(April 28, 2008)

I haven’t thought for a while about stigma within the church. My life has been pretty insulated. I don’t feel the effects of such stigma. But every once in a while I hear a story that gets my blood boiling. It’s not simple anger I feel, though. It’s more like pain.

Someone who used to come to Living Room but can’t anymore, told me how much the group had meant to her. Our support group had helped make her well. She is so enthusiastic about Living Room that she had decided to start a group of her own in another part of town. But what has been holding her back is that she finds it hard to get established or feel good in a church. And Living Room needs a church to sponsor the program.

This friend has painful memories of how her husband, who suffers from severe anxiety, was treated in the past at a church he attended with her. Members of the church tried exorcising his “demons” and told him he had no faith. I sense the pain she feels about not feeling she can get involved in a regular church. She has been hurt so much! So many have experienced similar rejection and judgement. The people who most need a place to experience God’s love are all too often shunned.

At our Living Room meeting on Friday a lady told us about being at church with her daughter. When she explained to someone that her daughter had schizophrenia, the person replied, “It’s a demon that causes that, you know.” He said that with the daughter standing right beside them.

This ignorance causes such a lot of pain! When are people going to understand the medical truth about mental disorders? When will this attitude change? People who struggle with mental health issues need to be embraced by the church and given full support and love, following Christ’s example.

This is what started me writing my latest book, A Firm Place to Stand. It will be published in two months or so and I pray that it will help educate Christians and help them to be compassionate rather than judgemental. Please, God, let it make a difference.