Thursday, October 17, 2013


Still thinking hard about the incident in the U. S. House of Representatives, where a stenographer stole the whole show for a few seconds to express herself in tones of condemnation, being ‘compelled’ to do it by the Holy Spirit. She was, of course, dragged away from the microphone and, as far as I can understand, bundled away to endure a psychiatric evaluation. ‘She must be crazy.’ Yes, this exact response to Christian resistance has been used before by worldly authorities, particularly in totalitarian countries. Modern Christian zealots in free societies like to compare their treatment at the hands of the authorities in the same terms, although many of them really are clinically ill, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually, and all under the protection of ‘the anointing of the Holy Spirit.’ Thinking about this makes me want to re-post the following, from a few years ago, a ramble on ‘Insanity.’

As I drive to and from work every day, part of my route takes me up Portland’s N.E. 82nd Avenue, a main road infamous for its connexions with prostitution, adult video parlors and strip joints.

Yesterday morning, a 40-ish looking prostitute with long curly auburn hair, wearing skin-tight blue jeans, and taking a drag on a cigarette was walking along the road with a man. I just happened to notice her and in that fleeting moment, she stared at me dead on with an intense look of mixed contempt and anger, and then was gone.

This morning, a man in a shabby linen suit, looking about 50 years old, with a shock of red gold hair and a very thick but trimmed beard to match, was standing on that same sidewalk right at the road’s edge shaking his fist at on-coming traffic and shouting angry words. He wasn’t standing at a corner or at a bus stop. He made no move to jay-walk the busy avenue. He was just expressing himself.

Last night, a friend of mine who happens to be a fellow Orthodox, was sitting in my living room and I was upstairs in my bed room. I thought I heard the sound of the front door being opened and shut, and I heard him talking to someone, then silence. I waited a minute or two, and then came downstairs and asked him if there was someone at the door. His response was, “No.”

“Well, who were you talking to then?” I asked. “I was talking to the man who has been tormenting me for the last ten years,” he answered in an annoyed tone of voice, then mumbled as if to himself, “who’s been tormenting me for the past forty years…” and then trailed off. “What are you talking about?” I responded. “Spirits! There’s spirits outside! Roman, the world is full of spirits!” he retorted in an angry, panicky tone of voice. I left him there, and went back upstairs to my evening “quiet time.”

It seems that the world we inhabit is full of insanity or, as my friend put it, spirits. Even though he is a Christian, his mental illness continues and deepens. The Church does nothing for him, because everything it is willing to do has to be done with his full consent, and he doesn’t give it. It makes me wonder if an insane person actually has free will.

a comment to one of my earlier posts, I wrote “Turning to Christ means sanity; turning away from Him means insanity.” The world I see on one leg of my drive to work every day is an insane world, but that world can get very, very close sometimes. It intrudes upon even my Church, even my own family, even on me. It does come down to this, do we turn to Christ or away from Him?

It’s not hard to see how those who live in the world without Christ can be insane, but how can an Orthodox or any Christian be insane? Well, we still have choices and we make them. Some insanity, maybe most of it, is caused by disorders deeper than the level of will, but there are those forms of insanity which we welcome by our persistent rebellion, our refusal to accept help.

We can see it in small doses affecting ourselves, but the same rebellion repeated and unrestrained seems to lead us to a point where we no longer have the will to resist it. Insanity, then, becomes our “normal” state, from which we emerge as necessary to survive in our interactions with others, and into which we retreat when we find ourselves alone.

How can my friend be insane and a Christian at the same time? In his case, it seems to me, it is a disorder of the will, a bent towards the rebellious, a turning away from the real Christ combined with a turning towards an idolatrous image of Christ. He spends his time “praying” and reading the bible in Greek (he doesn’t understand Greek, he just knows how to pronounce it) when he hasn’t found anything else to do. He doesn’t work because everyone “out there” is out to prevent him from working and leading a normal life.

It’s the mercy of Christ, coming to him because of his confession of His name, that is keeping my friend from total insanity, but it’s like hanging on to life by a shoestring.

It makes me wonder just how much of what we do and what we are is only because of God’s grace, and how it is that some find themselves turning to Him, and others away.

As I remember from the Night Litany in the Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book (Anglican), “For the insane, [Lord,] keep them in Thy power.”

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