, can be found at
http://www.canadianchristianity.com/christianliving/070809ill.html

CHURCH RESPONSE TO THE MENTALLY ILL

'Are people of faith with a mental illness different from those who have a physical illness? Much about mental illness still remains a mystery. That's one of the reasons people are tempted to spiritualize the problem. They hope that the person with mental illness would be able to gain spiritual strength and thus gain victory over the illness.

What remains hard for many to understand is that having a mental illness and being a strong person of faith is no different than having a serious physical illness and being a strong person of faith.

How can church leaders encourage support of people with a mental illness? What does a person with a mental illness need to help him or her feel accepted and part of the congregation? How does the Christian message and experience take on meaning under these circumstances? What exactly is mental illness, anyway?

Marja Bergen, in her book 'Riding the Roller Coaster' (Northstone, 1999), describes her experiences living with bipolar disorder. She talks about the many important factors that helped make her life with this illness tolerable and manageable. Having a supportive husband, friends, and service systems were critical, but she also acknowledges the importance of a spiritual home.

Her church friends learned to understand her illness and provided spiritual nurture, especially during difficult times. She speaks about friendships which include a common belief as being the most valuable ones she'll have. But she also admits that she was fortunate in this regard.

Sadly, many people with mental illness who look for spiritual help during difficult times face ignorance, stigma, avoidance, and judgment. The spiritual counsel and prayer these people receive frankly do more harm than good.

Understanding mental illness, even from the professional, scientific perspective, is still very much a work in progress. Schizophrenia and its related disorders, bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression), major depression, panic and obsessive-compulsive disorders, are all considered mental illnesses. It is estimated that between 15 percent to 20 percent of North Americans will, at some time in their lives, experience a mental illness. Most of these will suffer debilitating depression.

Evidence suggests there are probably organic (biochemical) reasons for the illness, or psycho-social origins -- or a combination of the two. Treatments that deal with the symptoms include medications, psychotherapy or a blend of both.

What is clear to people working in the field is that the experience of the illness goes far beyond living with the symptoms. While a person who has a physical illness -- even cancer -- suffers discomfort and anxiety related to the illness, those who have a mental illness suffer from a constellation of additional issues. These all affect their ability to return to wellness. One of them is stigma, both internally and externally imposed. There's also the loss of self-worth and self-efficacy that might come with a loss of job, friends, marriage and the feelings of being separated from God.

How can the church assist someone in a situation as devastating as this?

1. Church leaders and church members need to know that a mental illness is not the same as a spiritual crisis. Nor is the absence of healing, especially after fervent prayer, a sign of judgment or lack of faith.

2. There should be no judgment about the use of mood altering medications. Medications are commonly needed to treat the bio-chemical causes for the disorder and radically help many keep their symptoms under control.

3. Quality of life for a person suffering from mental illness does not depend on a complete remission from the illness.

What church members need to know is that many experience a recovery which allows them to return to an active and fulfilling life -- but still continue to experience times that are difficult. Recovery from mental illness means: the return of a positive sense of self, usually through meaningful endeavour (work, vocation), a circle of meaningful relationships, a place to live that the person can call his or her own, and a spiritual life that feels a reconnection with God.

The recovering person can be experiencing personal brokenness and limitations, yet have valuable gifts to offer to the church community.'

Peter Andres is a regional director for MCC Supportive Care Services, a non-profit charitable organization which supports people with disabilities -- including people with mental health issues. He can be contacted at peter@mccscs.com.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Mental Illness, Christian Education and Leadership

Why does mental illness, and even suicide, afflict Christian families?

Have deficiencies in theological study and application contributed to the prevalence of mental illness among Canadians?

Anton T. Boison discussed his own psychotic breaks and suggested that they represented efforts to reintegrate his personality. He developed an empirical theology which sought to study the patient, his symptoms and the healing process. He became one of the founders of clinical pastoral education. This field has largely been taken over by secular psychologies which allow the patient to become a subject for experimental testing of theory. Pastoral theology has thus been transformed from the divine cure of souls into the pseudo-Christian effort to correct human flaws by human techniques.

Arno Gruen describes the folly of so-called normal behaviour when it is shown to be counter-productive. (see his book, 'The Insanity of Normality') Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractal geometry, has been pointing out, for several years, inaccuracies in the financial formulae used to predict market behaviour. Could there be similar errors in the spiritual formulae which our churches develop to meet their 'objectives'?

True leaders cultivate the ability to foresee events and potential circumstances. Robert Greenleaf claimed that it was actually "necessary (for a good leader) to live a sort of schizoid life, always at two levels of consciousness, both in the real world -- concerned, responsible, effective, value oriented and also above it, seeing the actual reality, being deeply involved in daily events, but having the perspective of a long sweep of history and looking to, and planning for, the indefinite future".

The schizophrenic features of our churches, and our various denominational divisions, are hardly conducive to good mental health in a society in which many families are split among different, often antagonistic, churches.

For those of us whose churches are more formal, we have an "inherited attitude toward the liturgical act (which) reflects a kind of schizoid state. We hear but do not really hear. The liturgy is an encapsulated experience, entered into in isolation from real human experiences. It does not connect with the real world because it has been shaped by a piety which is often consciously an escape from the pressures of the real world. Liturgical time is seen as ‘holy time’ working according to its own laws, and feeding our hunger and thirst for God. But it does not connect for the great majority of our people with the real choices of daily life." - from 'Sacraments and Liturgy: The Outward Signs', by Louis Weil.

Education involves much more than filling students with facts and theories. It is an attempt to lead out of darkness and ignorance into light and wisdom, an attempt to develop competence and ability in the area of study. In short, good leaders show the way as well as talk about it. Real teachers lead and real leaders are good at teaching.

But, do our schools value this reality based approach?

for more see http://globalchristianangst.blogspot.com/2009/04/on-mental-illness-leadership-and.html

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On Mental Illness, Leadership and Christian Theology

Christ is risen from the dead! So some of us say.
He is risen indeed; He's alive today!

Why then, one wonders, does mental illness, and even suicide, afflict Christian families?

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five of us suffers mild forms of mental distress. One in ten will suffer a major crisis in their lifetime. One in a hundred will suffer from schizophrenia.

Just as cancer was once a taboo subject, not discussed and certainly not admitted to, schizophrenia, psychosis and major depression have until recently been unworthy of serious public attention, even in our churches. In spite of the prevalence of mental illness in the general population, somehow it has not been given the necessary attention. We talk more about distant terrorist acts and threats of economic disaster. Yet we are finally starting to address this epidemic.

It is, however, but a window on the much deeper crisis: our spiritual health, or lack thereof. Some of us, even some of our leaders, exhibit questionable symptoms and appear somewhat disconnected from God, His people and the world. We function in our own virtual worlds, even using our own unintelligible language.

Scripture says, "Clap your hands all you peoples, Shout to the Lord, all the earth, with loud songs of joy", yet from childhood we're taught to be quiet in church. We're called to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to one another, yet few churches really allow this to take place. Everything is 'pre-scripted' and the Holy Spirit is made redundant. We're expected to be able to talk about our faith to our neighbours, however most of the time ordinary believers are not even allowed to address the regular assemblies of God to share what the Lord is doing in their own lives!

Are our leaders acting as servants of the Living God? Or are they exhibiting a form of spiritual schizophrenia, hearing the Voice of God and seeing visions, but then doing things contrary to their own words and beliefs?

Here in Canada, as in other places, there has been a tendency among some officials in the more liberal Christian churches to foster unrest and legally push toward denominational division, out of desire to preserve faulty church systems for political purposes. This is both unbiblical and anti-Christian. Anglican Church leaders have brought legal arguments against godly ministers and their congregations before the secular courts. This has happened despite the clear injunction against such action found in Holy Scripture. In the U.S. denominational officials have even tried to install as church leaders people who believe in and practice non-Christian faiths. Their abuse of position and pseudo-spiritual authority is being seen for what it is: hypocrisy, arrogance and willful deceit.

Those who insist on pharisaic disobedience, which often comes with top-down leadership, will eventually discover the bankruptcy of their position. They show by their actions that they deny or ignore the reality that both our global society and the ecclesial family have changed and can no longer be held within the denominational boundaries outlined since the Reformation. Such a break between thought and action, or lack of appropriate engagement with reality, is one of the ways that schizophrenia has been described.

Why do some church leaders, and those who follow them, act in spite of reality, sometimes even against biblical values? Why are so many church meetings devoted exclusively to budgeting and servicing money? Why is church growth considered so important? Why do we rarely speak in our churches about ministry to and by Christians outside of traditional church settings?

Have deficiencies in theological study and application contributed to the prevalence of mental illness among Canadians?

For those of us whose churches are more formal, we have an "inherited attitude toward the liturgical act (which) reflects a kind of schizoid state. We hear but do not really hear. The liturgy is an encapsulated experience, entered into in isolation from real human experiences. It does not connect with the real world because it has been shaped by a piety which is often consciously an escape from the pressures of the real world. Liturgical time is seen as ‘holy time’ working according to its own laws, and feeding our hunger and thirst for God. But it does not connect for the great majority of our people with the real choices of daily life." - from 'Sacraments and Liturgy: The Outward Signs', by Louis Weil.

Perhaps there might be redemptive value to some degree of dissociative thinking and behaviour. The prophets of Israel often showed schizoid tendencies. The difference between clinical illness and prophetic insight can be razor thin. Madness is after all a matter of judgment. A measure of openness to the Holy Spirit has often been seen as eccentric. Just look at the record in chapter two of the Book of Acts!

Anton T. Boison discussed his own psychotic breaks and suggested that they represented efforts to reintegrate his personality. He developed an empirical theology which sought to study the patient, his symptoms and the healing process. He became one of the founders of clinical pastoral education. This field has largely been taken over by secular psychologies which allow the patient to become a subject for experimental testing of theory. Pastoral theology has thus been transformed from the divine cure of souls into the pseudo-Christian effort to correct human flaws by human techniques.

Arno Gruen describes the folly of so-called normal behaviour when it is shown to be counter-productive. (see his book, 'The Insanity of Normality') Benoit Mandelbrot, the father of fractal geometry, has been pointing out, for several years, inaccuracies in the financial formulae used to predict market behaviour. Could there be similar errors in the spiritual formulae which our churches develop to meet their 'objectives'?

Psychosis is too real. Suicide is too real. Does it matter what label is used? Whether mental or spiritual illness, it cannot be denied but it is often avoided, and is shuffled back into the pack of issues for society to deal with. The presenting problems are dealt with in sullen isolation by individuals, families, close friends and clinical support teams.

The pain of exposing these wounds is intense. But it must be so. Just as physical disease demands treatment, the 'cure of souls' is essential, not optional.

Is your church comfortable with discussing poverty and mental illness? How do we address such difficult issues? Do we really believe in the power of prayer? If so, how should we pray in particlar circumstances? Why are we so willing to leave it to other professionals to tackle these problems with sociological or medical techniques? Do we doubt the promises to heal which God has given to us? Why do some clergy deny the reality of mental illness? (See the study done by researchers at Baylor University at http://www.baylormag.com/story.php?story=006239 )

True leaders cultivate the ability to foresee events and potential circumstances. Robert Greenleaf claimed that it was actually "necessary (for a good leader) to live a sort of schizoid life, always at two levels of consciousness, both in the real world -- concerned, responsible, effective, value oriented and also above it, seeing the actual reality, being deeply involved in daily events, but having the perspective of a long sweep of history and looking to, and planning for, the indefinite future".

The schizophrenic features of our churches, and of our various denominational divisions, are hardly conducive to good mental health in a society in which many families are split among different, often antagonistic, churches. We have been expected to accept as unchangeable these intrusions into our communities. We know that Jesus prayed for unity among His followers yet we are reluctant to question our leaders about building links with other Christians. We're sometimes told not to bother even with other churches within our own denominations: there's too much inertia against change! Is it possible any longer to believe Holy Scripture and at the same time tolerate and support the unbiblical systems which separate us from one another?

We must recover the model for servant leadership given to us by the Lord Jesus. Some are called as overseers, some as pastors, some as evangelists, some teachers, and some healers. These are identified by the body of Christ and not by secular non-believing institutions. What then is the purpose of theological education and how is it related to Christian leadership?

Too often, “emotional pressures (have been) adapted to the use of those who wish to impose what to think without regard to how to think...Teaching the young those aspects of religious doctrine which are beyond their intellectual capacity and relevant experience to understand and to assimilate often lays the groundwork for emotional collapse and serious mental disorder of which guilt complexes and disabling fear are the symptoms.” So wrote Donald G. Stewart in 'Christian Education and Evangelism'.

Students must pay large fees to participate in theological reflection, study and discussion. Until recently Christians lacking financial resources were denied a part in theological discussion. The internet has changed matters somewhat. Our leaders have been trained by many who gained their credentials either by manipulating and using the educational system or by tolerating and surviving it. In some circles the value of theological education has long been suspect. Academic study tends by its nature to reinforce a certain detachment from reality. It promotes the analysis of concepts and the search for historical context, usually with adherence to a denominational worldview. It reinforces an artificial gap between church and seminary, between life and study. In some cases we have even allowed non-Christians the exercise of authority in these institutions. Is it wise, some ask, to entrust students, and their questions, solely to professional theologians?

Lee Smolin writes in his book, 'The Trouble with Physics', about the way that academic studies can be diverted from experimentally verifiable truth towards highly speculative theory. Christianity is often formally taught as a set of propositions to be believed, or else! This approach can negate the practice of faithfully developing a lifelong relationship with the Living God.

Education involves much more than filling students with facts and theories. It is an attempt to lead out of darkness and ignorance into light and wisdom, an attempt to develop competence and ability in the area of study. In short, good leaders show the way as well as talk about it. That's good education!

Isn’t it interesting that young people and new believers are quite perceptive in pointing out inconsistencies in church life? Secular processes that assume the ignorance of the student tend to undermine the beliefs and experiences of candidates for ministry. Yet, isn’t the experience and wisdom of even the biblically grounded student usually ignored by the seminary? This is a tragedy. Lives have been ruined as a consequence of constantly shifting approaches to developing potential leaders.

For some years, "seminary and divinity school students (have) complained that practical courses lack intellectual rigor and that scholarly courses seem irrelevant to their vocational and professional goals. The classical fourfold curriculum (church history, biblical, systematic and practical theology) creates an enormous gap between the academic and practical aspects of a ministerial curriculum. Just as important, this standard curriculum eliminates theology from the core of both practical and academic studies. Theology as a theoretical discipline appears disconnected from the skills needed to be a successful parish pastor. Theology as an inquiry emerging from faith and piety appears to lack the marks of an impartial and critical discipline." - Dr. Ronald F. Thiemann, 1987, Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass.

Front-line ministers of the gospel are isolated from and can feel abandoned by ivory tower theologians. Students are caught in the crunch, trapped by desire for ordination, emerging only to perpetuate a sick system. Yet many Christians have refused to undergo the theological re-education process imposed by institutional religion and have chosen lay ministry as being more effective, pursuing self-directed study, independent counsel and only occasionally partaking of the standard academic fare.

It seems to escape the notice of some professional academics, and others, that true followers of Jesus, both young and old, are already primarily theologians, already leaders. Some lead behind the scenes. Others share reflections and insights through writing or speaking. Some are pastors. Some are called to the battlefront in politics and administration, in secular or spiritual realms.

Do you know of any seminary which has these issues on its radar screen? Where do you find theological work being done to investigate and comprehend the ways that spirituality informs and supplements medical practice? Given these questions, and more, how do we identify and engage theologically informed people who can help put the experience of the average believer in proper context? Is it acceptable, or even possible, for one or two people to fill this role for a whole congregation? What means is used to access the combined wisdom of the community?

I submit that, for our day, the crucial need is for God’s people to pray against our national and international schizophrenic behaviour and to pray that faithful Christians quickly regain effective oversight and control of their theological seminaries. We must protect them from interference from the secular authorities of the university. The local church must be fully involved in the seminary teaching and learning experience. Clergy must be prepared to chastise, exhort, inspire and empower both parishioners and students under their charge. Anything less falls short of their call as pastors of God's church.

Is your church part of the problem? Do your leaders preach freedom or legalism? Are you part of God's solution? Do you follow Jesus, no matter what anyone says? Have your leaders been trained to identify and empower people to use their gifts and talents in both church and society?

It appears that churches with conservative, biblical agendas are growing. Christians in Canada, and elsewhere, are showing signs of rising from a deep slumber. We are beginning to realize that not a few of us are dealing with mental illness. We are learning again the power of prayer and utter reliance on the blood of Jesus as the only power effective against certain conditions. God's Word calls us to pray and to rejoice without ceasing, even in the midst of our personal and corporate struggles.

Popular opinion and political influence too easily push truth aside, at least until disasters force belated adjustments. How do we cope with the frantic pace of life, the constant bombardment by bad news, the instantaneous communication of ideas on all conceivable subjects?

Only as Christians live and work together can we be of any value to God and His World. Can we be really be inclusive and evangelistic, catholic and reformed, orthodox and charismatic, faithful and post-modern? Is it possible to live out such a convoluted faith? Do we concentrate on details at the expense of grasping the overall picture?

Several years ago I heard a story of a godly woman who gave a testimony to a group of believers. She had been paralyzed for years and was brought into the gathering on a stretcher. Her disease left her with diminished and sometimes blocked flow of blood through her body. In prophetic utterance, she compared her physical health to the spiritual state of the Church, the Body of Christ Jesus. She suggested that the barriers between different denominations actually restricted the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit in His Church. She illustrated the way we reinforce the separation of the spiritual from the worldly.

We know there are many valid historical and theological differences between us, yet if we say we believe in one Lord, one faith and one baptism, we are compelled by the love of Christ Jesus to find ways to remain in fellowship with all who love Him.

I've worked for nearly 20 years in an evangelistic ministry setting. When I join my brothers and sisters through the week I do not leave my church behind. I represent my tradition and bring my heritage with me to work with and draw upon as I serve the lost and encourage my co-workers. This includes all that I have learned, whether from my own tradition, or that of a co-worker. Indeed whenever Christians work together, God’s Church, both visible and invisible, is truly present with all its warts and powers. It never has been confined within our man-made denominations! People come to us on the understanding that we as individuals have banded together to reach out to them with practical help. Many come with struggles that go far beyond being resolved through physical or material assistance. They often recognize their needs before we do. We struggle to put them in a particular ministry category, and discern how we might proceed.

Considering the woeful state of many of our churches, it's a wonder that we are able to survive and prosper. It's only by the amazing grace of God that He shows us the Way. Some of our leaders are standing for God’s kingdom of righteousness and the sifting is taking place.

Let us all return to speaking plainly about Jesus and the gospel. The Lord is shaking His Church, moving His people in Spirit, truth and power. Our God is able to heal even a schizophrenic people; He is mighty to save and the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church.

Let us live as Ones who truly believe in the Resurrection. Perhaps then our joy shall be rekindled and overflow to our neighbours and
... Death shall lose its sting. Amen!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Message - EMERGENCY? Call Jesus

Every child that comes into this world is special. In a way we are all emergency babies, but some are born into the very center of pain and tragedy. So it was with Jesus. His parents searched for the most basic need: a place to stay where Mary could give birth. It was a normal delivery in desperate conditions. King Herod caused the death of all the children that were found to have been born about the same time as Jesus. We don’t know the exact date. It could have been Sept. 11th or Nov. 30th, Apr. 10th or Dec. 7th, 4 B.C. or 4 A.D.; we just don’t know. His mother bore Him in labor and the threats and assaults of the world eventually overwhelmed him.

Mankind is still oppressed. Sin has shot straight into our hearts. Jesus answered our emergency. He lived for us. On that first Good Friday, during the annual Passover observance of the Jews, He died for us. He is God's first aid offered to all. The only cost is willingness to make the call for help, to listen to, and follow, His directions for our safe delivery. When we follow His instructions, our innocence and weakness will mature into wisdom and compassion, and we become co-labourers with Him in ministering to all in distress.

In trouble? Need help?
He is indeed risen from the dead; He’s alive!
Why not call out to Him today...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Continue...Convey...Conflict...Convoy

The Christian Church is sometimes described as a ship carrying its passengers across dangerous waters to a distant port. One of the perils we face as believers arises when conflict develops between our fellow sojourners. Differences of opinion are normal, however we sometimes can allow our disagreements to fester and distract us from our common destination.

In the Bible we find recorded many different ways to deal with Life's stresses and trials. Abraham reasoned with God over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He sought to use arguments and logic to convince the Most High God! Pilate and Herod were both appeasers, solving dilemmas at any cost for the sake of keeping the peace. Jonah was the typical evader. He ran from his assignment at Ninevah, fearing the conflict that he would encounter there. King Saul was an aggressor. He shifted blame to David and verbally attacked and actively sought to get rid of him by threat of death. David prayed and showed dependence upon God in his struggle with Saul. Whenever he did this he was on the right track, yet he often fell short of the Lord's standard.

Jesus shows a better way. He always went beyond the human concern to the root cause of the difficulty and dealt with those who opposed Him with divine compassion and courage. He commands us to do the same, to pray about our disputes, to give attention to His advice, His Word, and to be obedient in loving the person despite the problem. After all, the Scripture does not say, 'Love your neighbour, if', but rather, 'Love God and love your neighbour'. No conditions! We are called to obey even when in serious disagreement. Love works through our petty squabbles and goes far beyond them to touch the wounded hearts of our adversaries. When we learn to live and work together our ship will reach port with fewer delays and dangers. Are we really prepared to love the other?

Jesus loves us! He establishes peace in the natural and man-made storms which beset us. All we need to do is invite His divine assistance.
The storms are raging. He is mighty to save. Alleluia!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Discrimination and stigma plague Canadians with schizophrenia

Evidence straight from those who know!
Would you wait 18 weeks to have a broken leg treated?

According to a national report released in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on March 30/09, by the Schizophrenia Societies across Canada, 60% of Canadians assume that people living with schizophrenia are likely to act violently toward others.

Schizophrenia in Canada: A National Report calls on Canadians, health care professionals and government to support a National Mental Health Strategy that addresses the disparities and inequities faced daily by those living with schizophrenia and their family members.

The report describes different factors affecting those with
schizophrenia, such as public perceptions and discrimination, quality of life, access to health care services, access to medications, wait times and government spending on mental health. These are key factors that illustrate the standard of schizophrenia care in Canada.

"While 92% of Canadians surveyed have heard of schizophrenia, most do not understand what it is or its symptoms. In fact, the majority confuse it with split personality disorder," said Chris Summerville, CEO, Schizophrenia Society of Canada. "Misconceptions such as these lead to negative stereotyping and stigma towards people living with schizophrenia."

The report examines how stigma negatively impacts the lives of people living with schizophrenia. Stigma causes gradual social isolation, making it harder for them to seek the help and treatment they need to manage their illness.

The report found that people with schizophrenia also experienced discrimination within the Canadian health care system. Schizophrenia in Canada calls highlights the findings of a 2008 report by the Fraser Institute on hospital waiting times, in which, physicians were asked to provide a reasonable wait time to receive various medical treatments. On average patients are waiting over six weeks longer for psychiatric treatment than is deemed reasonable. (Source: Fraser Institute, Waiting Your Turn: Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada, 2008 Report)

"It is simply unacceptable that people living with schizophrenia wait an average of 18.6 weeks from referral to receiving treatment for psychiatric care," said Mr. Summerville. "Mental health must be considered a top priority in the national and provincial wait time strategies."

The research for Schizophrenia in Canada: A National Report was conducted by L├ęger Marketing and supported through an unrestricted educational grant from Pfizer Canada Inc.

******************************************************************

The Schizophrenia Society of Canada began in 1979 and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for those affected by schizophrenia and psychosis through education, support programs, public policy and research. The Society works with 10 provincial societies in a federation model to: raise awareness and educate the public in order to reduce stigma and discrimination; support families and individuals; advocate for legislative change; and support research through the SSC Foundation and other independent efforts. All the Societies are united through each organization's efforts and share a common goal to raise awareness and educate the public in order to reduce stigma and discrimination.


For further information: or to book an interview with Chris Summerville, CEO, Schizophrenia Society of Canada, please contact:
Jennifer Gordon, Thornley Fallis Communications,
(416) 515-7517 x 348, gordon@thornleyfallis.com;
or
Marissa Lukaitis, Thornley Fallis Communications,
(416) 515-7517 x 324, lukaitis@thornleyfallis.com

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Are You a Schizophrenic Christian?

If so, you're in good company. The prophets of Israel often showed schizoid tendencies.

Hopefully your condition is under the control of the Holy Spirit by whatever means the Lord has given that works for you.

Click on the title above to read an article by Gary DeMar which critiques a less than healthy theology which advocates care for creation and then presumes to suggest that The Lord's imminent return excuses us from strenuous activity in the realms of social and ecological justice.

JESUS is both our Salvation and our Judge,
and HE is NOT schizophrenic.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On Dental Health, yes dental...

His ashes don't lie
Within a couple of weeks of complaining about aching teeth, Ali Mohammed was dead

By MARK BONOKOSKI

From Toronto Sun: 22nd March 2009

One of Toronto's working poor -- homeless in his final moments -- died the other day at St. Michael's hospital, unnoticed by a greater world around him.

It was word of mouth that told of Ali Mohammed's passing, about how he could not be stirred from his cot at the Gateway hostel on Lower Jarvis St., and how staff members there did their best to keep him alive until the ambulance arrived for the short run to the emergency ward at St. Mike's.

Once there, doctors purportedly pumped him full of antibiotics to stem the poison emanating from obviously infected teeth and gums, even though he had gone three times to a walk-in dental clinic, and had at least one tooth extracted.

He hadn't been able to eat for days on end, so severe was his pain once the infection set in. As one friend said: "They got his heart going a couple of times at St. Mike's, but they could not keep him alive."

No obit appeared in any newspaper.

The coroner's office, which ruled that Ali Mohammed's death was from a heart attack, saw to his cremation.

He was 56.

As best that can be determined, Ali Mohammed's provincially funded cremation was the first time he has ever cost the taxpayer a dime, since there are no records that he ever took a dollar in welfare -- under any name.

For the 20 years he had been in this country -- arriving here as Addison James Soodeen, but living as Ali Mohammed, a nickname given to him by friends -- he had worked piecemeal as a handyman and contractor to learn the basics: Laying floors, putting up dry wall, painting interiors and exteriors, and even doing a little plumbing.

He lived, most of his life here, with friends -- ending up at Gateway when he tired of feeling beholding.

"He did good work. He was trustworthy. He was loyal," said Sam Sundar-Singh, an employee at the Scott Mission who only knew him a matter of months, and who employed Ali Mohammed to work on a house renovation.

"He was genuine -- gentle and kind is the way I have always described him," he said.

"Anyone who knew him would agree."

The Gateway, where Ali Mohammed lived for a little over a month, held a memorial service in its chapel a week ago Thursday and then ensured that his ashes will soon make their way home to a sister living in Trinidad.

Some 20 people attended that memorial. There was prayer, there were songs, and there was testimony from people who had met Ali Mohammed along the way.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ..."

The executive director at the community health centre where Ali Mohammed was treated at its dental clinic was out of the province when the clinic was visited, but a director indicated that privacy laws negated the discussion of specific cases.

"No one is going to talk to you about specifics at the dental clinic," she said, stating that it would be best to call a dental office, or a community doctor, if one wanted to talk hypotheticals.

So we called Dr. Gary Bloch, who works out of St. Mike's and is a director for the Inner City Health Association, a group that helps fund doctors to deal with the homeless in 30 sites across the city -- from hostels, to drop-in centres, to makeshift walk-in clinics.

According to Bloch, some 60% of the homeless who come through his association's doors do not have a valid health insurance number -- meaning antibiotics would not be covered in any clinic other than a community health centre.

"And then antibiotics are not always considered necessary," he said, indicating, however, that unhealthy teeth and gums are the door openers to other health problems.

According to a study by a major U.S. dental school -- a probe of 18 years of medical histories involving almost 12,000 people -- people with infected teeth and diseased gums are twice as likely to die from a heart attack and three times as likely to die from a stroke.

"For low-income people, and for people like the homeless, the only dental coverage is for extractions," said Bloch. "And that's a huge problem because there is no coverage whatsoever for prevention -- like teeth cleaning.

"As a result, I've seen some pretty horrific looking mouths among the homeless."

According to Dion Oxford, director of the Gateway, Ali Mohammed returned three times to the dental clinic complaining about the pain and, each time, was given nothing more than Tylenol tablets, over-the-counter painkillers that require no prescription.

But not antibiotics?

"To get those, Ali found himself having to go to St. Mike's, and getting them there," said Oxford. "But he didn't get them at the dental clinic."

The exact time frame between Ali Mohammed's last trip to the dental clinic, his visit to St. Mike's to finally get some antibiotics, and the time he was found unresponsive in his bed at the Gateway is somewhat uncertain.

But, within a matter of a couple of weeks of his first complaint about his aching teeth, he was dead.

This is undeniable.

His ashes, in a cardboard box, do not lie.

MARK.BONOKOSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA OR 416-947-2445

A Story Shared

John Stokdijk, Chief Financial Officer of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, tells his story. To read, click on the above title.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Scientific Art of Complaining

An Argument for Joy

There's a widely observed need to restore the role of argument to its proper place in our lives. When we disagree with one another, there are usually only a few ways to proceed.

We all have something about which to complain. Many of our concerns are legitimate. Why then do so many of our struggles remain unresolved?

We're all keen to debate issues of politics, sports, religion, the economy, pollution, and the quality of our food and drink. We're tempted to entertain gossip about our leaders. We cling to our opinions and we’ve even been known to fight for our 'rights'.

When we look at our leaders, do we see humble practitioners of spiritual authority?
Do we ignore problems when they appear small or trivial?
What happens when we meet stubborn ignorance or refusal?
Do we simmer internally?
Do we consider our leaders slaves to institutional mediocrity?
Do we blow off steam by speaking to others instead of the offender.
Do we actually talk to people who have power and authority to resolve our presenting problems?
Do those of us who believe in God pray, faithfully, for divine assistance?

The alternate approaches, of verbal, physical and legal attack are counter-productive. The only valid Spiritual defence is prayer-supported love-in-action.
Pray.
Try reason.
Pray.
Ask whether others share your concern.
Pray.
Try reason again.
Pray.
Wait patiently.
Pray.
Try again.
Pray.
And Love anyway even when it's tough.

Your joy depends absolutely upon your obedience to Jesus!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Migraines linked to mental disorders

Interesting! Click the following for the article.

http://www.news-medical.net/?id=45200

On Chaos and the Christian

Sometimes it seems our world is coming apart at its seams. People turn to experts for advice and are disappointed.

There will always be tension between reality and ideals. We're called to trust in God, to obey Him, to become like Yeshua (Jesus) as we walk with Him, yet we all fall short.

Can anyone really avoid facing the battle between good and evil? There's a choice to be made: Life or death! Some try to avoid choosing.

In many places, Christians are today persecuted for their faith. In other places the church is hardly distinguished from the surrounding culture.

Chaos, in one form or another, will be a part of this life until we meet Our Lord face to face. Scripture teaches us that when even one Christian is suffering, all suffer. Likewise honour for one brings honour to all.

Wherever we go, whatever we do, The Lord is our strength and shield. We are to look to Him for guidance. He has promised refreshment to all who call upon Him.
Praise His Holy Name!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Knight's Crossing

Click on the above title for a great article in fond remembrance of Capt. Albert Knight, an evangelist in the Church of God, recently gone home to meet His Maker and Lord.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hitting Where It Hurts: Schizophrenia linked to Alzheimer's Disease


The following articles have special meaning for me considering that my father spent the last ten years of his life with Alzheimer's disease and I spent most of my twenties dealing with schizophrenia.



CHARLIE FIDELMAN, in The Montreal Gazette, of January 6, 2009 reports of a study warning that Dementia could become epidemic, and that Alzheimer's patients are getting younger.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada is warning that the number of Canadians living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia is expected to swell to epidemic proportions within a generation.

About half a million Canadians - 119,700 of them Quebecers - are affected. The new study, made public yesterday, predicts that within 25 years, the number of cases of Alzheimer's or a related dementia will more than double, ranging between one million and 1.3 million people.

Researchers stress that the findings, presented in a report called Rising Tide: The Impact of Dementia on Canadian Society, should be a clear signal that more effective treatment and preparation is needed in order to avoid a meltdown within the Canadian health care system. The initial findings report the first new prevalence data since the 1991 Canadian Study on Health and Aging.

"These new data only reinforce the fact that Alzheimer's disease and related dementias are a rising concern in this country, an epidemic that has the potential to overwhelm the Canadian health-care system," Ray Congdon of the Alzheimer Society said in a statement.

The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer's, affects one in 11 Canadians over 65. A degenerative disease that slowly destroys memory, reasoning and orientation, Alzheimer's affects how people think, remember and communicate.

But Alzheimer's is not just a disease of the elderly.

The new data suggest an increasing number of baby boomers are also being struck. About 71,000 Canadians under the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. Approximately 50,000 are 59 or younger. In Quebec, more than 17,140 are under age 65.

"It's urgent we come up with better treatment or there will be an epidemic," said cognitive neurologist Howard Chertkow, a McGill University professor and director of the Bloomfield Centre for Research in Aging at the Jewish General Hospital.

The rising number of cases is no hype, Chertkow said, which explains the push to get the topic on the front burner.

Research suggests Alzheimer's begins about 20 years before symptoms appear, Chertkow said. But despite better awareness and detection tools, there's still a gap between the number of people who are affected by dementia and the number that show up at clinics for evaluation and treatment, he said.

"Some people think it's normal for Grandpa to become senile and lose his memory. So why take a person like that to the doctor?"

There is no cure, but researchers have made progress in understanding the disease, its causes, what makes people susceptible and how it can be prevented.

The report set out to evaluate the economic impact the increasing incidence of the disease will have on the economy. That analysis will be made public when the full report is issued this year.

A provincial working group developing strategies on dementia is expected to complete its report next month.

Dementia causes cognitive impairment, resulting in the loss of memory, attention and reason.

According to en.wikipedia.org, higher mental functions are affected first in the process. Especially in the later stages of the condition, affected persons may be disoriented in time (not knowing what day of the week, day of the month, month, or even what year it is), in place (not knowing where they are), and in person (not knowing who they are or others around them). Symptoms of dementia can be classified as either reversible or irreversible, depending upon the etiology of the disease. Less than 10 percent of cases of dementia are due to causes which may presently be reversed with treatment.

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Alzheimer's/Schizophrenia Link Discovered

ScienceDaily (May 9, 2008) — Neuroscientists at Johns Hopkins have discovered that mice lacking an enzyme that contributes to Alzheimer disease exhibit a number of schizophrenia-like behaviors. The finding raises the possibility that this enzyme may participate in the development of schizophrenia and related psychiatric disorders and therefore may provide a new target for developing therapies.

The BACE1 enzyme, for beta-site amyloid precursor protein cleaving enzyme, generates the amyloid proteins that lead to Alzheimer's disease. The research team years ago suspected that removing BACE1 might prevent Alzheimer.

"We knew at the time that in addition to amyloid precursor protein, BACE1 interacts with other proteins but we didn't know how those interactions might affect behavior," says Alena Savonenko, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor in neuropathology at Hopkins.

Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, the research team describes how mice lacking the BACE1 enzyme show deficits in social recognition among other behaviors classically linked to schizophrenia.

A normal mouse, when introduced to another mouse, shows a lot of interest the first time they meet. If the mice are separated then reintroduced, their interest drops because they remember having met before, a phenomenon the researchers call habituation. If they then introduce a completely different mouse, interest piques again at the newbie.

The researchers introduced mice lacking BACE1 to another mouse. The first time they met, the BACE1 mouse showed interest, the second time meeting the same mouse the BACE1 mouse showed less interest and even less interest the third time. The researchers then introduced the BACE1 mouse to a totally different mouse of a different strain and the BACE1 mouse showed no interest at all. "These mice were totally disinterested, normal mice just don't behave like this," says Savonenko.

Additionally, the researchers found that these BACE1-lacking mice also displayed many other schizophrenia-like traits. Most importantly, according to Savonenko, some of the deficits improved after treatment with the antipsychotic drug clozapine.

Because schizophrenia is a disorder likely caused by many different factors, Savonenko explains that BACE1 might contribute to an increased risk of schizophrenia in certain patients and the BACE1 mice will be a useful animal model. "We never thought we would see one mouse that closely mimics so many of the clinical features of schizophrenia," says Alena Savonenko, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of neuropathology at Hopkins. "This could be a really useful model to study and understand the molecular contributions to the disease."

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute on Aging, the Alzheimer's Association, the Adler Foundation, the Ilanna Starr Scholar Fund and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

Authors on the paper are Savonenko, T. Melnikova, F. Laird, K.-A. Stewart, D. Price and P. Wong, all of Hopkins.

On Clergy and Mental Illness

Mental Illness Often Dismissed By Local Church
see http://www.baylormag.com/story.php?story=006239

Has this happened to you?

With research consistently showing that clergy–not psychologists or other mental health experts–are the most common source of help sought in times of psychological distress, a Baylor University study has found that clergy often deny or dismiss the existence of mental illness.

This is believed to be one of only a few studies to look at the experiences which mentally ill people have when approaching their local church for assistance with their troubles.

In the recent Baylor study of 293 Christians who approached their local church for assistance in response to a personal or family member's diagnosed mental illness, Baylor researchers found that more than 32 percent of these church members were told by their church pastor that they or their loved one did not really have a mental illness. The study found these church members were told the cause of their problem was solely spiritual in nature, such as a personal sin, lack of faith or demonic involvement. Baylor researchers also found that women were more likely than men to have their mental disorders dismissed by the church.

In a subsequent survey, Baylor researchers found the dismissal or denial of the existence of mental illness happened more often in conservative churches, rather than more liberal ones.

All of the participants in both studies were previously diagnosed by a licensed mental health provider as having a serious mental illness, like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, prior to approaching their local church for assistance.

"The results are troubling because it suggests individuals in the local church are either denying or dismissing a somewhat high percentage of mental health diagnosis," said Dr. Matthew Stanford, BS '88, MA '90, PhD '92, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, who led the study. "Those whose mental illnesses were dismissed by clergy are not only being told they don't have a mental illness, they are also being told they need to stop taking their medication.
That can be a very dangerous thing."

In addition, Baylor researchers found study participants who were told by their pastors they did not have a mental illness were more likely to attend church more than once a week and described their church as conservative or charismatic. However, the Baylor study also found those whose mental illness was dismissed or denied were less likely to attend church after the fact and their faith in God was weakened.


Dr. Stanford's results were published in 'Mental Health, Religion and Culture'.

see also
http://www.ethicsoup.com/2008/10/demon-or-disorder-clergy-dismiss-mental-illness.html

No doubt there needs to be more academic discussion and public education about the connections between mind and spirit. Are the various so-called mental illnesses only another name for classic spiritual disorders? The heart of the issue for Christians is whether to trust in worldly assistance, which is sometimes all even the church ends up actually offering, or to accept that a combination of prayer and counsel and medicine might be required. We must also not forget that clergy too are human and suffer from various psychological and/or spiritual conditions.

A witness that Jesus does heal through friends, family and... yes...sometimes through doctors!

Richard Alastair

Friday, January 16, 2009

Crazy or Genius?

Back in 2002 it was reported (in ScienceDaily - May 22/02)
that Stanford Researchers had Established a Link Between
Creative Genius And Mental Illness

The report began with saying that for decades, scientists have known that eminently creative individuals have a much higher rate of manic depression, or bipolar disorder, than does the general population, and that few controlled studies have been done to build the link between mental illness and creativity.

Stanford researchers Connie Strong and Terence Ketter, MD, were reported as having taken the first steps toward exploring the relationship.

Using personality and temperament tests, they found healthy artists to be more similar in personality to individuals with manic depression than to healthy people in the general population. "My hunch is that emotional range, having an emotional broadband, is the bipolar patient's advantage," said Strong. "It isn't the only thing going on, but something gives people with manic depression an edge, and I think it's emotional range."

Strong is a research manager in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science's bipolar disorders clinic and a doctoral candidate at the Pacific Graduate School. She is presenting preliminary results during a poster presentation today (May 21) at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association Meeting in Philadelphia.

The current study is groundbreaking for psychiatric research in that it used separate control groups made up of both healthy, creative people and people from the general population.

Researchers administered standard personality, temperament and creativity tests to 47 people in the healthy control group, 48 patients with successfully treated bipolar disorder and 25 patients successfully treated for depression. She also tested 32 people in a healthy, creative control group. This group was comprised of Stanford graduate students enrolled in prestigious product design, creative writing and fine arts programs, including Stegner Fellows in writing, students in the interdisciplinary Joint Program in Design from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and studio arts master's students from the Department of Art & Art History. All subjects were matched for age, gender, education and socioeconomic status.

Preliminary analysis showed that people in the control group and recovered manic depressives were more open and likely to be moody and neurotic than healthy controls. Moodiness and neuroticism are part of a group of characteristics researchers are calling "negative-affective traits" which also include mild, nonclinical forms of depression and bipolar disorder.

Though the data are preliminary, they provide a roadmap for psychiatric researchers looking to solve the genius/madness paradox depicted in the movie A Beautiful Mind, which tells the story of Nobel Laureate John Nash. The existing data need further review, Strong said. "And, we need to expand this to other groups," he said. How mood influences the performance of artists and genius scientists will be the subject of future research at Stanford. "We need to better understand the emotional side of what they do," Strong said.

The study was funded by grants to Ketter, principal investigator and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford, from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and Abbott Laboratories.

Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.


See original article at http://med.stanford.edu/news_releases/2002/may/creative_gen.html

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Just a Minute!

From a Toronto Sun article of Thursday, January 15, 2009

entitled 'Mental child support'
Parents call to keep funds
By ANTONELLA ARTUSO, QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU CHIEF

Parents struggling to raise children with mental illnesses are calling on the Ontario government to protect and enhance services despite the difficult economic times.

Sarah Cannon, of St. Catharines, whose 12-year-old daughter has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, told a news conference yesterday that only one out of six children with mental illnesses in the province are able to access services and then only after months on waiting lists.

Privately-obtained services are sparse and dauntingly expensive, and Cannon had to take a second job to cover the cost of her child's $750 monthly medication bill.

"I have been telling my daughter's story for nearly a decade and have been struggling with the daily emotional, financial and social struggles associated with having a child diagnosed with a mental illness," Cannon said.

"I have watched my child have to deal with the isolation and stigma that comes attached to her label. I have watched her struggle and suffer battling faceless demons that few can comprehend. I have learned that she shares this struggle with countless other children."

Suicide is a real risk for mentally ill children even though the vast majority have a psychological illness that could be treated, she said.

Cannon and other members of Parents for Children's Mental Health are asking the McGuinty government to increase spending on these services by 3% after years of flat-lined budgets and to work toward a seamless system of care as recommended in several key reports such as the provincially-sponsored Roots of Violence.

London parent Sean Quigley, whose 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 7, said they pushed hard to get her the services she needed.

During the worst of times, they were getting calls every day from school to pick up their daughter who could be violent and verbally abusive when experiencing the mood swings associated with the disorder.

Now in Grade 7, their daughter Erynn has served as a national "Face of Mental Illness."
"She's on the student council and her grades rock," her proud father said.

But many parents of mentally ill children lose jobs, savings and even their homes as they attempt to meet the needs of their children in a complex, patchwork system, he said.

"The health system does not work with the education system which does not work with the social services system which does not really communicate with the justice system," Quigley said.

"And we as parents, we navigate these systems all the time."

Children and Youth Services Minister Deb Matthews said her government's 2004 budget brought in the first base increase in children's mental health services funding in 12 years.
The ministry is currently implementing a strategic framework for children's mental health services to bring more co-ordination to the system, and to use existing dollars more effectively for the care of children and youth, Matthews said.

I'm all for the work of Canada's Mental Health Commission. Yet these examples illustrate the need for more than just talk and research. Real help would go a long way towards reducing stigma for all concerned!
What we really need is a coordinated systems approach, which brings together various levels and departments of government, and which recognizes and collaborates with "informal service providers". We must as Canadians, find ways to stand with each other to obtain the service and respect we all need.

Richard Alastair

Thursday, January 8, 2009

SO WHERE IS THE HOUSING?

The Government of Canada would have us believe that it is 'helping' those who are homeless in Saskatchewan
see news.gc.ca dateline: SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN, December 19, 2008

Canada’s Government (claims to be) helping families and individuals in Saskatchewan break free from the cycles of homelessness and poverty and build a stronger future for themselves.

see http://news.gc.ca/web/article-eng.do?nid=428379

The report says that
“Our government is delivering on our commitment to help those who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. We are proud to support community efforts that help find local solutions to local issues,” said Mr. Komarnicki, who made the announcement on behalf of the Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. “By investing over $1.7 million in these 12 projects across Saskatchewan, we are supporting community efforts to help those in need.”

The announcement took place at the Salvation Army Community Centre in Saskatoon, a shelter, food provider and drop-in centre. The organization is receiving HPS funding to help create 42 emergency shelter beds and six temporary cots for women and children. Individuals will benefit by having a safe place to live in which they can access support services and transition out of homelessness.

Let's not hold our breath waiting.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Post-traumatic stress disorder

CBC news reported in a Dec. 17, 2008 on-line article that 'more Canadian soldiers than ever are coming forward to make claims for psychiatric disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder' and that of 31 recommendations made by the Military Ombudsman's Office in Ottawa, 18 had not been fully implemented.

The military are said to have made some progress in improving screening before and after conflict, providing national family support groups and aiming to hire 200 mental health workers by March of this year.

But the condition doesn't just affect soldiers. Paramedics, front-line nurses and victims of abuse, violent crimes or accidents have been known to develop symptoms. One in 10 people have post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Often with time and support, people can get past a traumatic event.

PTSD can result from stressors such as seeing someone else threatened with death or serious injury, or killed, or from violent personal assaults, such as rape or mugging, from car or plane accidents, industrial accidents, natural disasters, such as hurricanes or tornadoes, as well as from military combat.

In life-threatening circumstances, the body goes into a "fight or flight" response. But when a person continually relives the traumatic event, this response is reactivated and it becomes a problem.

Symptoms usually start to appear three months after the traumatic event. But they can also appear many years later.

They fall into three categories:

Reliving the traumatic event: Some people experience such severe psychological stress that it affects them long after. They have flashbacks and nightmares or tune out for periods of time, making it hard to live a normal life.

Emotional numbing and avoidance: The person may withdraw from friends and family. They avoid situations that remind them of their trauma. They don't enjoy life as usual, and have a hard time feeling emotions or maintaining intimacy. They often feel extreme guilt. In rare cases, they can go through disassociative states where they believe they are reliving the episode, and act as if it is happening again. These can last anywhere from five minutes to several days.

Changes in sleeping patterns and alertness: Insomnia is common, and people with PTSD may have a hard time concentrating and finishing tasks. This can also lead to more aggression.

PTSD can also lead to other illnesses, such as depression or dependence on drugs or alcohol. Some physical symptoms, such as dizziness, chest pain, gastrointestinal and immune-system problems can also be linked to the disorder.

How is it treated?
The depression and anxiety can be treated with medication. Therapy with mental health professionals can help, such as:

Group therapy.
Exposure therapy, in which the person works through the trauma by reliving the experience under controlled conditions.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy, which focuses on the way a person interprets and reacts to experience.
Some people fully recover within six months, but it can take much longer. Cognitive-behavioural therapy appears to be the most effective treatment, according to research.
But PTSD research continues to determine which treatments work best.

How many people does it affect? Who does it affect?
About one in 10 people have PTSD, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. It can affect anyone who has a traumatic experience. Children and adults alike can suffer PTSD, which is among the most common mental health problems.

But, some people can experience symptoms without developing PTSD. About five to 10 per cent of people may have some symptoms without developing the full-blown disorder, according to the B.C. Ministry of Health Guide. Women are twice as likely as men to develop the full-blown disorder.

In 2002, the Canadian Forces was surveyed by Statistics Canada to determine the prevalence of PTSD and other conditions. The survey found that in the year before the study, 2.8 per cent of the regular force and 1.2 per cent of the reservists had symptoms of PTSD. The more missions soldiers had embarked on, the more likely they were to develop the disorder or PTSD-like symptoms.

But, the rate might be much higher, says Dr. Greg Passey, a Vancouver psychiatrist who specializes in trauma and works with Canadian Forces patients. In the mid-1990s, Passey studied two battalions who had served in the former Yugoslavia and found a 12- to 13- per-cent rate of PTSD.

Because our military is so small, he told CBC News, the front-end combat people have to go on more than one tour. And, he added, the more traumatic situations a person is exposed to, the greater risk of developing an operational stress injury such as PTSD.

The Canadian Forces now screens soldiers three to six months after they return from a mission. The "enhanced post-deployment screening process" involves a set of standard health questionnaires and an in-depth interview with a mental health professional.


If you have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, what can you do to cope? Veterans Canada recommends a few common sense tips.

Live a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy meals, exercising regularly and getting enough rest.

Set aside time to reflect on the trauma, rather than allow a constant stream of worrying thoughts throughout the day.

Join or develop support groups.

Educate yourself and your family about reactions to trauma. Understanding the condition is helpful in coming to terms with the trauma and dealing with its associated problems.

for the full article, see...
http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2008/12/17/f-ptsd.html

for related article: 'Special help for stress disorders' see...
http://www.edmontonsun.com/News/Edmonton/2008/12/31/7886731-sun.html