Marius: And anyway, Gerhard, rationalism for all it has given mankind…
Gerhard: And let’s be clear, it’s given us science, so be careful, without rationalism we’d still be stuck with rampant superstition.
Marius: Fair enough, but how, please tell me, will you ever get a cocaine addict to kick the habit rationally? I mean come now really! ‘Mr Addict, I think you need to think about this, I think you need to think about your addiction. If you think about it hard enough, you’ll realise you are doing yourself harm.’ Merely thinking about the addiction will never get the bloke to seek out help.
Gerhard: What are you saying? That belief in Jesus will magically “cure” an addict?
Marius: No, although many fundamentalists will be quick to tell you that “all you need is Jesus”; I think, well, I don’t know; I think the idea that there is a bond of trust and love that transcends life and connects us to a sense of the Divine may give someone suffering from addiction the hope that they can overcome the addiction.
Gerhard: Fair enough, but you touch precisely on the problem, when someone is told that by only accepting Christian doctrine that they will somehow be cured.
Marius: But my question really touches upon a deeper sense of how humans have tried to define what “evil” is.
Gerhard: It is dangerous to all an addict “evil”; he/she is suffering from a disease!
Marius: Okay, but before we decide who or what is at fault here, the idea is pretty simple and actually involves one of the earlier ideas of what evil is, as expressed in the Talmud.
Gerhard: Oh, this is going to be interesting!
Marius: The idea is that you become accustomed to your habits, good and bad. The Talmud speaks of “wayfarer”, “guest” and, finally “master”. It’s like Geoffrey Rush’s character in Candy, talking about heroin addiction: “While you can stop, you don’t wanna; when you wanna stop, you can’t!”
Gerhard: I suppose I would have to admit to some extent that this process describes corruption of the rational. I can appreciate how you first steal a few coins and tell yourself you needed the money to surface, soon you end up stealing larger quantities…
Marius: But there is actually more, you happen to find people that share your point of view in life, and soon you have company, as the old saying goes “evil loves company”.
Gerhard: Okay, but no human being is just a rational entity! And in any case, someone without belief in God also have a conscience and an emotional sense.
Marius: Maybe, but the fact of the matter is, without belief in God someone would never even make the effort to choose to change! I have seen how countless people who suffer from unhappiness due to violence at home, adultery and even full-fledged drug addiction manage to overcome these difficulties because they accepted Jesus into their hearts! And, just for the record, the wayfarer-guest-master idea can be applied to each of these “crimes”, home violence as well as adultery, not to mention pornography!
Gerhard: Okay, this is where I must disagree with you. Firstly,…
Marius: I’m not finished, Gerhard. The point is that what really happened is that the person came to believe he can ensure his own happiness. In the end the person stopped trusting God to help him. His trust in himself became his worst idol. He think he is God himself.
Gerhard: Wow! Now you’re going a bit fast here mate, firstly; I’ve been reading up about religious and secular supports for all sorts of “evil writ small”.
Marius: “Writ small”???
Gerhard: Yeah, you know; when it basically comes down to a single person needing help because he finds himself caught by his own actions.
Marius: See! You admit it is because the person thought of himself as God!
Gerhard: No mate, I admit that we all have the capacity to make mistakes when we trust ourselves, which is why the trick is to find a balance!
Marius: There is no need to find a ‘balance’, that is just disguised relativism! And it’s the kind of talk you’d expect of you liberal types. Where will you find the balance with in any case?
Gerhard: Okay, but it is also in any case rather unfair to claim that the individual trusting himself will necessarily lead to unhappiness!
Marius: You are wrong, Gerhard, I can say with absolute certainty that it is exactly because an individual begins to trust himself rather than God that things go horribly wrong. Because God is light, and the absence of God is darkness, and once you trust yourself, you will inevitable end up in utter darkness.
Gerhard: Really? One of my best friends developed depression during high school, because his parents was going through divorce.
Marius: See again! I told you not trusting God leads to unhappiness, those parents would never have divorced if they were really Christian!
Gerhard: Yeah, but you see her mom also became very sad about the whole thing and she finally started going to church again and she found salvation in Christ. Annie* only told me about it a few days later. Annie had been taking anti-depressants, I think it was Zoloft? Yeah, anyways, she was thinking the meds were not really helping her much and after seeing her mom she really thought that there is finally hope for her.
Marius: I am so glad her mom had made an effort to get back to church.
Gerhard: Yeah, her mom had some kind of conversion experience. She went up to the front and the pastor prayed for her and she said for the first time in her life she finally felt peace like she had never before. Annie told me her mom said that that was the most important thing that had ever happened to her in her life. And Annie could see her mom was happier and this gave her hope.
Marius: There are so many miracles that happen every day, and the sceptics just shoot them down. If they were not so blind they would see!
Gerhard: Anyways, Annie started going to the same church and she definitely started to look better at school, so I went with her to church once, but they were very loud and clappy and I was used to the moral formal liturgy of the Dutch Reformed setup so I didn’t go back. About three months later Annie told me how she had finally accepted Jesus in her heart.
Marius: How fantastic! Another saved person, God works in so many mysterious ways. Sometimes even the divorce of parents can be a method that God uses to bring His children to Him.
Gerhard: Mmmm… maybe, but her pastor told her that what she didn’t really know is that this unhappiness in her life is probably because she was being attacked by Satan. He told her she, as everyone else, is part of a big cosmic battle and she must pray that Satan let her go. In fact, since she has depression, she may already have spirits in her that is causing her to follow Satan. The pastor told her that she needed to be saved urgently and to fully accept Jesus in her life before it is too late!
Marius: This sounds like a wise man, not blind like you atheists!
Gerhard: This shocked her deeply, and so she prayed with the pastor that Jesus bring her peace. And apparently it worked. The felt the Holy Spirit filling her soul. That is what she said, and at that moment she knew she was finally cured of the depression. She immediately stop taking her medication.
Marius: Wow! How wonderful! God saves everyone, He literally wants everyone to be with Him. He will never turn a single soul away! And Jesus is really the only way to find peace.
Gerhard: Things were fine at first, she did better at school, she was genuinely happier. I almost could not believe my own eyes. She felt a deep sense of connection to God and was even prayed during breaks when eating her food there at class, which she never used to do…
Marius: This happens because once you accept Jesus into your life that deeply felt sense of love is overwhelming, you want to do right before the eyes of God. You want to pray all the time! You want to tell the whole world about the Glory of God!!!
Gerhard: It was about two months later that Annie started to have strange panic attacks. I remember when her mom phoned me absolutely shattered. Annie committed suicide by allowing the exhaust gases of her mom’s car to drain the last drop of life out of her system. I still remember going over to the house and finding her still there with her hair sort of hanging over the steering wheel. By then she was frigging ice cold. It was way too late. Even telling you this now makes my stomach churn.
Marius: But this cannot be true!
Gerhard: Marius, I was there when the whole thing happened. A week later during the burial the pastor was quick to tell everyone how God had punished her parents for their sins and how they must make haste to do right by God before He punishes them even more. Annie died because God wanted to teach her parents a lesson, apparently.
Marius: But you can’t judge the faith just by the actions of one congregation!
Gerhard: In the end, what I’ve come to realise, after suffering from depression myself when I was earlier, the only mistake that Annie had made, was to trust “God”, when “God” convinced her to stop taking her medication. Any old psychiatrist would be able to tell you that suddenly stopping your anti-depression medication can have fatal consequences. And yet, even if a psychiatrist did tell her to stop, she would never have even listened, because she was convinced God had told her to stop taking her meds. I don’t quite remember that well, but I even think I remember her telling me how the whole church got excited when they heard she had finally let Jesus “remove” the “demons” from her heart and congratulated her that she had finally allowed God to tell her what to do, rather than herself or the “foolish” medical profession.
[*Name was changed for reasons of privacy.]