Sometimes I think these things go hand in hand. And it saddens me. I am a Christian. I am a Mormon, but lately, I have been hearing things from Mormons and other Christians that make me wonder how we follow the same Saviour.
I live in Happy Valley, Utah. (Not it's real name, you won't find it on a map), which is a bastion of Conservativism. I am not a conservative, in case that has not been clear in previous posts. It is also a bastion of Mormonism. And as Mormons, one of the things we like to focus on is that, despite some belief otherwise, we are Christian. But, what does it mean to be Christian? I know that some churches and religions and people define it as a belief in the Trinity or some such, but to me to be a Christian is to be like Christ. Now, I know I am not perfect. FAR from it. But, neither are you.
I am tired of Christians, or any other flavor of people who consider themselves moral, upright, good people, writing off those who sin differently than they do. Just because you choose a different flavor of sin doesn't mean you are better than anyone else. You sin, too, I know you do. If you didn't, you would have been translated by now. Since you are still here, I can only come to one conclusion. You have your own sins. We all have our own sins. ALL OF US. Can we please, for the love of all that is good and holy, be CHRISTIAN about it?
Phillip Seymour Hoffman died a couple of days ago from heroin overdose. And what do I hear from many people? "Well, he shouldn't have stuck the needle in his arm." As though he deserved to die for being a relapsed addict. No, OF COURSE he shouldn't have stuck a needle in his arm. But, he's AN ADDICT. Addicts don't make rational decisions about things like that. That's what makes them addicts. If they were able to make a rational decision about such a thing, they wouldn't be addicts, because no one in their right mind does that.
Addiction is a mental illness, friends. AN ILLNESS. Sure, maybe if when he was a hormonal and non-thinking teenager, the guy with substance abuse problems hadn't taken that first painkiller or that first drink or whatever poison you want to choose, maybe he would never have discovered he was an addict. But, addicts are people with an illness. Maybe if you hadn't let Johnnie ride his bike down the street he wouldn't have fallen and broken his arm. Shall I blame you for that?
Yep, addicts have screwed up. They took that one step that revealed their predilection to addiction. The one step too far. The one step too far that many of us have taken, but lacking the mental illness of addiction, didn't end in the same place for the rest of us.
I am not saying that addicts shouldn't take responsibility for their behaviour. Of course they should. People with any kind of mental illness have to be responsible for their behaviour. But, need we be so cruel? Need we say, well, if you hadn't done _________, you wouldn't be where you are. No shit, Sherlock. They KNOW that. They are broken. People with mental illnesses are ILL. Their brains are broken in certain spots. Would you like to know something? My brain is broken in certain spots. No, I am not an addict, but I have my own genetic mental issues to deal with. I did not cause them. They are not the result of sin or bad choices, though I've certainly been made to feel that they are. And I take medication to fix those broken spots. (Don't worry, I've been told that taking medication for my mental health problems is being weak and dependent. I should be stronger, pray more, etc. Please, may I say that to you the next time you break your leg? Forget the medical help. You don't need painkillers or a doctor, just pray harder, I'm sure your leg will heal on it's own.) I am lucky, in that my medication works really well most of the time. Addicts don't have that benefit. There is no magic pill that fixes addiction. There is intense work that can be done to help rewire the brain to better resist addiction. There are precautions that can be taken to reduce the risk of relapse into addiction. And these things are incredibly hard work. Harder than you or I or anyone without this problem can possibly imagine.
So, how about this. How about instead of shrugging our shoulders and saying "well, he shouldn't have used to begin with." or "he shouldn't have started down that path." or "he should have followed the rules/commandments/pick your religious text", we say instead, "Yes, we acknowledge that you have messed up. We acknowledge that you made the wrong decision. And we acknowledge that the results for your wrong decision are worse than they might be for someone else. It led you down the wrong path and ended with this. And now we are here to help you get back on the right path, because we acknowledge that you cannot do it yourself. And because we are Christians, because we are good, moral, Christlike people, we will do this."
It won't always work. There are some addicts and others with other mental illnesses that won't be able to receive your help. Not because they don't want to. But because, for the most part, they can't. But don't shrug them off. They don't deserve to die. They deserve your kindness, or at the very least, your pity, if you cannot give them your love.
But, don't pat yourself on the back because you escaped addiction by your own good sense. You have your own sins and your own issues and God will judge you against yourself, just as he judges everyone against themselves. And remember, to whom much is given, much is expected. You don't know what inner battles are being fought by anyone. So be kind. It can't hurt. And it might help.