Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Sin of Pride

On 25th April 2012, 4Thought showed a piece on "mental illness from a faith perspective" from Malcolm Bowden. I did not see the piece but am grateful to eChurch Blog for providing a transcript (and initial thoughts). I am sure many people will be challenging Mr Bowden's specific views on mental illness, far better than I can; I would however like to chip in a bit on the issue of the sin of pride, which he seems to consider the primary cause of such problems.

The sin of pride is considered the oldest sin, see Gen 3:5, when Adam and Eve ate the apple, recognised their nakedness, felt shame, hid, etc. Ironically this also seemed to lead to them conceiving children, thus starting the human race, so it is difficult to work out how life was supposed to go without 'the fall'.  

Pride turns up elsewhere (Prov 6:17, where "a proud look" is one of seven 'abominations' listed) and is one of the seven 'deadly' sins (different from the seven abominations, which include several variants on lying, amongst other things).  The countering cardinal virtue is humility.

With the greatest respect, Mr Bowden seems quite proud himself. This is the natural tension of the hardline evangelical movement, perhaps; submit humbly to God, order other people around.  

It is seen in the demonstrations of anti-abortion campaigners, those opposed to equal rights for gay people, opponents of female ordination, and doorstep evangelists in general.  What is believing yourself to be 'saved' when your neighbour is damned, but pride? Whenever the JWs turn up at my front door, urging me to 'open myself to new possibilities', I am very tempted to say 'OK then - you first'.

Mr Bowden thinks people with depression should be less proud.  Maybe it would be more humble to accept centuries of scientific knowledge relating to evolution and heliocentricity than insist that they are wrong 'just because'.  Arguably young-earth creationism and geocentricity are by their nature full of pride - mankind as the most important thing in the universe, both in terms of place, and how we got here.

Mr Bowden thinks "a Christian, a TRUE Christian, should not ever be depressed", which again shows pride; who is he to decide who is a 'TRUE' (watch those caps, worrying sign) Christian? That is usually for the person in question to decide - or, for the theistically-minded reader, for God.  In that Genesis story, God warned Adam and Even against eating the fruit, or "ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" - claiming to know the will of God, and brooking no argument, is a difficult position to reconcile with 'humility'.

"I'm right, you're wrong, ner-ner-ne-ner-nerrrr" is a fairly common debating approach in any field, and each specific issue debated will of course have its own characteristics, but the common characteristic of the dogmatic approach is, well, pride, and Mr Bowden is just one of very many demonstrating that.

As am I by writing this, of course, but then I'm not depressed at the moment.  Were I depressed, I would not be by any means 'proud' - I would not have the self-confidence to put this argument forward, I probably would not have the energy to write it up.  

I'm not particularly proud of the paintings used in this post, but they may demonstrate something useful; as the eChurch blog observes "shame, not pride, is the currency of mental illness", and that's what I felt when depressed. A desperate, clawing need to hide myself; I was not trying to be perfect to impress people, I was terrified of letting them down; I was a failure, unworthy.  That's how I felt when I painted these.

I now think they are awful. Go me. 8-)