As I’ve thought about what to write for this blog, I was listening to rapper NF’s newest album, Therapy Session. This doesn’t mean anything to anyone who doesn’t know me, but it means an incredible much. I used to listen to rap. A lot. These days, I’m a rivethead (one who listens to heavy metal and select forms of electronica). In 2006, my interest in rap had gone away. It all sounded the same to me.
NF, though, is different. Not only because he’s a Christian, either. Most Christian rappers tend to bore me as well. NF, for me, is relatable.
That, for me, is everything in the entertainment medium.
In the case of Christian literature, very little of it is relatable for me. Especially if the author is going for the “inspirational” hero. Great physique, a broken past, some kind of conversion scene, an end to their conflict, end story. Yeah, that sounds nice and, um, inspiring…but for someone with a few mental problems, it also sounds like a totally whitewashed pipe dream.
Just so you know, I suffer from a handful of conditions. Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (I still recall the events, but nothing in the following couple months after each event, the worst being a mental block lasting an entire summer). Asperger’s Syndrome. Flashbulb memory. Adult ADD. Insomnia. Possible schizoid (small, mild form of schizophrenia).
These are problems I rarely ever notice in Christian fiction. Or almost any other mental condition, really. The first Christian book I read (after reading the Left Behind series) was Thr3e by Ted Dekker. It was cool, dark, edgy, but also relatable for me as it had the angle of mental health. That was incredible for me. Sure, I don’t have the same problem (won’t spoil it for anyone who wants to check it out), but it showed me an author doesn’t have to rely on tradition in order for a book to grab my attention.
However, I should also mention that relatability is not the only factor. There’s also the issue of decency. After all, we live in a politically correct culture that, hypocritically, doesn’t mind poking cruel and tasteless jokes at people’s disability when it suits someone else’s laughter.
I recently had a customer at my day job call me a “retard” for no reason at all. Not one! After work, I thought back to that and had my own fuel for therapy- write a short story about someone who gets called names day in and day out and suddenly snaps and releases his inner demons and temper. Sure, doesn’t sound wholesome, which is why it’s on the back burner for prayer on the story, to see if God’s okay with the idea or not.
On the flipside, people are also super sensitive when it comes to calling anyone anything except “normal”. To me, I dread being called normal. I’m not overly sensitive, so I do appreciate it when a tale is weaved and a mental disability is acknowledged. Maybe treated as part of the story, but always done with respect towards the issue, as well as taste and decency. In other words, if Michael Bay did a film on the subject in the broadest of ways, I wouldn’t waste money on a ticket.
What does the Bible say on the subject of mental sickness? It says plenty in more than one way. A quick explanation of that. I believe all of mental sickness falls into 3 categories: actual, psychosomatic, perceived.
Actual is when a mental sickness is genuine, though not necessarily permanent (I’ve read cases of both permanent and temporary).
Psychosomatic is when someone just thinks they’re mental. They have no evidence of it but still believe it.
Perceived is when others think someone is sick.
The Bible contains cases of all three. From a heathen king who goes totally loco and eats with animals without a shred of civilized decency - until he comes to his senses on Who God is, (Daniel 4:28-37), to a man blind from birth and the disciples perceive someone in his family had sinned - Jesus tore down that perception swiftly, (John 9:2-3), the Bible says plenty.
If the Bible says it, why shouldn’t Christians? Mainly because contemporary times seem to dictate our rules to us. As I once read in a book by Steven James, “Custom is lord of all.” While this is apparently true in today’s world, it shouldn’t be. Whether the custom is to be oversensitive about other people’s downfalls - such as my hyperactive mind and easy distractfulness, or to be loud and rude about the same stuff. Or if the custom is to look down on people with a perceived sickness, this isn’t what I read in God’s word, but to have a completely different custom and a whole different Lord than the one I see being worshiped in the world.
This is a very good reason why I’m glad there are non-mainstream Christian publishers such as Crossover Alliance. In my experience of reading Christian fiction since 2005, hardly any of it is relatable for me. Only a handful deals with any kind of mental health. Some of it can be dealt with in a tasteful way. Though, sadly, much of it is handled in a way that anyone who’s mentally sick is a villain with, the main sickness per chance, schizophrenia. Why not have a protagonist with a mental disorder learn how to deal with the world around them? Why not have a mentally handicapped adult be the real hero such as in King’s The Stand? That guy was in his 30’s and only a mental teen at best. God gives us an ample amount of stories to learn from, so let’s learn what He says on the subject.
Born in a cross (no, really!) in Zanesville, Ohio, this story addict has stories to tell after living a childhood on the highways between Ohio and West Virginia. Now, he has many stories screaming to get out of his head. He lives with his cat, Yavanna, in a backwoods area in north central West Virginia.