Tag Archives: Mental Illness

How does church appear to someone raised in a non-Christian home?

My friend Wes posted an article about how communication is set up in the church, and why it’s not effective at equipping Christians to defend their worldview in hostile environments. The article describes what I encountered in church, after I was raised in a non-Christian home and become a Christian on my own by reading the New Testament. The view presented in the essay is how I viewed the church, and is probably how most outsiders view church. I think it explains why young people leave the church in droves once they move out of their parents’ houses.

The author writes:

On the Internet, one soon discovers that many respected church leaders are quite unable to deal directly with opposing viewpoints. In fact, many of them can’t even manage meaningful engagement with other voices. Their tweets may be entirely one-way conversations. They talk at their audiences. They can talk about other voices, but fail to talk to them, let alone with them. Their representations of opposing viewpoints reveal little direct exposure to the viewpoints in question.

[…]Around this point, it can start to dawn on one that many church leaders have only been trained in forms of discourse such as the sermon and, to a much lesser extent, the essay. Both forms privilege a single voice—their voice—and don’t provide a natural space for response, questioning, and challenge. Their opinions have been assumed to be superior to opposing viewpoints, but have never been demonstrated to be so. While they may have spoken or written about opposing voices, they are quite unaccustomed to speaking or writing to them (not to mention listening to or being cross-examined by them). There are benefits to the fact that the sermon is a form of discourse that doesn’t invite interruption or talking back, but not when this is the only form of discourse its practitioners are adept in.

Many church leaders have been raised and trained in ideologically homogenous cultures or contexts that discouraged oppositional discourse. Many have been protected from hostile perspectives that might unsettle their faith. Throughout, their theological opinions and voices have been given a privileged status, immune from challenge. Nominal challenges could be brushed off by a reassertion of the monologue. They were safe to speak about and habitually misrepresent other voices to their hearers and readers, without needing to worry about those voices ever enjoying the power to answer them back. Many of the more widely read members of their congregations may have had an inkling of the weakness of their positions in the past: the Internet just makes it more apparent.

One of my friends who comments here as “Wintery’s Friend” actually did his M. Div, and I think it was he who told me that his seminary had dropped the lone course in apologetics that had been part of the curriculum. Now seminary grads don’t learn any opposing views. They just pre-suppose that the Bible is true in the same way that Mormons pre-suppose their Bible is true, or Muslims pre-suppose their Bible is true, etc.

More:

If one’s opinion has never been subjected to and tried by rigorous cross-examination, it probably isn’t worth much. If one lacks the capacity to keep a level head when one’s views are challenged, one’s voice will be of limited use in most real world situations, where dialogue and dispute is the norm and where we have to think in conversation with people who disagree with us.

The teachers of the Church provide the members of the Church with a model for their own thinking. The teacher of the Church does not just teach others what to believe, but also how to believe, and the process by which one arrives at a theological position. This is one reason why it is crucial that teachers ‘show their working’ on a regular basis. When teaching from a biblical text, for instance, the teacher isn’t just teaching the meaning of that particular text, but how Scripture should be approached and interpreted more generally. An essential part of the teaching that the members of any church need is that of dealing with opposing viewpoints. One way or another, every church provides such teaching. However, the lesson conveyed in all too many churches is that opposing voices are to be dismissed, ignored, or ‘answered’ with a reactive reassertion of the dogmatic line, rather than a reasoned response.

You can imagine that the first questions that you’ll be asked by a non-Christian co-worker would be things like “why think God exists?” and “why think the Bible is history rather than legend?”. In order to answer those questions, you would have to know how to counter what a non-Christian believes. You would have to show them the reasons for your view.

Unfortunately, many of the conservative Christian leaders we trust think that the best way to be convincing is not to show your work, but just to speak Bible verses at people who don’t accept the Bible as an authority. Some people attend church for 20 years, and they never meet a single person who didn’t just assume that the Bible is trustworthy without doing an investigation first.

What’s most surprising is that this fideistic view of Christianity is not even Biblical. The Biblical view of faith is that faith is trust in God, based on evidence. This is why Jesus offered his own resurrection as evidence to a generation of unbelievers. His miracles were also evidence offered to unbelievers. And the Old Testament is filled with examples of people like Isaiah presenting evidence to unbelievers. The fideist view sounds more like the Mormon “burning of the bosom” view. We can do better than that!

Look:

That debate has over 6 million views on YouTube. That’s a debate with Christopher Hitchens, one of the most famous atheists of the last 100 years. In the post-debate comments, the atheist admitted he lost. Watch it. You won’t find it in most churches, so you’re going to have to learn it on your own. Without anyone’s help. Don’t be a spectator. Don’t settle for youth pastor Christianity.

New study: more than half of all female-to-male transgender teens attempt suicide

A recent study by a researcher out of Brown University found that the exploding rates of transgender young people is being driven in part by social factors. In particular, coming out as transgender gives young people instant popularity, and everyone around them feels obligated to affirm them and agree with them. Or else. What’s missing? What’s missing is any sort of warning about the dangers of transgenderism.

The Daily Wire reports on a new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Excerpt:

A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found an alarming number of teens who identify as transgender or nonbinary have attempted suicide at least once, showcasing the dangers of the transgender movement. More than half of all female-to-male transgender teens, for example, have attempted to end their lives.

Researchers behind the study used data collected from more than 600 teens over a 36-month period, June 2012 to May 2015, from the “Profiles of Student Life: Attitudes and Behaviors” survey.

The study found that female-to-male trans teens had the highest suicide attempt rate of all other identity groups surveyed: 50.8%. Unsurprisingly, other gender-confused teens had outrageously high rates of suicide attempts, too. Nonbinary adolescents, meaning teens who do not identify exclusively as female or male, were found to have a 41.8% suicide attempt rate; male-to-female trans teens had a 29.9% rate; and “questioning” teens had a rate of 27.9%.

By comparison, teens who identified as their biological sex and corresponding gender suffered relatively low (though still too high) rates: females were found to have a 17.6% rate while males had the lowest of any other group at 9.8%.

When I tell LGBT people about the health risks of their choices, and cite peer-reviewed studies, the most frequent response is that they get angry and even violent and demand approval. I have even heard threats that if I don’t approve of what they feel like doing, then they will kill themselves, and their blood will be on my hands.

The thing is, there is a study about that. Even though LGBT people think that approval will make them feel better about what they are doing, it’s not true. In societies where social approval and government support of LGBT behaviors are HIGHER than in America, the suicide rates are still extremely high.

Life Site News explains:

A study out of Sweden published last month has found that suicide risk among active homosexuals is high even in a region that is highly tolerant of same-sex behaviour.

Published in the European Journal of Epidemiology, the authors found that men in same-sex “marriages” were at three times greater risk of suicide than men who are married to women.

The authors note in their abstract:

Even in a country with a comparatively tolerant climate regarding homosexuality such as Sweden, same-sex married individuals evidence a higher risk for suicide than other married individuals.

Just in passing, what a strange way to respond to disagreement. I have people disagree with me on moral issues and conservative policies, etc. all the time. It never occurs to me to threaten to commit suicide if they don’t approve. I also don’t try to get them fired, insult them, shame them, vandalize their property, assault them, murder them, or drag them in front of a government-run political correctness panel. I don’t even mind that they use their free speech to disagree with me. After all, they are people made in the image of God, with an equal right to be in a relationship with God. I can’t do anything that is going to cause them to think that God doesn’t love them.

It’s useful to remember that the Christian view on life is not to neglect God’s design and tell people to do whatever they want. The Christian view is to tell people God’s design, set boundaries, and encourage people to make good decisions. Christians don’t believe in love as mere acceptance. Christians believe in “love warns”. And that applies to truth claims as well as moral claims. I tell young people not to run up student loan debt studying useless non-STEM degrees. They might feel bad, but it’s the truth: they won’t be able to find a job that allows them to pay the money back. Warning people about sexual issues is the same thing, in my mind.

How to avoid choosing a charming, deceitful narcissist for a spouse

For fun, I’ve decided to publish the 2000-word first draft that I normally send to my 6 female editors, because sometimes it’s fun to let people know what I *really* think about things before my editors force me to make it more palatable.

We got a comment a while back that I thought was worth a response.

Let’s start with the comment:

My husband was a Narcissist. He slept all over the county and never worked a day in this marriage. Plus, He couldn’t decide if he was straight or gay. After my son finally left home I filed for divorce. I wish I did it sooner. Now he claims to be born again and wants to stay together. When is enough, enough?

We don’t know if this woman was a Christian, was chaste, and whether the man she chose was Christian or was chaste. All we know is that the man she chose was attractive enough to easily find other women who would have sex with him despite the fact that he was married. Whatever he has, it’s something that causes women who are not married to him to have sex with him. That’s who the divorced woman chose to marry. His “charm” wasn’t from his moral character or his deep knowledge of Christian theology and apologetics.

My first response to this was to put the responsibility on the person who had chosen the bad husband. After all, I reasoned, everyone who takes a massive step like marriage is obligated to investigate who it is they are marrying.

But when I said that, I got some responses from women that said that she wasn’t responsible for her poor choice of man, and that she was an innocent victim of his magical charming powers.

Here’s Lee:

A lot of time people don’t show their worst qualities until the relationship is firmly in place, and it starts coming out slowly. It’s not always as clear cut as a woman stupidly choosing an unsuitable husband who acted unsuitable from the get-go. I mean yeah, sometimes it’s obvious early on and the woman is just stupid/ blind/broken/other. But we should be careful to not assume, and careful to not make harsh judgments from our ignorance.

If dangers like infidelity are not “obvious” then it’s not the woman’s fault that she didn’t detect it. Apparently there is no way for the woman to detect it if it’s not obvious, so she’s not responsible.

And Mary:

Narcissists are skilled at charming and persuading people that they’re really great. And they’re skilled at convincing others that their misgivings are irrational fears. Unfortunately,there are a lot of people like that. Not saying that people (men AND women, btw!) don’t just sometimes choose stupidly, for bad reasons like “hotness” and excitement. But narcissists are a whole other kettle of fish. They can come out with a completely different personality once they’ve snagged their prey.

If a bad person is “skilled at charming”, then their victim has no way of evaluating them accurately. Basically, deciding who to marry is just an activity where you talk, and decide how you feel about that person’s talk. If the person is charming, then they make you feel good, and it’s rational to marry them. A lot of women express this as “I want a man who is confident”. It’s never been explained to me how “confidence” is any evidence that the man has an ability and a past pattern of self-control and fidelity.

And Sara:

Probably because narcissists can be very charming at first and easily win people over.

[…] What I was trying to say and the article pointed out is the power of narcissists is they can put people, especially women, under a spell of sorts. They are just so slick and charming that common sense goes right out the window. They don’t think to verify all these things that seem obvious because they are so captivated.

All that’s necessary to detect a charming narcissist is “common sense”. His suitability to do husband and father roles should be “obvious” from what he says and how he makes her feel.

So, let’s take a look at some tips for avoiding these charming narcissists who can convince you to marry them just with their words and the feelings they cause.

How to avoid marrying a charming narcissist who cheats on you

Here is some advice on how to avoid marrying a charming narcissist.

1. Evaluate a person based on objective evidence instead of how they make you feel with their words

There are a lot of lies coming out of the artists, actors, celebrities, etc. in this secular leftist culture that basically say that marriage is all about you and your feelings. If you prepared for marriage by watching movies made by pedophiles in Hollywood, and listening to music made by promiscuous musicians, and reading self-help fiction written by divorced spinsters, then you are not ready to detect a charming narcissist. Marriage is a practical enterprise, with distinct roles for husbands and wives that must be performed regardless of how either spouse feels. You need to understand and evaluate what behaviors are expected of husbands and wives in a marriage, and then look for evidence that the person you want to marry can perform those behaviors.

For example, if the behavior is fidelity, then the person should be able to demonstrate chastity and self-control during the courtship, and produce references from past girlfriends / boyfriends, and have written about chastity and self-control using research sources to explain the connection between premarital sex and marital instability. If you’re choosing with your feelings, and you haven’t done an analysis of marriage roles, and partner abilities, you’re headed for a disaster.

Just so you know, when I said this to some of the pro-irresponsibility, non-judgemental women I know, their response was to laugh in my face at the idea of asking someone’s previous partners about whether they were chaste and self-controlled. And this is why people are taken by surprise by the charming talk of narcissists. Feelings-oriented people today laugh at the idea of doing any evaluation, preferring to rely on their feelings. A lot of the failure to choose wisely is just down to people not understanding how the world works, then trying to manufacture a psycho-babble rationalization of why they screwed up.

When you’re hiring someone, you do a job interview, you test their skills, you contact their references, you do a drug test, a credit check, a criminal record check. And you have other skilled people sit in on the interviews and tests, in order to make sure that the person can really do the job they are being interviewed for. The marriage evaluation should include everything that the job interview includes as a minimum. Marriage is at least as complicated as choosing to hire someone for a job. If you aren’t doing the bare minimum of evaluating their education, career and finances, then you are setting yourself up for failure.

2. Learn what it takes to make morality rational, and then determine if your candidate is capable of being moral

Because marriage deals so much with moral obligations, it’s incumbent on you to read extensively on moral issues. You yourself should have developed worldview (through study and debate) that rationally grounds the minimum requirements for moral values and duties: 1) free will, 2) consciousness, 3) objective moral values, 4) objective moral duties, 5) a divine judge, 6) life after death. Why? Because doing the right thing isn’t something that you always feel like doing. When doing the right thing goes against your feelings, you will need to have a reason to act against your own self-interest. And that reason is going to be because the world is the sort of place where morality is real, and independent of your feelings, where you are a free moral agent, and where is a divine judge and an afterlife.

At the center of the ability to rationally ground morality is the ability to know God is real rationally, and to defend his existence using objective evidence and logical arguments. If you don’t know whether God exists based on logic and evidence, how will you evaluate whether someone else knows it? If you can’t rationally ground doing the right thing when it goes against your interest, then you won’t be able to know how to ask questions and investigate in order to decide whether someone else is moral or not.  Marrying someone who doesn’t believe in a moral lawgiver and a moral judge after death is as prudent to going into a city dump eating all your meals from what you find there.

In the specific case of fidelity, it’s important to remember that some people have goals and an understanding about how poor choices right now will make those goals more difficult to obtain. It’s easy to say that you want your spouse to be faithful. But what’s really needed is to measure what they are really trying to achieve in life, and whether they understand how infidelity would affect those plans. If you can’t see from their past decisions that they KNOW that 1) marriage and family are important enough to sacrifice for and 2) that they understand and apply the research that shows what decisions helps to make a marriage last (e.g. – no premarital sex), then, they don’t really have the goals and the information that you want in a marriage partner.

UPDATE:

3. Lindsay the marriage expert says to make sure that your prospective mate is being evaluated by older, wiser people who love you:

A lot of people (both men and women) don’t know how to look for nasty character flaws lurking under a pleasant front. That’s a skill worth developing. But this is also why young people should seek advice from parents and other mentor figures who may see problems they don’t see. If you carry on your relationship in a vacuum, just you and the boyfriend/girlfriend, they can probably trick you into thinking they’re awesome because they have an audience of one. They pour on the charm to their intended victim. The discerning may be able to read the signs, but many cannot. But when you meet their family and friends (and past boyfriends/girlfriends) and he (or she) spends time around your family and friends so they can evaluate this person, he can’t fool all of them. He can’t keep up a false front with that many people. So when you have loved ones who are warning you that they see something wrong with this person, listen to them, even if you don’t see it. You may not be able to see it because you’re being fooled. That’s why you need the input of the people who love you. This is the most important factor to avoid being fooled by a charming narcissist. Get other people you trust evaluating this person too. Don’t rely just on your own perception.

I mentored a girl who was raised Christian who rebelled against her (inadequate) parents who ended up shacked up with an atheist after going wild in college. She could have used this advice, but she would have had to look for people other than her parents. Having said that, she was very wild, reckless and impulsive, and her tendency was to follow her heart, and shove aside people who disagreed with her. Don’t be like her – if you can’t get advice from parents, then find some other older, wiser people who have succeeded at marriage. I was actually prevented from a bad marriage precisely because my wise female advisors insisted that I pay attention to a woman’s actions, which completely contradicted the portrait she painted of herself to me with her words. So, this is good advice for men, too.