59 thoughts on “SFL Flashback: Blaming Mental Illness on Sin”

  1. Methinks Gothard is only trying to cover up for his own mental illness… and we all know he’s sick in his own special way.

    1. “Methinks Gothard is only trying to cover up for his own mental illness” – Excellent point, supernova8610.

  2. If those schizophrenics would just produce a responsible level of dopamine, they wouldn’t be having any problems at all. But no, they’re greedy, greedy for more dopamine. 🙄

  3. Hephzibah House believed Cabbage Patch dolls were demonic and it’s moronic. How could a doll be possessed?!

  4. This guy is all sorts of wacky! 👿 Problem is people believe this nonsense and then fail to get the help they need. 😥

    1. A lot of people believe this guy. And that’s just this guy, not all the people who follow pastors who agree with Gothard’s ideas. It’s very saddening.

  5. If you have a disease in any part of your body besides your brain you are supposed to go to the doctor. If your brain has problems you should just pray more and that will fix it.

    I get angry when I see people saying such wildly irresponsible things.

  6. While I would agree with all the comments I’ve read thus far, I also have to be a bit contrary. I used to have bad depression and was well on my way to being a sociopath. It wasn’t because I had something wrong chemically. It was because of choices I made and worldviews I held. I would argue from experience that mental illness can indeed be self inflicted.

    1. I’m with you there. Drugs and general hedonism can make you crazy… I sought out every manner of darkness after leaving faith or what was actually handed to me, legalism, which also makes you ill. At 14 I quit trying to be a Christian those next dozen were some dark years. It did make me mentally ill and I did things that were APPALLING. The Gospel was brand new after beating myself up for so long. It’s not been a walk in the park since believing again but I’ve never fallen back down into the same kind of despair or traps without knowing that Jesus is my Savior no matter what and that He has set me free. And I’ve been through a lot. I would never point to myself as “model” anything my mind now is different somehow. I’m generally anti drug simply because of my experience but don’t eschew medication entirely for everyone, just myself.

      OK, now I’ll go watch the video.

    2. Your problem may, indeed, have been self-inflicted. Congratulations for finding a solution for them! Many people aren’t so fortunate. They may make bad choices, but are so far into their problem they can’t see a solution without help. When they seek help, it is vital they receive unconditional positive regard (not to be confused with gratuitous approval), not being told again and again they are in sin. Often that just digs the hole deeper. Unqualified counselors can make the problem worse through ignorance or willful disregard of actual conditions (learning disability, autism, Asperger’s, etc.), and rather than referring the person to the help they need, attempt to treat a condition for which the counselor is not qualified. Being an effective counselor requires humility and knowing your own limitations, something about which Gothard and his type know nothing.

  7. Actually fundyfacinated, the book he referenced, THE MYTH OF MENTAL ILLNESS, is more a critique of the psychiatric industry and how they marginalize actions and behaviors outside their normal. Think of forced hysterectomies or the recent papers describing conservatives as afflicted with Authoritarian Personality Disorder as examples. Szasz doesn’t deny that people that we deem now couldn’t use help, he just argues that a disease is something you have, that can be seen and verified while behavior is something you do.

  8. OK, I know very little about this guy.

    But what is he saying that is so wrong? I did not hear him say (in this clip, at least) that ALL mental illness was caused by sin. I well know that some mental illnesses are caused by chemical imbalances – my sister has been on medication for years.

    At the same time, it seems to me that in our current culture, doctors are too quick to call everything a mental illness and dish out medicine. Some children, no doubt, need medication, but I’m skeptical that half a school class needs to be on medication for hyperactivity.

    We can certainly discuss or argue whether “most” or “some” mental illness is caused by what this man said, but I didn’t hear anything that sounded too wacko in this short clip.

    Perhaps some of the people here have know more about this Bill Gothard; I willing to be convinced he is off base, but this clip alone did not do it.

    1. I did a little study, and approximately 30-35% of folks are cured by the placebo effect of medication. So apparently not all so-called mental illness is chemical or disease based. Some certainly is sin based, choice based, or behaviorally based.

      I think it is foolish for us to think that because people manifest symptoms of a mental illness, they automatically have a disease.

      People manifest symptoms of heart attacks and stroke constantly (I know this, because as a firefighter, I see them) and they do not all experience the disease. Sometimes their symptoms are caused by nothing more than gas.

      That being said, Cabbage patch dolls being demonic? I remember hearing that as a kid. It’s stupid to think that an inanimate object can be possessed.

      1. Gothard is right here….though very wrong on other subjects.

        Mental illness is often caused by prolonged irresponsible living, substance abuse, and extreme self indulgence in some way or the other.

      2. Those are good points. Thanks for bringing them up.

        I wonder if there’s a bit of a circular problem going on. On the one hand, we have people who abuse the “mental illness” excuse and those who enable that abuse. So there definitely are people who are lying to themselves that it isn’t their choices that are hurting them, or who are excusing sin as something they just can’t help. And those who may not have been inclined to do that, but who have someone else telling them: “nothing’s your fault; it’s a disease, take a pill, etc.” Even the professional mental health community is beginning to acknowledge that maybe making no one responsible for their own behavior is not such a good thing.

        But on the other hand, doesn’t it seem that there is a reaction among some Christians–particularly fundies–that is just that: a reaction? It’s knee jerk and foolish, and it writes off everything as sin that just needs to be beaten out of someone. And along with that there seems (from my limited experience) to be a huge pride element. They imply to those who are struggling that the “counselor” is better than the counselee because he or she is above such struggles.

      3. Fuller Seminary’s former missions professor C. Peter Wagner, when he first became engaged with the lunatic fringe of the charismatic movement, claimed that Christians should be careful when traveling abroad because demons could attach themselves to luggage and could thus be brought to America.
        I’m not kidding. 🙄

        1. My exIFB SIL married a guy who believes that about demons. In fact, their pastor is obsessed with them.

    2. Agreed. I can’t even play the video. I can’t watch his voice narrating those diagrams. Can I state for the record how thrilled I am that I’m no longer required to sit and listen to him anymore?

    3. My problem with this clip is that it is too short. I would have been interested to hear what he had to say, before and after this. That might help put his statements in context. Or his would help figure out if this guy needs some kind of medication himself.

  9. No, no, no!!! As one who suffers from depression and has gotten meds and is now doing MUCH better, people like these make me mad. 🙁

    1. Don’t let them get under your skin. Depression can and should be treated. I have seen close up where it can lead to when it is not. All the best and prayers to you.

    2. Yes, I am with you. I hope my earlier comment wasn’t misunderstood so that you’d think I thought the depression was your fault.

      It seems very obvious to me that depression can exist as an actual condition. We’ve accepted the fact that women who’ve just given birth can have a form of it because of the chemical changes that go on. We joke about mood changes that occur during menstrual cycles. Why couldn’t it happen from other causes?

      I wonder how many men go undiagnosed. I recently read in a science magazine that men exhibit symptoms that look more like anger and a short fuse. How many people who we think are jerks are just sick?

      1. Probably more than we think. Growing up, I was told more than once that psychiatrists were just satanic dupes who would do anything to get you to renounce your faith in God, even electroshock or drugs. Think ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ with bibles and you’ll get the idea. Imagine my shock when the therapist my doctor recommended turned out to be an ex-fundy herself, who still went to church and was still a christian. Between her advice and meds to straighten my head out, I got back to good and didn’t lose my faith. If anything, it became stronger because I learned God cares for everyone and sends help even in unexpected ways.

        1. Growing up, I was told more than once that psychiatrists were just satanic dupes who would do anything to get you to renounce your faith in God, even electroshock or drugs.

          Just like they teach in Scientology!
          Psyclos vs Dianetics!

  10. I find this ironic, given that fundy land is a great place to generate mental illness.

  11. I notice he didn’t mention the name of the book or the author (does someone who has seen the whole video know if he mentions it outside this short clip?). I know someone already mentioned the book and author in the comment thread, but fundies are notorious for not citing their sources.

    I think personal responsibility is a good thing to emphasize any time, but the brain is a physical organ like any other, vulnerable to injury or chemical imbalance. Some Christians like to use words like “personal responsibility” as codes to deny that there are people who legitimately need medical treatment.

  12. The issue is not with what Gothard said so much as how he said it.
    1) “Someone said” – He doesn’t even name the guy, and if he did it would only be an appeal to authority fallacy. Why should we give a hoot what Johnny Bravo says? Maybe he “shocked” everyone because he was a loon.
    2) Equivocation fallacy – in the quote, the semantic domain of “much of what we call mental illness” is interpreted by Gothard as “schizophrenia and so on”.
    3) False conclusion – Gothard then turns this into an axiom “if we begin to act irresponsibly, we will soon begin to think incoherently.” This does not follow.

    This does not follow from the loose ramble posing as reason (not very well).

  13. I’m with those who stated that Gothard didn’t identify or give due credit to his sources. He could have been talking out of his ass as usual. Mental/emotional illnesses cannot be explained away that easily.

  14. As a life-long sufferer of a severe mental disorder (and as someone who is finally getting help, thank goodness), I can attest that this kind of mindset kept me in confusion, misery, and anguish for years, and did NOTHING to help me. I prayed and prayed and fretted and cried and was miserable and agonized and tried to pretend I was normal for years and nothing worked, because I wasn’t actually getting my problems addressed through therapy and medication and diet/exercise like I needed to, any more than someone with diabetes or a heart problem or some kind of liver disorder would would see improvement without seeking treatment from the medical community.(I guess you could simply pray for God to cure your diabetes or heart problems or liver problems, sure, but most of us would also tell the person to also see a doctor, take medication, make changes is diet and exercise, etc. Well guess what??? My BRAIN is an organ just as much as my heart or liver is, and it can physically malfunction, too). It is terrible and not helpful to those who are suffering to tell them that the solution to their problem is merely spiritual. I have a problem with brain chemistry, and there are solutions to it!

    I am not even going to watch the video, because I don’t need any triggers right now.

  15. Whether you agree with the video or not, most of us would agree that this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. If anyone SHOULD

    1. (Sorry George jumped me from behind)

      If anyone should know about causing mental problems, a Fundy would be the one.

  16. Basic steps to maturity:

    1. Leave your fundy church
    2. Repent of any extremist actions you might have had while in fundyland, and if necessary, try and repair any damage you have caused.
    3. Open your bible and see what GOD says.
    4. Rejoice because He is good.

  17. Gothard just plays into the small town distrust of any type of counselling or psychotherapy, people hear that mental illness is from sin and it confirms the choice that they have already made to judge those struggling with mental illness. It makes them feel comfortable, and when you put a Jesus stamp on it, it feels even better!

  18. This guy is messed up. He’s a “guesser.”
    Despite all science tells us about brain chemistry and wiring, he blames the person.
    If you don’t know what a “guesser” is, it is someone who will throw the last hundred years of medicine, science, and knowledge in the toilet to guess what they think the answer is.

    @Tiarali…you are right. As usual!
    @MKXcomm…so true. The stigma that attaches to mental health in this country is appalling and a lot of it is due to “guessers” like this guy.

  19. Oh, hai Bill Gothard. Thanks for making me have to pay a copay every couple of weeks in order to undo the mental damage that your mental health teachings caused me. Please DIAF.

    Luv, me.

  20. About 20 years ago, I managed a homeless shelter and our ministry would go under the bridges and connect with the mentally ill homeless. I met men and women that were diagnosed with schizophrenia who heard voices all the time. One person thought he was getting secret messages from the CIA through brick walls of a certain building in Grand Rapids. Another used to wash his hands in his urine. Another wore about 25 hats in the middle of summer because he thought if all of the hats were removed that his brain would fall out of his hat. I could go on and on. Schizophrenia is not caused by irresponsibility, rather their brain is broken.

    Sadly, fundamentalist churches and charismatic churches often advised the mentally ill that I knew to Trust Jesus and do away with their medication. For a few days they were flying high, but inevitably, they’d crash and often become suicidal.

    At times I was tempted to take one of these ignorant fundies (that caused them to throw away their meds) into a dark alley and “show them the wrath of God” myself but I had to maintain my composure so that I wouldn’t lose my job. And the Holy Spirit kept bringing the Sermon on the Mount to my mind doggone it…..

    1. When I was in high school, there was a girl at my church that went to college and returned soon after leaving. She apparently had a mental breakdown at college. Her mother approached me and some other girls her daughter’s age and wanted to know if we’d talk to her because she had withdrawn and became anorexic.

      We told her we didn’t know what to say. We did talk to her, but she wouldn’t look us in the eye and wouldn’t respond to us, at all. Later, we were told she had begun a “work program” with the city, and a van came to pick her up to carry her back and forth to work.

      I’ve always wondered what happened to her, and why it was that someone couldn’t truly help her? I assume that the pastor, and her mother and father did not seek out a psychiatrist and psychologist. I wonder if she was sexually assaulted? I mean, she did attend a very conservative christian college (one here in NC, I can’t remember the name), and we know how sexual assault is generally treated at a place like that.

      It truly breaks my heart because she literally was an entirely different person, and not in a good way. Having gone through my own depression/anxiety since then, I wish I could reach out to her. I’ve never wished to set my ex-fundy pastor straight, but it angers me to think that they let/caused her spiral downward into an awful state of mind.

    2. Its so easy for Gothard, fundies, and others who hold to similar views of mental illness, to throw out these pat answers like “read your Bible”, “pray more”, and “be responsible.” Of course, the ones who hold these views are the ones who don’t suffer from mental illness themselves (at least not the kind caused by physical damage or chemical imbalance), and so they have no clue.

      Really, telling people to stop taking their meds? Those people need to be arrested! 👿

  21. I am reminded of John 9 v 2
    “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”
    Obviously it was the man. Did Jesus get it wrong?

    1. or did John forget to record the bit where Jesus told the man to take responsibility and stop doing all the things that Fundamentalists say cause you problems?

    2. The mindset is the problem.

      “The Devil made you do it” is so much cleaner an answer than to listen to a two hour presentation on the effects of Dopamine and Norepinephrine in our bodies.

      Nobody ever questions what you did to be cursed with near-sightedness.

      Claiming a Placebo effect of 35% for mental illnesses is statistically no different from the placebo effect for just about any other physical illness. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placebo

  22. Now I’m wondering what’s so evil about Cabbage Patch Dolls. They are ugly and people get so wrapped up in tending the stupid things, but that’s not considered a sin.

  23. I can’t view the video right now – but as someone who became depressed/anxious only *after* becoming a Christian, I can surely testify that the rule of “mental illness = sin in your life” is not true, at least not in all situation. It’s incredibly insensitive to even suggest to someone that their depression/anxiety/other-mental-illness is a result of sin and only sin.

    Nonetheless, for some reason, IFB preachers continue to ensure their followers that no counselor outside themselves (meaning the pastor himself) can help you – at least not truly help you. I got the “there are too many dishes piling up in your sink” speech. Yeah, ok. I asked if he knew any Christian counselors; the answer I got was something like this: “No, I don’t know any, and I wouldn’t send you to one anyway.” Fortunately, I found two on my own – I didn’t like the first one, and I had success with the second one.

    Only after 5 years of struggling with this have I been convinced that medication is OK, and I actually have REAL victory over my depression/anxiety. I still pray about it, seek REAL counseling, but I truly have an imbalance.

    And yes, I left fundamentalism a while back.

  24. …and if you think this is a little off, you should hear his theories about Cabbage Patch dolls.

    Is this the guy who started the urban legend about Demon-Possessed Cabbage Patch Dolls?

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