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Conventional Thinking: ‘One Nation, Under Therapy’

A football player is found out for being a bully. Another gunman kills innocent bystanders. A husband leaves his family and runs off with another woman. Without fail, each week we hear discouraging news of this sort, and each week, the so-called experts on TV are there to talk about the problems through psychological explanations.

If you listened to these “experts,” you would be led to believe that none of these are really just plain old bad guys. The bully lived a troubled childhood, don’t you see? The gunman came from a family of alcoholics and inherited a tendency toward violence. And that flakey husband? He had repressed sexual feelings from puberty.

In America, we are quickly becoming One Nation, Under Therapy, to borrow the book title term from authors Sally Satel and Christina Hoff Sommers. The authors, who are a psychiatrist and psychologist, respectively, document how “we have seen the rise of a therapeutic ethic that views Americans as emotionally underdeveloped, physically frail and requiring the ministrations of mental health professionals.”

“Today,” say the authors, “with a book for every ailment, a lawsuit for every grievance and a TV show for every conceivable problem, we are at risk of degrading our native ability to cope with life’s challenges.” They then show how “therapism” is eroding our nation’s moral fiber of toughness.

The result of this fiasco is that we see a psychological problem under every rock. The authors point out that today’s society could look at something as innocent as Winnie the Pooh characters and see, not cute personality quirks, but the need for therapy. “Winnie the Pooh” would be called a compulsive eater. “Eeyore” is manic depressive. “Tigger,” has ADHD. And how about “Rabbit?” He’s a clear case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

What the book does not show, however, is that “therapism” also is taking its toll on the church. Ministers and chaplains, who traditionally would be trained to address social problems using Scripture and godly counsel, are suddenly pushed aside.

Before you think I am saying there is no place for psychology and therapy, let me stop you there. I personally know of many wonderful, godly people who work in this field and have a special place of ministry. Countless important books have been written that offer a Christian view of the mind and how God renews it (Rom. 12:2).

What I am suggesting here is that when a problem or tragic sin happens, the explanation could be as simple as, “He’s a bad person.” On a deeper level, however, we understand that people are born into a fallen state and that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). In other words, the unseen dynamic and forces are spiritual more than psychological, according to the biblical worldview.

What I am also suggesting is that Christians do not need a master’s degree or expert byline to address moral wrongs in society and help people wherever God has put you. After all, “we have the mind of Christ,” and we serve a great God Who gives us His Holy Spirit for discernment.

You can be sure, if the Lord tarries, more tragedies will befall America, and the leading therapy experts will be there to offer a timely, sophisticated explanation. What would be the greatest tragedy, though, is if Christians forfeited our place of speaking the truth, with grace, into situations, and we ultimately became “one nation, under therapy.”


Brian Hobbs

Author: Brian Hobbs

Brian is editor of The Baptist Messenger.

View more articles by Brian Hobbs.

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  • Micah

    I am a medical student and have been learning about psychology and the newest classifications for mental disorders, their treatments, and the science behind it all. I often leave class thinking, “Okay Lord, where is the junction of my faith and psychology”? I have been surprised at all the physical changes in the brain (that we can see with imaging studies such as MRIs, and functional brain scans) that cause many mental disorders including major depression disorder, OCD, and even psychotic behavior to name a few. Often there is just as much pathology in mental disorders as there is in heart disease or some other illness that we think of differently than mental disorders. I think we consider mental illness differently though, because it’s our thoughts, and that is different. The Bible speaks to our thoughts and our minds over and over. Jesus says to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.” Our mind. So, how does a Christian love the Lord with all their mind in the midst of a mental disorder?

    All I know is that illness of all kinds happens to all kinds of people- Christian or not. And just as Christ is with us when we have heart disease, cancer, or any other illness, He is here to walk with us through mental illness as well. I know many believers struggle with a variety of mental problems. There are many devotionals and books about trusting God in the dark times. We are blessed to have Christ to walk with us through those times. I am convinced that our lowest point with Christ is much higher than the non-believer’s lowest point.

    All this to say, I think mental disorders are a very real thing, and can really be at the root of people’s actions, and sure sinful nature can manifest in those ways.However, I don’t believe it is wise to approach all mental illness as a spiritual problem and an attack of Satan or because someone is solely a bad person. Those things may be true, but tell that to a believer in Christ who is struggling with a mental problem and they may be very disheartened.

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