Signs of stigma in the church?


Our church puts names of people needing prayer on the back of the bulletin at least once a month. There’s a section for those suffering chronic diseases which lists names and specific maladies. There’s a section for those who have family members who suffer illnesses; another section for those who recently lost a loved one; yet another for those who are in the military. Then there is this line: Pray for those who struggle with mental illness. Not surprisingly, no names are listed there.

Just a reminder how its okay to let people know you have cancer, chronic fatigue, family members who are not believers, etc. But it is still not okay to let people know that you struggle with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, schizophrenia, and the like. While the largest explanation for this is how society as a whole treats individuals with psychological problems. But, I also think we don’t put names there because we don’t want to be identified as spiritually weak. We don’t list those who are faithless, who are fearful, who are struggling with bitterness, pride, pornography, marital conflict, etc. Those struggles aren’t for the public to know about. We keep those to ourselves until it is too late to do something about it. And though I’ve just been somewhat sarcastic here, I must admit I don’t think we’re ready to put the names of folk in the bulletin who struggle with mental and relational illnesses. We’re too prone to gossip and treat them differently than those who struggle with physical illnesses–even those maladies that are caused primarily by gluttony and hard living (as my mother would call it).

4 Comments

Filed under church and culture

4 responses to “Signs of stigma in the church?

  1. Nicholas Black

    Phil:

    Excellent point! How sad there is still so much shame associated with having an emotional or relational problem. Not only are most people not ready to handle such community exposure (and I’m afraid that includes me at times!), there are many–as you point out–in any congregation that will not be able to properly handle such information. Before such exposure occurs–if it will ever happen–the church needs to be patiently instructed from the Word on these matters. What a powerful, life-changing place the church would become if it would be a “safe place” for people to expose their hearts and receive, not judgment, but prayer, fellowship, support, assistance and loving input, because all of us are weak, flawed, broken and sin-stained. It would be the church that Christ wants us to be!

    By the way, we put “those struggling with mental illness” as a category in the bulletin in order that we as a congregation might not totally ignore a group of people who, in fact, do exist within the church. Not a perfect solution, but perhaps one that is moving in the right direction.

    Thanks for your blog! I enjoy your musings, except for the occasional reference to the R–d S–x, a team whose name will not cross my lips!

  2. Nicholas,

    Agreed the bulletin change is moving us in the right direction. And the vision of not measuring brokenness to see whose less broken in the church is one that I dream of as well.

    In heaven, red sox fans will lie down with yankee fans (lions and lambs), so better to get used to it now don’t you think?

  3. judi lemay-lusk

    now, guys, do i need to sit between the two of you??? nicholas, phil is right… heaven is the leveling place for the red sox (the lions) and yankees (the lambs), they will probably be on the same team and having a great time. besides, yankees, red sox… it’s all a bunch of guys trying to hit a ball with a stick 🙂

    phil, loved your comments, i hadn’t noticed that there was something on the back of the bulletin to pray for those with mental illness. what a great idea, and how needed!

    judi

  4. he he. Yankees as lambs: soft and cute. I’m going with that image!

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