The Unbelievable Way This Pastor Described My Schizophrenia
Last week, I visited a church with some friends. It was a small church and the people were kind and welcoming. The pastors spoke on the topic of God’s gifts. Today, I went back to that church. They began their service how many churches do — with worship. The worship seemed great and genuine, but then the pastor started speaking.
She spoke of living a full life in God, reviewed last weeks points and carried on with her sermon. She began speaking of things in life that cause us to struggle. She called them “spirits.” Spirits of laziness and addiction were mentioned. She also said “spirits of depression and schizophrenia.” Now, I do believe in God, angels and demons. I also believe in illnesses and disorders.
I went to the pastor after the service to ask for clarification of that part of her sermon. She talked about all of these neurologists who are preachers and they preach the same thing she did. She said she had been delivered from depression (which I personally do believe can happen) and that she has family members with mental illnesses. This got under my skin a bit because an illness usually means someone is sick. Sickness usually goes away. Schizophrenia is a disorder. It doesn’t leave. It is chronic and usually gets worse with time. It is a disorder. A schizophrenic brain just functions differently… that is why it is called a disorder.
She continued to say that her schizophrenic niece got worse with medication because she “has a demon.” She went on to explain that it’s either demonic possession or oppression. I explained to her that people have tried to perform exorcisms on me before, but they didn’t work simply because I’m not possessed. Her response was, “well if you get someone to do it who knows what they are doing, it will work.”
Naturally, I left. Who wants to stay in a place where people think they’re possessed because of a brain disorder? As I was walking to the car, my friend caught up with me. Here’s the kicker. This friend once locked me in our dorm room to try to exorcise a demon out of me, so naturally, she sided with the pastor. I ended up walking home in disbelief at what I’d just heard.
The pastor tried telling me that mental “illness” takes away joy. Joy cannot be taken by the physical. Joy is in God and therefore eternal. I can be unhappy and schizophrenic and still have joy. She tried telling me that joy is so fickle that it can be affected by serotonin and dopamine and that those things can stop a relationship with God. Yes, those things alter mood and perception. imbalances in chemicals cause mental disorders, not broken relationships with God. I know of pastors who take antidepressants and antipsychotics… and guess what? They’re still Christians.
I wanted to tell this story because so many in the church are silent about disorders like schizophrenia because they do not want others to say these things of them. Some people have been run out of churches because people believe these things. Trust me — I am not going back to that church. Some people say it is best just to keep quiet about it, but how can things change if no one speaks up? How can we educate the so-called educated, as this woman claimed to be, and how can we help others if no one says anything?
A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.
Photo by Ruben Hutabarat on Unsplash