Mental Illness & The Church
For the last five years I have had a friend named Michael who has been part of my life. We’ve lost touch recently touch due to some circumstances but his friendship has been one of the more challenging experiences of my life. See, Michael is a paranoid schizophrenic. He hears voices. He called my phone one day cause his therapist told him he should try out our church. The therapist thought it was a “wellness” church. I thought that was kinda funny but I obviously reached out to him.
However, I’ll admit that this is one of the hardest friendships I have ever had. Why? Because frankly he doesn’t have much to offer back. He’s very needy and very high maintenance. He can’t drive. And is only semi-functional in society. But, at the same time, he’s got so much to give. He’s the most loyal friend I have ever had. He loves my kids. Loves my family and prays for me everyday.
I’ve learned from my friendship with Michael that we can get rather consumer oriented in our friendships and that friendship demands that I ask nothing of him.
Another thing I have learned is that the mentally ill have little place in the church as we know it. We have not categories for them. They scare most people but that is mostly because of ignorance and lack of understanding. This needs to change. The church should be the place that those who are mentally ill can find hope, community and help.
I say all this because I want to introduce you to my good friend Mark Licitra who is part of The Well and has started a new blog on the this very topic. It will be a discussion on “Mental Illness and Christianity.”
He’s a quote from his first post:
I am more convinced than ever that mental illness is the biblical leprosy of our time, that there is no group of people more relegated to the margins in our society (altough I think the aged among us fare only slightly better). The purpose of this blog is to start people talking about mental illness, and to re-introduce an ignored (intentionally or unintentionally) group of people to a Church who is called to care for the broken.
Now, I’ve got to go call Micheal…