As early as the 1960s we began to be concerned about the intrusion of psychological theories and therapies into the lives of believers. Then in the early 1970s we started warning Christians about psychotherapy and its underlying psychologies. At that time psychology was just a little leaven, but now it has come to full loaf. Numerous Christians have become convinced that psychotherapy (psychological counseling) is the answer to mental-emotional problems of living, and increasing numbers have become trained as mental health professionals. This faith in the psychological way has spread throughout churches, denominations, Christian schools, and mission agencies to the extent that almost all of American Christianity has embraced it.
We now warn the church of another leaven that, if it comes to full loaf, will have dire consequences for all Americans. Convinced by the mental health establishment, the United States government is funding and promoting a plan to reach all potential mental health consumers through extensive mental health screening and follow-up treatment. The President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health justifies this plan by declaring: “Mental illnesses rank first among illnesses that cause disability in the United States, Canada, and Western Europe.” The word disability is important here because the Commission was set up by the President’s New Freedom Initiative, which was originally designed to help people with disabilities gain access to community life with social services, jobs, transportation, affordable housing, and welfare benefits. However, the New Freedom Initiative has expanded to include adults diagnosed as having “serious mental illness” and children identified as having a “serious emotional disturbance.” It is expanding further through the Commission’s recommendations for widespread mental health screening.
In its “Report to the President,” the Commission “recommends fundamentally transforming how mental health care is delivered in America.” This transformation will ultimately affect all Americans by altering attitudes, thoughts, emotions, and behavior through education regarding mental health/illness and through psychological treatment and psychotropic drugs. According to the plan many more people will be screened and diagnosed with mental illness. Mental health workers will use various psychological tests and interviews, all of which are terribly subjective.
They will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) to determine who has what combinations of behaviors identified as “mental illness” or “emotional disturbance.” Rather than being an accurate tool, the DSM gives providers categories and descriptive labels to use for third-party insurance reimbursement. The way the DSM’s multitudes of lists of behaviors are combined in various ways leads to subjectivity, guessing, and misdiagnosis. And, because mental health providers tend to look for abnormality, many normal people have been diagnosed as mentally ill. Even for less serious problems there already appears to be an eagerness to schedule counseling and prescribe psychotropic medications. We often say that psych meds are over-prescribed and over-used. This eagerness-to-prescribe reflex on the part of providers will surely increase if the plan is implemented.
One has to wonder how far this transformation of mental health services will go as more and more people become consumers of these services and as psychological change agents alter citizens’ thinking, feeling, and behaving. While the goal may not be mind control as in George Orwell’s political fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four, the end result could very well be social consensus, conformity, and compliance as human service agencies gain authority over the populace.
Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four presents a society of conformity and compliance that came through indoctrination, confusion of language, lies, cognitive dissonance, thought police, fear, force, and gruesome punishment. The Ministry of Love maintained law and order through ruthless thought police, who watched the people though telescreens with surveillance cameras. The Ministry of Truth was in charge of “news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts.” Through Newspeak, the Ministry of Truth had reduced language to doublespeak and had confused thinking to the extent of doublethink. Doublespeak is deceptive, illogical language that says nothing, leaves out enough to mean almost anything, uses antonyms as if they are synonyms, or simply is beyond rational comprehension. Doublethink allows a person to believe in opposing ideas at the same time without being bothered by any contradiction. With doublethink very few citizens in Orwell’s novel objected to the doublespeak of the three slogans of the ruling Party: “War Is Peace,” “Freedom Is Slavery,” and “Ignorance Is Strength.”
Psychological Mind Control
Orwell’s depiction may be more violent and vicious in its mind control than anything could ever be in this country. However, there are more subtle ways to conform a society through psychological means. Psychologists have studied techniques and circumstances that can lead to mind control—to the degree that people who are thus controlled believe they are actually choosing to do what they are directed to do. Dr. Philip Zimbardo was a professor of psychology and director of the Social Psychology’s Graduate Training Program at Stanford University when he wrote a chapter for the book On Nineteen Eighty-Four. From his extensive background in studying forms of mind control, he wrote:
Among the major discoveries of modern social psychology is the simple principle that under specified conditions a bare minimum of social pressure can produce great attitude change. The most profound and enduring changes in attitude are generated when two conditions are present: first, the person perceives that he or she has free choice in deciding to behave in ways that are counter-normative or against one’s values, beliefs, or motives; and second, the force applied to elicit this discrepant action is just barely sufficient in magnitude to accomplish the task (p. 207).
Zimbardo contends that “the real power of effective mind control is to be found in the basic needs of people to be loved, respected, recognized, and wanted” (p. 208). Along with this idea is one of the plans of the Commission—to remove the stigma of “mental illness.” The stigma may be shifted to those who refuse screening and treatment for their children or themselves.
Too Much Power to So-Called Experts
Many people look to psychologists and psychiatrists as experts. One can see how much power has already been given to psychological and psychiatric experts in court hearings. How much more power may be given to the mental health profession with this mandate to screen and treat whoever is willing or can be made willing! Even though research has revealed psychotherapy’s low level of help (modest at best) and its overall ability to harm, the psychological establishment has done a great job of convincing the public that psychological treatment is highly successful. And, in spite of the advertising hype about psych meds, some do no better than a placebo and they all have possible serious side effects.
Mental health screening involves a great deal of subjectivity since there are no biological markers for most mental disorders. Nevertheless, adults who are identified as having a “mental illness” and children who are identified as having a “serious emotional disturbance” will be strongly encouraged into treatment. While this screening and treatment may be voluntary at first, doublespeak may already be in place as “voluntary” becomes “mandatory” through the language of “incentives” in the Commission’s report. MindFreedom, a coalition of people who are concerned about involuntary mental health treatment (some of whom have experienced its horrors), has expressed grave concerns about the additional power that may be given to the mental health establishment and about the subsequent possibility of losing the freedoms they have gained <www.mindfreedom.org>.
Science or Religion?
The language of the Report is filled with statements that would lead the reader to conclude that all of this is science and that it is helpful. However, thinking, feeling, and behaving primarily involve nonphysical aspects of personhood—the mind, soul, spirit, conscience, will, and emotion. The nonphysical mind, soul, and spirit are more than the brain and will continue to exist even after the physical organ dies. Indeed, these are matters of religion.
While psychologists may superficially observe behavior, they must rely on human imagination and guesses when they attempt to understand the inner man (nonphysical) and direct how people should live. Nevertheless, the Commission, made up of mental health professionals and others who have faith in the mental health system, recommends a vast expansion of screening and providing services with the goal of greatly improving society.
Family Rights Removed?
Indeed, the President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health truly believes that its recommendations will be of great benefit to individuals and society. However, if the plan is implemented, it will interfere with freedoms we have enjoyed in the United States, even though the Commission uses the words “New Freedom” in its title. As the system exerts pressure in implementing the screening and psychologizing, “New Freedom” will be revealed as psychological doublespeak. The plan is to screen as many people as possible. The public schools are the most obvious place to begin. And, here is where the government could very well interfere with the rights of parents to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Every child that is diagnosed with any disorder, along with his family, will come under the scrutiny and treatment protocol of the mental health providers.
Thousands of mental health and social service workers have been and are now being trained in new ways to help adults live in communities and to enable problem children to remain with their families. On the surface this may sound good, but it opens the door to mental health and social service workers treating (and directing) entire families, if a child has any sort of behavioral problem that could be construed as a mental health disorder, such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). Considering how many children have problems in school, this may be an open door to the government to enter households and subject parents and their children to mental health services, including both counseling and medicating.
While the idea of consumer choice is used throughout the Report, it is clear that the choices will be limited to that which the providers are able or willing to supply. In some settings, such as the public schools and other public institutions, this mental health screening and treatment may not be as optional as initially proposed. Parents who stand in the way of perceived-to-be-necessary medical intervention may be labeled unfit and, depending on the seriousness of the condition, even prosecuted for negligence.
Grievously, if the government grants undue power to the psychological establishment to determine who needs mental health treatment, Christians who are unwilling to subject their children or themselves to the mental health practitioners may be singled out as enemies to what is “good” for people, and their children could be stigmatized as well. Senator Ron Paul of Texas expressed his concern about the Commission’s plans to screen and therapize public school children in his publication Texas Straight Talk (9-20-04) and said the following:
Soviet communists attempted to paint all opposition to the state as mental illness. It now seems our own federal government wants to create a therapeutic nanny state, beginning with schoolchildren. It’s not hard to imagine a time 20 or 30 years from now when government psychiatrists stigmatize children whose religious, social, or political values do not comport with those of the politically correct, secular state (www.house.gov/paul/tst/tst2004/tst092004.htm).
Faith, Hope, and Love
In spite of research to the contrary, the Commission fully believes in the efficacy of psychotherapy and other treatment modalities (medication) and predicts:
Because recovery will be the common, recognized outcome of mental health services, the stigma surrounding mental illnesses will be reduced, reinforcing the hope of recovery for every individual with a mental illness.
Most studies fail to show the advantage of one therapy over another or of therapy over placebo or of professional over amateur or of trained and licensed over untrained and unlicensed helpers. However, there are common elements that do seem to help. They are faith, hope, and love. Therefore, these mental health professionals attempt to build faith in the system, encourage hope for cure, and bring in whatever love is available through the mental health service providers, family, and community.
If, through education and propaganda, the mental health establishment can convince Americans that mental health screening and treatment are good for them and that all those designations in the DSM are real illnesses, then they will be able to remove some of the stigma and increase the number of mental health consumers. In fact, for some people, a diagnostic label may be an advantage at school (extra help) and the workplace (where it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability).
Granted, many people do suffer from problems of living. However, to date psychotherapy has not demonstrated that it helps people considerably more than other supportive human relationships. Any help at all depends on factors common to everyday relationships, rather than on the often-conflicting theories and contradictory techniques. In other words, we do recognize that people are suffering, but we also believe that all nonorganic suffering can be dealt with spiritually in the body of Christ. The Lord created us and knows us through and through. He is the true source of help. A Christian’s faith, hope, and love are to be directed towards Him, not placed in a system of man-made opinions and the pseudo-science of psychotherapy. Moreover, every problem of living can be used as a catalyst for spiritual transformation and growth.
The Psychological or Spiritual Way?
What can Christians do? Many of them have been running after psychological theories and therapies for years. The church has already capitulated in this area with its use of psychological tests, counseling centers, and psychologized sermons and Sunday School classes. Sad to say, many mental health providers have received their psychological training from Christian institutions. Therefore, those Christians who realize that psychotherapy is another religion, rather than true science, will have a difficult time explaining that these services are a violation of the separation of church and state. Moreover, they may be diagnosed with having “toxic faith.”
When Israel turned to idols for help, God removed his hand of protection and allowed them to be defeated by their enemies. Most of what would be called the organized church and its parachurch organizations have turned to the psychological idols of the day. We are seeing the fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3 and 4.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves … lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
The Lord forewarned His children about these perilous times:
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:12,13).
True believers need to be prepared to suffer persecution. Such preparation comes from turning to God rather than to the wisdom of men when suffering problems of living.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16, 17).
As believers know, trust, and follow His Word they become prepared for all good works, including being faithful through persecution.
As we draw close to Him and look to Him, we find His word and His Spirit an ever-present comfort and help. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. Therefore, we can be confident that He will enable us to endure even as the apostle Paul endured, and we can look forward, like Paul, to an eternal weight of glory that will far surpass any suffering we many endure here.
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:5-8).
We are already the most psychologized and probably the most psychotropically medicalized nation on Earth. If indeed the United States implements the recommendations of the Commission, elements of George Orwell’s dire warnings in Nineteen Eighty-Four will begin to come to pass. When this happens, it will be very difficult to resist psychological mind bending. Zimbardo cautions:
People commonly believe that they have more strength to resist attempts to modify their behavior than they really have. At the same time, they underestimate the true power of social pressures to make them conform, comply, and obey. This misconception prevents them from realistically appraising the ubiquitous influences that operate in social norms, rules, and the roles we are given to enact (p. 199).
With temptations to conform under psychological pressure and intimidation, Christians will not be able to depend upon the arm of the flesh to stand firm in their faith. They will need to depend fully on the Lord.
We hope and pray that the full impact of our warning about this “New Freedom” plan does not become a reality as did the full-loafed psychological leaven about which we have been warning Christians for many years. We further pray that true followers of Jesus Christ will arm themselves with the Word of God and the shield of faith as they walk according to the Spirit rather than the flesh, praying always for all saints unto the day of His appearing.
PAL Volume13, Number 1 (January-February 2005)