Can biblicism lead to psychosis?

Friday, May 7, 2021

Today I met a friend I knew from a Bible camp some years ago. I was on my way to a prayer with songs from Taizé and invited her to come and pray with us. And she refused a bit too quickly. Other people would have pronounced a polite explanation à la “Sorry, I am in a hurry”, but she just refused resolutely. I appreciate honesty. But her refusal makes me suspect that she has been educated to keep away from “these liberal icon worshippers”. After all she has grown up in a quite biblicist environment.

And then she told me that she has been diagnosed with psychosis. Psychosis is a condition of the mind that results in difficulties determining what is real and what is not real (Wikipedia). In a civilization where lies and fake news are legal and even being cultivated as a skill (see Cultivating lies), psychosis is to me rather a sign of mental health than a disorder. It might be the natural reaction of a sane mind to an insane environment.

These two observations raise once more my theory that a biblicist faith culture can lead to psychosis. Biblicism makes you refuse to accept scientific evidence when it conflicts with something you read in the Bible. Refusing to see scientific evidence as a more trustworthy tool than a Holy Scripture is a form of superstition and leads to unrealistic results.

Déja vu. She is not the only one.
They are like children fallen into a pit.
I see them sitting deep there in the hole.
I call them, I want to deliver them.
I get a rope and let it down so they can climb out of the pit.
But they refuse.
They say I am a know-it-all.
Or they complain that it’s just a rope and not a ladder.
Leave them in peace, says a voice, you can’t help them,
your mere interest increases their suffering.

(After half a night of sleep:) Hey, Luc, calm down. When my “mere interest” scares them away, then my interest is obviously suspicious. Being interested in another human is a sign of love, and love shouldn’t be scaring, should it? And isn’t my mere desire to “deliver them” actually offending: who am I to believe that they are prisoned and that I am free?

Yes, talking about delicate topics is dangerous. Especially when we both know that we grew up in different camps. I often forget to make clear that my provoking statements are actually meant as questions to trigger their response. I forget that Estonians are so shy and polite. Oops, no sorry, this is not just about Estonians. I have had similar situations in Belgium. This is how I sometimes happen to destroy any upcoming dialogue, sometimes bringing more damage than help. I admit that I can be toxic. After all I am just an amateur therapist and faith teacher without any academic grade.

This morning I stumbled into 5 Warning signs of a toxic faith on Aleteia, and here is my self-description based on the five “warning signs” in that blog post.

(1) I am not a “Joyless Catholic”. I am very able to laugh with others about issues of faith or just let things go. I am not a police officer. Though it seems that especially those people down in the pit hole disagree.

(2) I am obviously a “Democrat/Republican Catholic”. Our faith is the root of our political opinions. Our political opinions are the fruit of our faith. We cannot separate them. So yes, I can have “a hard time talking about faith without bringing up politics”. And I don’t think that this is a problem.

(3) I am not a “Pharisaical Catholic”: Faith, to me, is not about duty and “doing” more than it is about inner transformation. When talking about faith, I do talk about “outward” things, but rarely without relating them to conversion and prayer. Prayer and relationship are a central part of my faith life. I am grateful and do have opinions about many topics, and I don’t hide these opinions, but I am not overly proud or judgmental. I think that my interactions with others are usually charitable. Not sure what a “meaningful” relationship with God means, but I trust in God as a very helpful advisor for my everyday choices.

(4) I am an “Us vs. Them” Catholic. I quickly mention the words “liberal” or “conservative” or one of the many other labels. Though I usually don’t use these labels to disparage “those I deem unfit to be Catholic”. I regularly talk about the people or groups I consider to be my ideological enemies. I love labels because I am a software developer. I love to talk about my “ideological enemies” because I want to learn about them, I want to understand where ideologies come from. Looking at “other people who are doing it wrong” is an unpopular and delicate sport, but it is an efficient method to understand what God wants to tell me. Of course I must not forget that other people just a mirror. I don’t agree that a critical spirit is also divisive. The Spirit who unifies can’t work if we refuse to address our differences and the issues they cause. Unity is natural. Unity is something greater, something superhuman, but it is not supernatural.

(5) Yes I do have pet issues. I can spend considerable time thinking about one issue of the faith. I quickly get upset about certain topics, and others may perceive me as tiresome, aggressive or imposing. Topics like Free Software or biblicism are issues God puts on my heart, and I am passionate about them. They happen to be important to me because I happen to be the author of the Lino framework and a Belgian Catholic who moved to Estonia. But I don’t think that they seriously disturb my relationship with God and other people.