Since I have nowhere else to give sermons of this nature right now, I’m going to start writing them here. Perhaps the two or three people that end up reading my infrequent and biased posts will enjoy them. Tonight’s topic has to do with accountability. We’re quick in our modern society to diagnose behavioral problems as some kind of chemical deficiency that can be cured quickly with some silver bullet medication.
You aren’t happy? Oh, you need a Prozac! You have frequent mood swings and a short temper? You must have bi-polar disorder! You need to take these pills! You experience periods of a lack of interest and even apathy towards life? Your brain must not be functioning right! Never mind your lifestyle choices! Never mind your diet, your education, your religious affiliation, or your personal circumstances. None of them matter. Take this pill and you’ll feel better, your brain chemistry problem will be fixed.
I was talking with an extended family member today whose father is a raging narcisist. He manipulates everyone around him to get what he wants, and then when he gets called to the carpet, whines about how unfairly he’s being treated and complains about how everyone is out to get him. Give him what he wants though, and he goes away, only to return again when he needs something else from you.
Tell me, is this man the victim of a brain chemistry problem or the victim of his own life choices? Can we reasonably ascribe his behavior to environmental factors surrounding his soul, namely that his body doesn’t function right, so we should shrug our shoulders and take him to the doctor to get some pills?
I read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World when I was in high school. At the time I spent a lot of time with people who were recreational drug users, so the self-medicating described in the book rang particularly clear. What I didn’t understand is that the pharmaceutical companies of today really are looking for that cure all, the Soma of the Brave New World. They’d love to be able to create a drug that would produce a mild euphoria, that was non-habit forming, that left little or no side effects. Their marketing departments would go wild. Their stock value would double overnight. Success would be so easy, if only they could perfect the silver bullet for behavioral problems and “mental illness”.
I was never so ill in my own mind as when I was doing stupid things that I knew were wrong. Every time I can ascribe any emotional problems I’ve had directly with the choices I was making or had made in the recent past. I remember the brooding depression of my youth, coupled with sick puppy love for girls who didn’t care for me. I also remember the heavy apathy and ennui that I experienced for the first three years after my father’s suicide. Both feeling episodes were very real and both occupied extended periods of time. But both can be directly pinned to life events. Neither of them had anything to do with brain chemistry or the lack thereof. Could it be that our behavior is the direct result of our choices and then the consequences of our choices?
Modern medicine would have us believe we need to medicate our behavior instead of dealing with it. Pharmaceutical companies would love to make addicts of us. Many psychiatrists regularly prescribe medication without concern for long term effects and “diagnose” brain chemistry problems without relating to the real circumstances surrounding a person’s life.
To this I say it is time to relinquish the hold that medication has on us, and live righteously. There is no medication like forgiveness, no silver bullet like the peace that comes from right living. And the love of God heals wounds faster than any band-aid or medicine can. The price to pay is easy, the burden is light, but repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…in your life.