I wrote recently about depression. Meriwether Lewis was my inspiration – a man of undaunted courage who also suffered from depression. As noted, my case is mild, requiring a daily mental and physical discipline to keep all systems balanced. The discipline also requires staying connected socially. After all, at our primitive core, we are social creatures.
This is the root of my disconnect with church and family. I go to those places and am met with the crude Dark Ages mentality of judgment. My journey of sanity has taken me to counter culture movements that reject the narrow definitions of culture. I have to tread carefully. Counter culture, by its very nature, challenges boundaries. Never discount the importance of cultural boundaries – they are the roots of sanity.
I think of Meriwether Lewis, in those last despairing months of his life in St. Louis, of the buffoons around him – inventing wacko religions like Mormonism, the 7th Day Adventists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Counter cultural movements without boundaries. Lewis had no where to turn, he took the only option that seemed reasonable at the moment. The extent to which sick religious movements have taken hold is the extent to which our society remains sick.
Our contemporary churches become tribal in nature. They set up defensive boundaries and stand ready to attack any perceived threat. A part of their defense strategy is their image. Having mentally ill degenerates around smacks of a sick faith – so get rid of them.
The human trait of pride in tribe is counter intuitive to most legitimate faiths – but the pride becomes the dominant value – in a futile attempt to protect the integrity of the tribe. Competition of righteous faith takes over, my faith is better than your faith. Some churches start their own schools for their children. Then the mantra of righteousness is taken to a new level. My children are smarter than your children. My school teaches better values than your school. Jesus sits in our bleacher section at the football games.
Family pride serves the same disastrous purpose. This pride is the source of family secrets. Our contemporary society has become more civilized. Put old Alzheimer’s Aunt Bessie in a nursing home. We can talk about her – but keep her out of sight. She is not good for the family image.
The real dichotomy is a piece of the mental illness treatment puzzle is inclusiveness. A mentally ill person feels like they are standing out in the cold, looking in the window at the joyful holiday party of normal folks. They know they are not welcome. They know this because it is true – they are not welcome.
Meriwether Lewis lived out his life in the western frontier city of St. Louis. As his illness progressed, unchecked with no hope of treatment, he took the natural course of depression. He isolated further from society. He secretly knew that his kind would not be welcome in the social circles of Washington D. C., or of any christian church.
See Also: Of Courage Undaunted