One of the reasons I like Peter Gabriel is that he doesn’t shy away from tackling issues in his music that other artists won’t touch. On this third album, he peered inside the mind of a burglar (‘Intruder’) and an assassin (‘Family Snapshot’), tackled world peace (‘Games Without Frontiers’ and ‘Biko’), various states of agitation (‘No Self-Control’, ‘I Don’t Remember’), and social pressure (‘Not One Of Us’).
On the second half of the album is nestled this quiet, simple, beautiful track, starting with the peaceful marimba and then, as texture, some muffled shouting in the background, which ceases before the marimba continues and the lyrics start:
It’s nice here with a view of the trees
Eating with a spoon?
They don’t give you knives?
‘Spect you watch those trees
Blowing in the breeze
We want to see you lead a normal life
I said this in a tongue-in-cheek manner on Twitter the other day: the reason I can talk about going crazy is the fact that I’ve been there. Mental health, like the tagline to this blog says, is a huge priority in my life, because it’s been something I’ve struggled with for years.
Several years ago, an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, combined with lack of sleep due to some medical issues led me to literally run away from home. As an adult. Twice.
The second time this happened, my family demanded I get help, and I let them put me in a mental health facility. It was a terrible experience–probably not quite as bad as prison, but close–but it was good for me, in that it was a wake-up call.
The years hadn’t been kind to me.
Years of legalism, piled atop a hidden mountain of undiagnosed mental illness, filtered through Charismania and a personal obsession with a wrong idea of ‘ministry’, all of these things combined to literally drive me crazy, to the point where I required medical treatment.
Now, let me tell you this: I am a Christian.
I want to let that sink in for a second. I am a Christian, and I have struggled with mental health issues.
The reason I want you to understand that is because there is a poisonous lie in the modern church that goes like this: “If you are a Christian, you cannot be mentally ill.”
Sometimes it takes a more Charismatic form: “Depression is of the devil.” “They have a demon.”
This is a lie.
The Church is a hospital, and I believe that most congregations have individuals with undiagnosed mental illness, who have come to the church to help, and have not received it.
In some churches, these individuals are shuffled off to the side. Out of sight, out of mind. They’re looney, but harmless. ‘We’re not sure how to deal with them, but they’re not hurting anyone.’
In other churches, the ‘demons’ are ‘cast out’, and the individual is told then that they are healthy and normal, when they are not. The unhealthy individuals are then recruited to ‘spread the Gospel’. This usually doesn’t work out very well, because normal people can clearly see that there is something wrong with these individuals, and nobody normal wants to associate with a Jesus being proclaimed by someone who is clearly mentally unstable.
This needs to change.
I am no pastor, nor preacher, nor teacher, but I encourage those of you who are, to study abnormal psychology, to study mental disorders.
Remember that the Church is not only there to carry out the mission of physical healing, but holistic healing: spirit, soul, and body, the wholeness encompassed by the Hebrew word shalom.
Those with a broken mind, broken emotions, are no less worthy of attention than those with a broken back or a broken leg. You might get less attention on stage, because mental illness is invisible, but if you are genuinely interested in helping people, all kinds of people, you need to learn how to heal all of these ailments.
Is it a demon? Maybe. I’ve come to the conclusion over the years, though, that I know almost nothing about demons, because all my ‘demons’ disappeared with medication and counseling.
More likely, it’s a combination of a problematic upbringing, wrong ideas of God, and sometimes (though only a doctor can diagnose this), a chemical imbalance that needs to be treated with medication.
This takes both discernment and education.
If you value your family, your friends, and your flock, please find out the signs of depression, suicide, and anxiety disorders. Online classes and information is freely available. I’m not saying to send them to the psychiatrist when a few sessions of counseling would do just as well. I’m saying that this requires both a spiritual sense and education, so you can really know what you’re seeing.
To those Christians who have been hurt by religion, who are on their last legs or the end of their rope: come to Christ. If you’re not at peace, if you are unable to find spiritual rest, please, get help.
If you can’t get help at the church you’re going to, pray and look elsewhere. Ask, seek, knock. You’ll find help if you look for it.
We, meaning Jesus Christ and myself, we want you alive, whole, and well.
We want to see you lead a normal life.