Hi everyone, and welcome to another Faith & Healing, the weekly series that examines issues of faith and how that intersects with mental health recovery. This is is mostly my journey, but if anyone else cares to share their own journey in faith and mental illness, feel free to contact me about doing a guest post. Lastly, if faith isn’t for you, I respect that. I am not here to convert you. Faith, like mental illness, is different for everyone and unique to everyone. If you want to skip this series, I will not take it personally. In fact, that is one of the reasons I limit these discussions to once a week. And this week I want to talk about a common conversation in faith communities: is mental illness sin or serotonin.
The immediate answer is that it is serotonin and other neurochemicals, as well as the wiring and pathways of the brain. I am a firm believer that where modern science and questions of faith collide, faith should give way to the science. Science, in my view, is another language of God, one that was left for us to discover so that we could understand His creation better. And the science tells us that mental illness is a disease, not a symptom of our individual sin.
Where the argument for sin comes in, at least for me, is original sin and our fall from God’s grace. This argument is used with other physical and mental maladies as well. The idea is that our original fall caused us to fall away from God, and in so doing caused our bodies to be subject to disease and pain. This has biblical evidence, such as when God tells Eve that one of her punishments will be increased pain in childbirth. Presumably, our collective punishment was to be subject to increased pain, death, and disease generally.
Curiously, the argument that illness, including mental illness, is caused by a disconnect between how we live today and how God wanted us to live has striking parallels to the scientific argument that things like depression and anxiety have grown out of our living out of sync with the way our bodies were meant to live from an evolutionary perspective. These parallels between the science and the faith are another sign that the two are meant to compliment one another, nor contradict.
And when it comes to the question of original sin, we have to remember that that is not on us personally. Just as the failings of our family are not our fault, nor is original sin our fault either. We should not feel guilty over what has happened in the past. God’s gift of sending us His son was meant to offer us salvation from that past. However, God never promises us paradise. We lost that when we lost Eden. He doesn’t promise us there will be no pain or suffering. Why there is such suffering is a conversation for another post, yet just because you battle mental illness, doesn’t mean that God isn’t cheering for you to win that battle. In fact, he wants us to win so much that He sent his son to help us in our fight, a thought that is always calming for me and one that is hopefully calming for you.