Let’s start with a lie.
Just a little one. The smaller the better! Because if a lie is little, then it may be easily disguised as the truth. If you wrap it in the right lingo, baptize it with enough ceremony, and speak with an air of authority then maybe no one will question it. It sounds Christian, so it must be gospel. But whose gospel? When it comes to our theology of mental health, the Church has bought into the lie of “Spiritual Illness” which is actually just a baptized form of a pagan ideology.
The Lie of “Spiritual Illness”
Mental health is a personal topic for me. My mother suffered a traumatic mental breakdown when I was young and used alcohol to cope when she was lucid. My wife suffers from trauma-induced anxiety and depression. As for myself, I have suffered from intrusive thoughts, chronic anxiety, and recently began experiencing suicidal urges. But at least I have the church! Right?
Not really. In fact, Christians have barely helped at all. Now that’s not to say Christians have been silent on the matter. Oh no, they’ve had plenty to say. Christians tell me the gospel should fix my mental health struggles, but when the struggles don’t go away, they usually switch tactics. I’ve been told it’s a sin problem. I’ve been told it’s a matter of belief or that I should read my Bible more. I’ve even been accused of being demon possessed. Twice! Weird, right?
Actually, such responses are more common than you might think. Dr. Kate Finley, a professor at Hope College, identifies this sort of thinking as a “Spiritual Illness view of mental disorder.” The idea either explicitly or implicitly blames a person’s mental disorders entirely on a spiritual deficiency. In other words, you haven’t been healed because you lack faith; it’s your fault. This sort of talk can be devastating for someone suffering from mental or emotional trauma and is far too prevalent among Christians. Dr. Finley notes one study published in 2020 which revealed that 31% of Evangelicals had been taught the Spiritual Illness approach at their church.
The Roots of Manifestation.
But this lie of “spiritual illness” is really just another version of Manifestation. If you haven’t heard the term “Manifestation,” then congratulations: you’ve escaped the internet. It’s experiencing an explosion in popularity, spreading across social media and championed by numerous celebrities. Manifestation is based on the Law of Attraction, a system of belief which connects your lived experience with your state of mind. If you believe rightly, then good things will happen. According to Roxie Nafousi, a bestselling author on the subject, Manifestation is about believing you deserve something better.