Background: What does a Mental Health Nurse have in common with a Christian?
In a course that I am recently undertaking, the tutor who is herself a nurse, urged the mental health nurses in training to have confidence in the micro-counseling skills they possess. Traditionally, the field of psychiatry has been led by the psychiatrists and the medical model has been the guiding paradigm for treatment and care. As a result nurses often find themselves at the lower end of the hierarchy in psychiatry despite the fact that nurses have more opportunity for patient contact than doctors.
Many nurses however find themselves having a limited sense of autonomy and independence in decision making with the effect that many of them lack self-confidence and self-efficacy, i.e. confidence in one’s ability to make things happen.
Is this not the same attitude that many of us Christians have toward the good news we possess. It can be said that many Christians lack self-efficacy or confidence in the power of the gospel they possess. This is manifest in the lack of passion and nonchalant attitude with which most of us present the good news to others. That is if we do at all! Indeed the average Christian has a lot to offer to make a difference to the lives of those in his/her immediate environment yet we do so little to bring that influence to bear.
I will pick up this point again later in this article but first of all let us examine some of the background to this attitude by scanning the socio-religious environment over the last few years in our country.
The Socio-Religious Landscape
Nominally, Britain is known as a Christian nation. Whereas in the past, Christianity had a dominance over British institutions, values and the British way of life; today this influence is fast receding with a growing crisis in the church and in church leadership especially since the 1980’s.
This has resulted in an open and level playing field in the socio-religious arena of British society with each faith: Buddhism, Islam, even witchcraft, contesting for as much room of the playing field as possible while parading their wares as it were. Gone are the days when we only heard of witchcraft operating in the unseen hours of the night. Today witches are being given an arena to display their wares through Hollywood film productions and space in national newspapers for whole page articles. Halloween is gaining much more prominence in our social psyche than ever before with greater promotion from the corporate world.
Today there is a manifest, indeed a noticeable presence of the wares of other faiths in the socio-economic and socio-cultural fabric of our society. Take for example the upsurge of Buddhist meditation practices seeping into the mainstream of British society, finding its way through physical exercise (yoga), relaxation techniques (massage and sunbed parlours), psychological treatments (such as dialectical behavior therapy, mindfulness). These are being sold in GP practices, on national TV programmes, on documentaries and in the newspapers.
It appears that Buddhist practitioners have found a way to infiltrate the British economy and society by packaging their wares in product forms, that have an appeal to the cultural values and social discourse of contemporary western society. These developments are not in any way by chance but rather a conscious and concerted effort to permeate British society with eastern/Buddhist values and philosophies.
It is as if Christianity is receding into the shadows of other religious players. It makes me wonder… what is the response from the church?
Some of this is our own doing – losing our credibility as salt of the earth and light of the world. By losing our influence and grip, as the moral fabric of the society, this has led to greater moral decadence and perversion.
Recently the Archbishop of Canterbury sought to reclaim some of this lost moral authority of the church by launching a public challenge to Wango (one of those private lending companies with high charging interest rates), only to discover that in his own backyard, the church itself was implicated in the same practices he was trying to clean up. This is not an indictment on the archbishop but rather a prevailing problem of the extent to which the church has dipped its hand into the corrupt practices of this world. Our dirty linen is being washed in public!
Part of this loss of credibility is also due to some unscrupulous elements who have crept into the church and not sent by God.
Some of it is due to a deliberate perpetrated attempt to hunt down the Christian faith by its opponents. The result is a bitter growing hostility toward the Christian faith and Christians are not able to walk with their heads up. It reminds me of the nurses in psychiatry I mentioned earlier who lack self-belief.
A large part of it is due to the shameful behavior of some of our leaders. Just as it is true to say we have corrupt and perverse messengers so the message they bring is corrupt and perverse. Jesus talks about how a tree cannot produce another fruit (Matthew 7:17-18).
Yet the truth remains that the gospel is still “the light of the world” and the bearers of this good news are called “children of the light” (Ephesians 5:8).
What has all this got to do with our mental health?
Stay with me as we develop this theme in next month’s article.