Make a Joyful Silence Unto the Lord

Why quiet is essential to corporate worship.

Make a Joyful Silence Unto the Lord

In a 2017 study, researchers identified the cities with the most noise pollution. At the top of the list were Delhi, Cairo, and Beijing, and not far behind were Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. The study concluded that people who lived in these cities were more likely to experience depression, heart disease, cognitive impairment, anxiety, and stress, among other health risks.

At a domestic level, our cars, phones, and smart speakers perpetually generate a racket of sound, and even washing machines can now play noise-making music. “A cacophony seems inevitable,” writes Laura Bliss in The Atlantic. In the future, “the smartest machines might turn out to be the ones that know when to hold their peace.”

Today’s noise pollution, which includes both sonic noise and visual noise, is a hazard to our entire health, according to the World Health Organization. As such, we find ourselves in desperate need of quiet spaces both in our personal lives and also in our corporate life together as the church. The inclusion of silence in worship, then, is not just a matter of our physical well-being, it is also a matter of well-being before God.

Yet as many pastors will attest firsthand, silence is one of the most difficult things for churches to make space for in their corporate worship. Invariably, it is poorly understood, treated perfunctorily, or seen as an interruption to fulsome praise and proclamation.

But while silence in our prayer and praise of God may feel for many like anxiety-inducing dead air, it is central to faithful worship.

The Fullness of Dead Air

Silence is fundamental to faithful prayer because prayer begins with the act of listening, not talking. God gets the first word—not the pastor, not the musician, not any of us.

Silence is also fundamental to faithful singing because in silence, we attune our ears to “the chief Conductor of our hymns,” as John Calvin once put it, in order to be reminded that we were not the first to arrive on the liturgical scene. In humility, we listen first—then we sing.

Silence is likewise fundamental to faithful preaching because the preacher must make time for the people of God to inwardly digest the word of God so that it has a fighting chance to take root in our hearts and bear good fruit in our lives.

Silence, of course, is not merely negative—the absence of speech, the omission of sound, the refusal to act. It is also a positive thing. Much like Mary’s “let it be,” uttered in response to the divine word in Luke 1:38, silence is an “active passivity” which creates space for God to transform us. In other words, the absence of noise is not an emptiness; it is always a generative fullness, and in some cases, a terrifying fullness.

In silence, we are confronted with God’s voice, a voice that we often drown out for fear of being found out or found wanting. In silence, we are judged for our desperate need to fill up our lives with frenzied activity. In silence, we discover that we are not ultimately in control; we are weak and vulnerable and awfully in need of God’s grace.

What insight might Holy Scripture offer us in order to think carefully about the matter?

The Silence of Praise

In the Bible, silence in worship is commanded, modeled, and inferred.

First, it is commanded.

In Psalm 46:10, the psalmist, speaking in God’s name, issues a general directive: “Be still and know that I am” (Psalm 46:10). In the word that comes to the prophet Zephaniah, we find a similar injunction to “be silent before the Lord” (Zeph. 1:7). In Proverbs 30:32, the matter is put more bluntly: “Put your hand on your mouth.” In Isaiah 41:1, we hear a word that the Lord speak to one and all: “Listen to me in silence.” Is there any other way to listen to God? For both the prophet and the psalmist, the answer is decidedly no.

Silence is also modeled for us. In Psalm 62:5, we find the psalmist describing what presumably represents his usual disposition before God: “My soul waits in silence for God.” In Deuteronomy 27:9, we see Moses speaking to Israel this word: “Keep silence and hear.”

First Kings 19 is perhaps the most famous passage on this topic. The angel of the Lord tells Elijah to stand on the mountain, for the Lord is about to pass by. First a great wind appears, but the Lord is not in this tempestuous wind. After that, an earthquake occurs, but the Lord does not reveal himself there, either. After the earthquake, a fire, and after the fire, silence. It is in this “sound of sheer silence” (19:12, NRSV) that the Lord appears.

Certain things, the text suggests, can only be known about God in the absence of sound.

Lastly, silence in worship is inferred throughout Scripture. The Psalter, for example, aims to train us not only in faithful speech but also in faithful silence. That’s part of the idea behind the term selah. Appearing 71 times in 39 of the psalms, the term functions as a pause—both a pause in the text and, as plenty of scholars believe, an invitation to the reader to pause.

In Psalm 3:4, for instance, the psalmist prays, “I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah.” In Psalm 24:6, the setting is plural: “Such is the company of those who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah.

Neither the “answer” of Psalm 3 nor the “seeking” of Psalm 24 can be fully perceived, I suggest, apart from a pause. Where a selah appears, then, we are offered the opportunity to actually stop—not pretend to stop—in order to reckon honestly with the word of the Lord to us.

30 Minutes of Silence in Heaven

But how exactly should pastors and worship leaders incorporate silence into worship without alienating their congregants? And how might we do it well—and for how long?

The Book of Revelation offers us a possible starting point, albeit a daunting one.

In Revelation 7:9-10, John the Seer beholds a mass of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language all standing before the Lamb. Holding palm branches in their hands, they acclaim a hymn to God: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Eventually, the angels, the elders, and the four creatures join in, adding their own roaring doxological words.

Immediately after this scene, in chapter 8 verse 1, the Lamb opens the seventh seal and the Seer informs the reader that “there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” This is one of the more curious details in all of Scripture, one that has baffled commentators for centuries. Yet however the text is interpreted, few doubt that Saint John meant anything but a straightforward understanding of the time increment: a half hour of silence. A half an hour.

After a fullness of words and prior to a fullness of activity, there is a sizable, noise-stopping, word-ceasing, activity-halting time of silence.

Realistically speaking, of course, most churches will not be able to incorporate 30 minutes of noise-free time into a typical worship service. But there are a few ways, perhaps, that we might attend silently to the word and work of God in our midst.

When you call your people to worship, for example, consider taking 20 seconds for silence. Invite them to offer up to God all the parts of their lives, trusting that he wishes to take all their helter-skelter thoughts, all their fragmentary feelings, and their all-over-the-place bodily appetites and make their lives whole again through worship.

If your worship includes a confession of sin, be generous with the amount of time you give people before they confess their sins commonly. Don’t shortchange the silence. Give worshippers an honest amount of time to reckon not only with their specific sins but also with the comprehensive mercy of God for them.

If singing occupies a great deal of your worship, think of ways for it to become not more noise in the world but also a vehicle for hearing the voice of God. Consider adding brief moments of silence between songs or instrumental bridges between verses to create space for contemplation.

For preachers, I commend the practice of my former pastor in Houston. After giving the sermon, he would sit and wait for a solid minute before continuing with the liturgy. On the screen were written the words: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” After hearing the sermon, each of us was given the gift of silence in order to hear Christ’s word to us personally. I cherished that gift every time.

If you include communal prayer in your worship, take the practice of the psalmists to heart: Include an honest-to-God selah. Resist the temptation to truck through the prayers or fill the air with many words. Invite people to wait and listen. Resist the worry that worshippers will become uncomfortable with extended silence, and instead offer them an opportunity to hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, however your worship ends, consider allowing a moment of stillness before people return to the noise of their busy lives. Give them a minute to attend to the one thing that God might have spoken to them during worship in light of the many things that will demand their attention throughout the week. Help them to hear God’s word to them individually—to which they might say yes with all their strength.

In your benediction, too, offer your people a moment of peace, not just words of peace. Consider how such a moment might become a balm to people who feel assaulted by a thousand thoughts and desires.

Acclimating to silence in worship can feel overwhelming for both pastors and congregants. It takes time, incremental change, and plenty of care-filled, ongoing education. As you take on the challenge, trust that God will meet your people in that space.

Silence on Earth, as it is in Heaven

In The Screwtape LettersCS Lewis suggests that to resist the clamor of noise is to resist a demonic temptation to drown out the voice of God. In the words of Lewis’ demon protagonist:

[Hell] has been occupied by Noise—Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile—Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end…. The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end.

As Lewis imagines it, silence is intrinsic to heavenly worship and thus also to worship on earth, while noise carries with it a dehumanizing, perhaps even diabolical power.

If God is at work, then, before we say or do anything in worship, and if both Christ and the Spirit are continuously at work during our worship, the proper response is first to be silent. We listen before we speak. We wait before we act. We lean in to hear the whispering voice of the Lord. And we do so in the belief that silence is fundamentally a corporate act of worship rather than merely an individual one.

In the end, we welcome silence in worship not just because we wish to be faithful to God but because our lives depend on it, and because we hunger for the still, small voice of God in the midst of our noisy, seething, modern world. As The Message renders Habakkuk 2:20, “God is in his holy Temple! Quiet everyone—a holy silence. Listen!”

W. David O. Taylor teaches theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and is the author of Glimpses of the New Creation: Worship and the Formative Power of the Arts (Eerdmans, 2019). He tweets @wdavidotaylor.

Parts of this essay were adapted from Glimpses of the New Creation, copyright 2019 (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.) Reprinted by permission of the publisher; all rights reserved.


Dear Depressed Christian: If You Do Nothing Else Today, Please Read This

by Pastor Ray Patrick

Is there an issue in your life today that you would like to put a stop to? Maybe it’s a certain behaviour, addiction or bad attitude that isn’t pleasing to God. When Adam and Eve disobeyed in the garden, the first thing God did was to put clothing on them. They needed to be covered. In the same way, you and I need to be covered today. What should we cover or clothe ourselves with?

Remember, when you “clothe yourself” with the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be protected and able to stand strong against temptation. How do you clothe yourself with Jesus Christ? First of all, when you receive Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you are covered and cleansed by His blood. You are restored and renewed.

Today think about this, just as you get dressed daily to cover your body, you have to daily “cover” your mind with the Word of God. That means you cover every point that has access to your thoughts. Cover your ears by listening to the Word. Cover your eyes by watching only what is pleasing to the Lord. Cover your mouth by speaking the Word and encouraging those around you. As you cover yourself with Christ, you’ll be strong against temptation, you’ll walk in victory, and you’ll experience the good things He has in store for you!

“Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature]…”

(Romans 13:14, AMP)

Pray With Me
Yahweh, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus, to redeem me and restore me. Father, there are many issues I’ve been struggling with for a long time. Please cover me with Your Spirit so I can stand against temptation. I say thank You in advance for making me new and covering me, so that I can stand strong against temptation. Today, I submit every area of my life to You and invite You to have Your way in me, in Jesus’ name! Amen

University officials held ‘personally liable’ for discrimination against Christian student group

By Caleb Parke

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship students.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship students. (Becket)

A federal court ruled University of Iowa officials must pay out of their own pockets for discriminating against a prominent Christian student group, calling the university’s conduct “ludicrous” and “incredibly baffling” during a hearing last week.

Judge Stephanie M. Rose of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa ruled Friday that the University of Iowa and its officers violated constitutional law when they kicked InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and other religious groups, off the campus in June 2018 for requiring leaders to uphold Christian beliefs — but giving a pass to secular student groups that also have leadership requirements.

The university limited the Christian group’s access to campus after being there for over 25 years, froze its bank account, shut down its website and advertised that it was “defunct” for lack of student interest, according to court documents. This violated the Christian group’s free speech and free exercise rights, the court ruled.

“It’s rare for a federal judge to call out a public university for ‘ludicrous’ and ‘incredibly baffling’ violations of the First Amendment,” Daniel Blomberg, senior counsel at Becket, who represented InterVarsity and BLinC, told Fox News. “But it was necessary here. The court already told the University of Iowa to stop picking on one Christian student group. The University responded by doubling down and kicking out Christian, Muslim and Sikh groups. That was obviously wrong. And it’s even more clearly wrong once you consider, as the court did, that it was also unfair.”

He explains the university makes room for Greek groups and sports clubs, for the College Democrats and Republicans, for the environmental groups and the pro-life groups, but singled out religious groups.

“We must have leaders who share our faith,” Greg Jao, director of external relations at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, said in a statement. “No group — religious or secular — could survive with leaders who reject its values. We’re grateful the court has stopped the University’s religious discrimination, and we look forward to continuing our ministry on campus for years to come.”

This was the second lawsuit brought against the university after Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC) won their case earlier this year. A BLinC member claimed he was denied a leadership position for being openly gay. The group argued the member was rejected because “he expressly stated that he rejected BLinC’s religious beliefs and would not follow them.”

The court stated it “would never have expected the university to respond to that order by homing in on religious groups” like InterVarsity, while “carving out explicit exemptions for other groups. But here we are.” The court did “not know how a reasonable person could have concluded this was acceptable,” since it “plainly” doubled down on the exact same conduct the court had already held unlawful.

“It’s too bad it took twice for the University to learn its lesson,” Blomberg added. “There was no excuse the first time for squashing students’ First Amendment rights. University officials nationwide should now take note that religious discrimination will hit them in the pocketbook.”

The university did not immediately respond to a Fox News request for comment.


Never Be Ashamed to Seek Heaven


by Greg Morse Staff writer,

“Never be ashamed of letting men see you want to go to heaven,” J.C. Ryle once said to those tempted to creep from bush to bush along the narrow path. He did not address those who were facing persecution — whose slight showing of the uniform would get them and their loved ones shot at. He addressed young men who were tempted to sneak quietly from this world into heaven for fear of the scorn shouted from those on the broad path. He addressed the Nicodemuses among us, and in us, who would seek to visit the Lord under cover of night.

This tiptoe Christianity does all to not disturb a sleeping world. It may appear valorous at times, but only on topics that it is fashionable to be valorous about. With causes out of cultural fashion, it dresses in civilian clothes. Very different from our forefathers who “turned the world upside down,” these tiptoe Christians do not desire to make it clear that they are seeking a homeland — no need to cause a fuss. The modern words employed are “tolerant” and “inclusive.” The old word was cowardice. We have need for Ryle’s admonition.

Joy Set Before Him?

While we are all tempted to hide our true aim in life, at different times and in different ways, we now are tempted to hide our desire to go to heaven by denying we even consider heaven at all. We seek to be servants of men without any regard to heavenly compensation, and call it virtue. We read texts like Matthew 6:1 with a dyslexic trouble with the sequence of words, “Practice your righteousness before men, and expect no heavenly rewards from your Father.” Trailing in the wake of Immanuel Kant, we try to make self-denial, stripped of self-interest, an end in itself. Heaven, the supreme place self ought to be interested in, is rarely glanced at.

“Tiptoe Christianity does all to not disturb a sleeping world.”

So, some venture on as ships sailing to nowhere, soldiers fighting for nothing, runners pursuing no trophy, farmers plowing but expecting no crop. The old self-denial of lesser pleasures for supreme ones has been replaced with just the denial of pleasure for its own sake. The sweat, blood, and toil is its own reward. We think ourselves the more virtuous for enduring the company of so-and-so with a smile, without ever considering how “love . . . for all the saints” could be “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:4–5).

A film I saw some years ago serves as a good illustration. The premise showed a man who spent the entire story in search of seven people he could drastically help by donating body parts to them — when he eventually committed suicide on their behalf. The heart went to one. The liver to another. The lungs and bone marrow to still others, and so on. Perhaps partially motivated by guilt from a car crash, one motivation remained clear: self-sacrifice for the good of others without reference to self. He entered death for them — without any joy set before him to defile the benevolence. This man, unlike our Savior who had two eyes beyond the cross to the reward (Hebrews 12:2), serves as a modern ideal.

Far Too Easily Pleased

In his paramount sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis addressed the same ideology in his day:

The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.

The righteous seek heaven unashamedly. They do so before their religious neighbors who might consider the idea mercenary. And the holy man seeks eternal life with a passion not to be derailed by cheap thrills of his unreligious neighbor. He does not have the half-hearted, whimsical pursuit of happiness that contents itself with appeasing appetites no higher than a gerbil’s. He is a man, not a pet. He will not be distracted from heaven by the mere scratch of his lust’s belly. His desires have broad shoulders. And his master offers to place a weight of glory upon them — “Well done, good and faithful servant” — and he is fueled by Christ’s promises.

Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

“It is the great error of mankind to pretend to be more holy than God.”

What has a child of God to fool around with drink? “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (Psalm 4:7). Why ambitiously build mud pies in Babel’s image when we have this promise: “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne” (Revelation 3:21)? Why be detoured by Delilah’s wiles when the New Jerusalem awaits?

He Offers Us Heaven

Jesus does not give as the world does. To incentivize our fealty, he does not merely offer greater earthly joy; he offers us his own joy. We do not just need an alien righteousness; we were made for alien joy — a joy that when received will make our joy full (John 15:11). The righteous will not deny their conscious belief in God’s unblushing rewards, nor can they:

Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Like Daniel, Christians conduct their pursuit of heaven with the curtains drawn, accepting the king’s wrath, because we know that a lion’s den is “not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). We will endure the cost of suffering because we are “sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). Our Lord finds our desires for happiness not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with a passing world, when heaven is offered to us.

Not Ashamed to Seek Him

It is the great error of mankind to pretend to be more holy than God. Living life from sheer duty, gritting one’s teeth on the way to glory, is not Christian. We lose our lives, not as martyrs for the mere benefit of others. We lose our lives to gain them.

We can lambaste “the prosperity gospel” so much that we forget that our gospel very much has to do with prosperity. God’s Book woos us with talk of fullness of joy, eternal life, crowns, thrones, crystal rivers, unfading inheritance, white robes, laughter, mountains, songs, angels, feasting, fellowship, eternal light, the undoing of all wrong, the ensuring of all right, and, of course, of God himself resplendent in all his glory. We do not close our eyes to this in the name of duty. Rather, we listen to the music playing through the cracked door, and take hold of it with holy aggression, letting all know that we wish — more than anything — to be with our King forever.

Have Needs? God Will Provide Your Every Need

You may be thinking I’m not seeing God providing for me, but I want to show you how to experience God’s provisions for your life.

by Pastor Ray Patrick

Jehovah Jireh means “God will provide.” Hallelujah! When the children of Israel were in the desert on the way to the Promised Land, God provided them with manna to eat. That was good. It sustained them for a while, but it wasn’t a permanent solution. Eventually, the manna stopped coming. The people had to move forward, and then God allowed them to have quail. They were so excited. That fed them for a while, but it was also temporary.

God gave the Israelites temporary provision on the way to the Promised Land where they would have permanent provision. The fact that God had something much greater in store for their future is what kept them moving forward. God could have sustained them with manna or quail, but God is a God of increase, a God of better and best. He works in seasons, and He always has something better in store for us.

Today, don’t get stuck in a rut and think that your current situation is going to last forever. Instead, stay open and be willing to change and adjust, and make corrections, or try something new as God provides for you. If the “manna” stops coming, like it did for the children of Israel, don’t get upset or disheartened. Remember, God is Jehovah Jireh, He will provide. Just keep moving forward and trusting. Be on the lookout for the new provision God has in store for you!

“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 4:19, NKJV)

Pray With Me
Yahweh, You alone are the just and faithful God! Father, thank You for always providing for me. Thank You for leading and guiding me. God, I trust that You have better and greater things in store for my future. I will choose to keep my eyes on You, in Jesus’ Name! Amen.


VIDEO ‘It’s Just a Sin:’ With Nowhere to Go, America’s Mentally Ill Often End Up on the Streets


10-07-2019 Lorie Johnson

Tens of thousands of people live on the streets of our most beloved cities. It’s unsanitary and unsafe. One psychiatrist who closely examined Skid Row, the notorious section of Los Angeles that has widely become known the worst and most profound depiction of America’s homeless crisis, says many people who wound up there as well as in nearby hospitals and jails are mentally ill and simply had nowhere else to go.

Psychiatrist Kenneth Paul Rosenberg documented America’s mental health crisis in the award-winning movie, Bedlam recently released in book format.

Good Intentions

Dr. Rosenberg told CBN News today’s homeless crisis can possibly be traced back to the last bill signed by President John F. Kennedy. In 1963, the Community Mental Health Act closed America’s insane asylums. While this law meant to end the often barbaric treatment of the mentally ill, to include Kennedy’s own sister Rosemary, who suffered a lobotomy at the age of 23, leaving her unable to speak the rest of her life, the move also led to unintended consequences.

“Well the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I think that’s a great example, the deinstitutionalization,” he said, adding, “The result was, he created Community Mental Health Centers, but those Community Mental Health Centers were not prepared for the sickest people from the asylums. What’s more, President Reagan in the 1980s canceled the funding, the federal funding, for those. President Reagan said, ‘Let’s give this problem back to the state and have the state asylums take care of it.’ Well, the states, they didn’t want it back.”

In short, after the asylums closed, most people who suffer from a serious mental illness, the kind of issue that formerly led to institutionalization in asylums, were never given a viable alternative.

Dr. Rosenberg says while people with serious mental illness were mistreated in the asylums since they closed, people with SMIs today are too often under-treated or not treated at all and end up living on the streets or made “mental illness a crime.”

“We’ve put them in jails and in cages and the streets, Skid Row and all kinds of dreadful places,” he said, “And we’ve relegated them to backward and delegated their care to jails. That’s just a sin if you ask me, and that’s something we really have to correct.”

The Sickest of the Sick

An estimated one in five Americans suffers from a mental illness, such as depression. While these conditions are troubling and warrant attention, health experts say one in 25 Americans have what’s known as Serious Mental Illnesses, or SMI, that renders them utterly dysfunctional. These include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, suicidal depression or severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Dr. Rosenberg says an estimated 11 million Americans have a Serious Mental Illness and too many of them end up either homeless or behind bars, often passing through overcrowded hospitals.

“Los Angeles is the epicenter of this crisis. The largest mental institution in this country is the L.A. County Jail,” he said, “The largest collection of people outside is Skid Row. Skid Row is kind of like a day hospital, if you will, for people with Serious Mental Illness.”

Add to this equation, an estimated eight out of ten people living on the streets struggle with addiction. For the mentally ill, that’s like pouring gasoline on a fire.

“We know there are factors that can bring mental illness out of the woodwork, open a window if you will, on serious mental illness that would otherwise be closed,” he said, “What are those factors? Poverty, trauma, going to jail, unfortunately, most of the mentally ill end in jail nowadays, and above all else, substance abuse,” adding, “they self-medicate with drugs to feel better. They use drugs to get away from themselves. They fall into a terrible lifestyle.”

‘They Don’t Know What They’re Doing’

Dr. Rosenberg says there’s a saying within the mental health profession: “Jail is the bed that never says no.”

That means people with mental illnesses that society doesn’t know what to do with, take them to the nearest and easiest place.

“People with mental illness get picked up for petty crimes. They commit minor infractions. They don’t know what they’re doing. They’ll shoplift. They’ll steal but easily get caught. They’ll do some drugs either through self-medication or homelessness and they end up in jail.”

Dr. Rosenberg says police officers on the beat told him dealing with untreated mentally ill people occupies a good deal of their time.

“The sheriffs and the police aren’t trained to be social workers. They didn’t go into law enforcement to take care of people with mental illness,” he said.

For the mentally ill, a short stint in jail for a minor crime can easily escalate to serving hard time.

“They don’t show up for their court appearance. They don’t show up for their probation hearings. Before you know it, they have one, two, three strikes against them and they end up in prison.”

Concrete Solutions

Although this perfect storm may seem hopeless, Dr. Rosenberg offers concrete solutions, starting with community treatment centers.

“These are terrible diseases, but people can get better,” he said, “They may not be curable, but they are very treatable.”

He also advocates expanding the number of mental health courts. “We can mandate treatment for people who are too sick to know that they need it.”

Dr. Rosenberg says the public should demand better drugs to treat mental illness, ones that are more effective and carry fewer side effects than the ones associated with today’s medications such as weight gain, lethargy, sexual problems. Half of the patients with SMIs stop taking their medication during the course of their treatment.

“The medicines we’re using today for serious mental illness today are 70 years old,” he said, “I think that’s absolutely terrible. God forbid you have breast cancer, God forbid you have colon cancer. You’re going to get a treatment that’s two or three years old. Not one that’s 70 years old.”

What You Can Do

An estimated one in five American families has someone suffering from a Serious Mental Illness.  Just as certain lifestyle factors described above can intensify mental illness, others can mitigate the symptoms.

“What makes serious mental illness better?” Dr. Rosenberg explained, “Certainly decreasing stress makes mental illness better. First of all, a healthy lifestyle like good eating, going to bed at the right time, staying away from drugs,” he continued, “Also, having good spiritual practices, being engaged with your community, having good relationships, optimism, having people around you who support you. These things will help a serious mental illness. They may not cure it, but they’ll help significantly.”

Doctors say psychotic illness typically comes on between ages 17 and 21 and the longer the brain goes untreated the worse it becomes. So early intervention is key. Red flags include being disconnected from reality, exhibiting extremely abnormal behavior and hearing voices, particularly from animals or objects.

“There are leaders in your community, in your church in your synagogue who can help you think this through. The clergy are very proficient in understanding how to deal with this and how to send you to the proper health care providers, people who will be consistent with your own spiritual practices.”

Dr. Rosenberg also recommends contacting the National Alliance on Mental Illness through its website or by calling (800) 950-6264.

As past president of an area NAMI affiliate I would also recommend the following organizations in addition to NAMI.

While  president and after being a local NAMI president I worked with and highly recommend the Advocates Jail Diversion Program

Advocates Jail Diversion Program

E Parent

Families for Depression Awareness

Military Connection

Prevention Plus Wellness


Study links gene to children with physical and intellectual disabilities

Increase in Developmental Disabilities Among Children in the United States



Isn’t the Bible Regressive?

One of the objections modern Western people have to Christianity and the Bible, is that its teachings seem to be regressive. In the past 100 years we’ve made a lot of progress in freeing people from oppressive views on women, racism and sexuality, but Christianity and the Bible are often seen to be in the way of our march towards progress, especially if you read Stephen Pinker’s book Enlightenment Now.

The problem with this view is that it has to re-write history in order to sustain it. The Enlightenment and the scientific revolution came on the heels of the Protestant Reformation, one of the most significant revolutions of thought in European history. No qualified historian chalks that up to coincidence, but atheists like Stephen Pinker have to, in order to force a false dichotomy between Christianity and the progress of humanitarian values.

Far from standing in the way of the emancipation of women, Biblical Christianity was one of the major forces behind it. While some have claimed that the patriarchal narratives in Genesis are oppressive and condone polygamy, biblical scholar Robert Alter points out that the force of the narratives is actually to undermine oppressive views like polygamy: all of the characters in the narrative are having a terrible time precisely because they have more than one wife. (Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary, xlvi)

Some have also claimed that Paul was a misogynist, but this doesn’t fit the evidence. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul begins an argument by stating the common view of the time: “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:4a). But then, Paul uses that view to suggest something radical and unheard of in that time and culture: “In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife” (1 Corinthians 7:4b). In all extant historical records, this was radically unique. (Roy Ciampa and Brian Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 281)

On the issue of racism, biblical Christianity has been the single most powerful force for racial equality. The idea that all people are created equal was first introduced into human history on page one of the Bible (Genesis 1:27). The Bible’s vision for heaven is a picture of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9). And the gospel itself, that we’re saved by the sheer grace of God, uniquely levels the playing field between racial groups more than any other worldview. As secular philosopher Luc Ferry points out:

By resting its case upon a definition of the human person and an unprecedented idea of love, Christianity was to have an incalculable effect upon the history of ideas. To give one example, it is quite clear that, in this Christian re-evaluation of the human person, of the individual as such, the philosophy of human rights to which we subscribe today would never have established itself. It is essential therefore that we have a more or less accurate idea of the chain of reasoning which led Christianity to break so radically with the Stoic past. (Luc Ferry, Learning to Live: A User’s Manual, 60)

The strongest argument for the view that the Bible is regressive, is on the issue of human sexuality. However, this requires that ‘progressive’ be defined as maximising all expressions of sexuality, while ‘regressive’ is defined as encouraging sexual restraint. On these definitions, Christianity and the Bible are certainly not ‘progressive’, but this ‘progressive’ view on sexuality is harmful for men, for women, and for children.

For men, a polyamorous (sexually progressive) culture leads to a small percentage of men having lots of sexual partners, and ironically, becoming depressed; and a large percentage of men staying single and becoming lonely. Unfortunately, this loneliness often leads to resentment and then to violence. By contrast, ‘enforced monogamy’, meaning socially encouraged monogamy, leads to more couples, more families, and more civilised men.

A polyamorous culture is also bad for women, because it encourages sex without love, commitment, romance or relationship. While men tend to be more interested in sex without any strings attached than women, women tend to be more interested in romance and relationships than men, and this is precisely what is eroded by a polyamorous culture.

Most obviously, polyamorous cultures harm children, because the sexual promiscuity that they encourage increases the numbers of children who are raised without both of their biological parents. Having both biological parents isn’t everything (having loving parents is more important), but by all agreed upon metrics, children who are raised by both of their biological parents have a better chance of good life outcomes.

The Bible encourages husbands to lay down their lives for their wives (Ephesians 5:25-28), to see all races and ethnicities as made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and to promote a view of sex that doesn’t lead to loneliness – viewing sex as self-donation, not merely for one’s gratification. For some, this is regressive, and its secular opposite is progressive. But by what standard do we measure what’s progressive and what’s regressive?

While a number of people in the West find what the Bible says about sexuality repulsive, they’re often attracted to what it says about grace and forgiveness. However, when you take the Bible to the Middle East, people there are attracted to what the Bible says about sexuality (if anything it’s not strong enough), but they’re repulsed by what it says about grace and forgiveness. If the Bible really was the word of God, then you would expect it to challenge all cultures (including ours), challenging different cultures at different points.

Moreover, if you have a Bible from which you can pick and choose which parts are progressive and which parts are regressive and safely ignored, then you forfeit all possibility of a real relationship with God. In The Stepford Wives the men of Stepford put computer chips in the wives’ heads so that they only ever agree with them, at which point they no longer have a wife with whom they have a relationship, but a robot that they can programme however they like.

Similarly, if you have a Bible from which you can decide that certain parts regressive and safely ignored, then you forfeit all possibility of relationship with God. You merely have a Stepford god (or a Mr. Potato Head god) who only ever affirms you and/or your culture. As Augustine said: “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”

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