A National Public Radio (NPR) program reminded me of when I sat in my apartment feeling depressed. I was struggling with college courses, getting behind, and cutting myself off from my college friends because seeing them reminded me that I wasn’t getting the work done. Being cut off just put me into a deeper depression. Even after I became a Christian, I struggled with the depression. It frequently wasn’t as bad because I stayed connected to my church, but there were problems.
I had watched their response to when someone had tried to be honest and share. The response indicated that the honest person was considered lesser. The others acted like they were going to fix him/her. The person quickly learned to put on the Christian face, that everything was hunky dory. Therefore, most of the time, I couldn’t talk to them because I would just get jumped on. I realized that a huge percent of the church members were hurting people all wearing the Christian mask. Because of that, no one was getting healing from God, no one was growing. Now that God has shown me how to walk in peace, I forget those days unless I am reminded.
I was reminded of that today, listening to TED talks on NPR. They mentioned this flawed study that has lead America down a false path in treating drug addiction. The study put rats in a box and gave them a choice between plain water and water with drugs. The rats universally chose the cocaine or heroin laced water and eventually overdosed and died. We concluded that drug addiction was a result of chemical hooks and anyone forced to take heroin/cocaine for a month would be addicted. Obviously, the cure is chemical treatment of addiction, and also shaming/criminalizing the addict to force treatment.
Later, another researcher questioned the study. These highly social animals were isolated from others. Perhaps the main problem is that they were desperately unhappy. What would happen if we put rats in “rat heaven” and gave them the same choice. The rats were put in with many other rats, given plenty of interesting food and a maze like environment. The rats universally rejected the drug laced water. America accidentally ran a similar experiment. A huge number of soldiers fighting in Vietnam were using drugs heavily. People worried that they would return and spread the problem. A massive percent of these soldiers, once they returned and integrated back into society, voluntarily cut themselves off cold. This has truly interesting implications for Christians.
Portugal had a bad drug problem. They followed the American model but it got worse. They read the new studies and decided to change. They decriminalized drug use (but did not legalize the sale.) Instead, all the money that had been used to prosecute, to treat, and to shame drug users was put into getting them jobs, and to even set them up in business. The people felt they had worth and value. Suddenly, the drug use dropped in half. Switzerland implemented a similar plan that also worked. Sweden attacked a different problem. They decriminalized prostitutes, but criminalized the men who hired them, and the pimps who controlled them. They have by far the lowest rates of prostitution and of sex slavery. How can the Church implement these ideas?
Thus, when people get depressed, and see that they can’t be honest about the problem, cut themselves off more and turn to something else. Not everyone turns to drugs. How many obese people are cut off and turn to food instead of drugs. Young homosexual people, feeling rejected from family and taunted at school, have a high suicide rate. What about gambling addiction? The church joins in rejecting these people. Is this right?
Jesus rejected the “good people” and ate with tax collectors and sinners. Look how He treated the woman at the well. She was an outcast in her town, yet He showed her that she was accepted, and then He listened to her more than he talked. Finally, after she felt safe and wanted to change, and only then, did He talk to her about her sin. Jesus loved people even though He maintained a high standard of purity. We need to focus on love. People should feel so loved that they know it is safe to talk about their problems. Without jumping all over them with a cure, we should love, listen, and lead them to the master healer and let Him do His job. Thus the opposite of addiction of any sort, is community, and that is what the gathering of Christians is supposed to be, a loving community.