We All Have Baggage

“We all have baggage,” a former homeless man used to say. In my last blog, I analyzed people who engage in bizarre, anti-social behavior and explored the role of the mental health industry.

Today I’ll look into the problems of everyday people, focusing on the homeless.

Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung related a story about visiting an insane asylum with an “intelligent layman” who remarked that the people there were like everyday people, except their problems were greatly magnified.

People in today’s society have different degrees of issues. Just being homeless is an issue. Within this group, some individuals have more serious problems, such a drug and alcohol abuse.

Except when a substance abuse or other problem gets too extreme, when people need to be put in a treatment facility, they can go to meetings. Churches in lower Bucks County, PA have increasingly hosted programs, such as AA. There’s a unique program in Bucks County that combines alcohol and drug abuse counselling  with other problems, such as anger management, anxiety and depression, using the 12 steps program. There is even a 12 steps Bible, which matches Bible verses with the steps.

The program is actually a peer-to-peer, brother/sister to brother/sister program, where participants counsel one another.

“Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”  – Proverbs 27:17

http://www.12stepjourney.com/

Even people who seem to have it made have problems, although they may be hidden. Some of them have positions of respectability. It’s usually through their actions that others see their issues, especially when it’s affecting them. For example, The Countess of Carlisle at the Salvation Army  Community Center in Levittown, PA.

The Countess contradicted the Salvation Army’s mission, which was established to reach out to those not so beautiful people – the poor, the down and out, drunks, druggies, prostitutes – and give them hope through Jesus.

On one occasion, the Countess joined a conversation about the homeless I was having with another volunteer. I expressed my problem with how the homeless are treated at the public library in Levittown, PA. She stated that the librarian is trying to keep them out because people who visit the library don’t like them there. When I told her how I challenged this discrimination – that the homeless were singled out as a group only because they are homeless – she Augustly quipped “what good’s that going to do?”  The Countess said that the librarian has total sovereignty over the library, as if it is her own property.

A Salvation Army worker from the regional office had offered me a job opportunity writing for the Salvation Army. The first step was to go to the center’s Captain, who told me I needed to go through the Countess. My assignment was to write a blog about the community meals. The Countess practically wrote it herself, injecting her ideas, mostly not relating to the meal.

I didn’t hear anything about the job for months until I saw the regional public relations person  taking photos at the center while I was working in the food bank. She asked me if I was still interested in writing for the Salvation Army. “Yes”, I said. Again, I went to Captain Casper Milquetoast, who directed me to the Countess.

“I don’t have time for that,” the Countess snapped. Hummm… Did her stonewalling me have anything to do with me expressing my opinion about the homeless? Probably a coincidence. If you believe that, you probably believe in the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny.

We humans are not perfect. We are all fallen creatures. Christians are sinners saved by grace. God designed us to live in a certain way. When we don’t, we become dysfunctional. We all mess up from time to time, in different degrees and various ways.

Even when we are, as Curly of The Three Stooges, a victim of circumstances, as I was with the Countess of Carlisle, we can still fall into sinful ways. My sinful self wanted to get even and harbored resentment. This isn’t the first time I felt this way.

Although I’ve come a long way after nearly having a mental breakdown about 2 ½ years ago, I still wrestle with problems resulting from character flaws, my sinful nature. To have victory over this character flaw, I remember that I cannot overcome the problem on my own, but need a higher power – God. I pray, read the Bible, go to Bible studies, get informal counsel from Christian brothers and sisters, etc. Consequently, I am starting to overcome my resentment, or at least have it under control.

We all need help, even with little problems. Little problems can become big. Unchecked, we can fall into a downward spiral, as I did. I wish I had nipped it in the bud!

Just being homeless is a problem, whether one is homeless because of one’s own folly, or as a result of economics, which was the main reason for homelessness during The Great Depression. No matter what the case, the homeless need to be shown Christian concern, accepted unconditionally and shown God’s love and mercy. In Bucks County, PA, Christians have been stepping up to the plate to do this. They have been offering them help with material, emotional, and spiritual needs. The homeless need to know that people care.

No matter what your problems or situation, even if you are one who thinks he has it made, you need the Lord.

As the apostle Paul writes in Romans:

” I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”  -Romans 7:15-20

Romans 7:18 accompanies the 1st step in the 12 Steps Journey Program.

At Ease It’s Not a Disease!

Common parlance talks about drug and alcohol abuse as a disease, and labels these problems as “addictions” and “alcoholism”. This relatively modern lingo has entered our vocabulary in the 1930s, with the infestation of psychobabble.

Drug addiction has become an epidemic in our country, especially in Bucks County, PA. Drug counseling advocates have been calling for increasing places for treating this problem. The problem with calling it a disease is that it absolves the doper of  responsibility for his behavior. It’s to say it’s not his fault.

“Alcoholism” and “addictions” are simply sin. Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.” — I Corinthians 15:34.  “The primary problem is moral and spiritual, not medical, and cannot be addressed without that perspective,” wrote Franklin E. Payne, Jr., M.D. ,Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia, in Augusta, Georgia.

The first step in the local 12 Steps Journey I participate in calls for people with drug, alcohol and other problems to own up to them:

“Step One- We admitted we were powerless over the effects of our separation from GOD-that our lives had become unmanageable.

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Rom. 7:18)”

When we realize we have to admit our character flaws and seek God’s help, we are on the path to recovery.

Modern psychology doesn’t understand the real cause of behavioral problems and doesn’t know the right way to treat them. Dr. Payne explains “I have yet to see any patient’s chart with the diagnosis of ‘depression’ with reference to criteria that would fit any formal definition, such as the DSM-III-R. Yet, millions of patients carry this label and receive potent medications based upon this slipshod approach. Both the label and the medications have great potential for harm, as well as good. Further, such imprecision applies to virtually every area of medicine, not just psychiatric diagnoses. (A discussion of this ‘mal-practice,’ however, would require another paper in itself.)” 

All the King’s horses and all the King’s men, can’t put broken people back together again.

God can.

Defining drunkenness, drug abuse and other problems as a disease holds back recovery. If you have a true disease, such a sinusitis, you can take antibiotics. You can’t cure negative behaviors with dope.

The lyrics “Everything you think, do and say
Is in the pill you took today” in the 60’s song In the Year 2525 is not where it’s at, man!

Nor is Penndel Mental Health Center, which I’ve surmised apes the culture indicted in the song. Don’t go there or else you’ll wind up with PMS (Penndel Mentalhealth Syndrome).

Jesus is the great healer. There is hope when you confess your sins and seek His counsel.