California’s SB 128 – A Sickness Unto Death

May 22, 2015

In his book of the same title, the philosopher Soren Kierkegard discussed the despair that lies at the root of much of our society today. He writes of “inauthentic despair”, a despair born out of ignorance of self and of the infinite. I believe this lies at the heart of today’s debate on physician assisted suicide. That and a loss of faith. Faith gives meaning to life.
Pain is a fact of life. We can’t get around it. We are born in pain and at many times in life we live in pain. We endure in the knowledge that it will eventually pass.
The movement for personal autonomy has resulted in greater freedoms while reducing responsibility. Get pregnant? Abort it. Get high? No worries. Marriage isn’t working out too well? Get a divorce. Easy peasey.
But the emotional and physical wreckage engendered by these decisions is substantial, not only for the individual but for society. Responsibility and respect are in short supply. Human dignity is under assault.
George Orwell wrote of despair in his work. So did Aldous Huxley, especially in Brave New World. They foresaw the crushing of the soul and dehumanization of us all. The lies that we tell ourselves and others and that are imposed upon us from above.
Such is S.B. 128. Another lie. The Hemlock Society rebranded itself in the best Madison Avenue fashion with the assistance of George Soros’ money to “Compassion & Choices”. They seek to violate the first principle of the Hippocratic Oath, “First, do no harm.” It is the ultimate in hypocrisy as their base are the same people most adamantly opposed to the death penalty.

We want government to stay out of our lives but now government is intruding into the most difficult and private of decisions. The authors of S.B. 128 want to compel physicians to offer suicide assistance.
How many science fiction movies have Granny being carted off to the recycling center or state imposed termination of life when one’s usefulness is done? These are our worst nightmares. And yet this is what is proposed. It is a slippery slope. What becomes legal becomes socially acceptable becomes moral.
S.B. 128 removes the dignity of the vulnerable at life’s end. Instead of offering our age or experience as example to others, we are to be considered a burden on our families and friends. That is the ultimate indignity.
In this mirror world argument “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength” as Orwell wrote. Don’t believe the hype.
As human beings we are called to compassion. This is the argument that is being used by Soros and his allies. But we are called to dignity, which they have twisted into a meaning far removed from our inherent nobility as autonomous individuals.
This is not about compassion. This is about tearing down the ethical underpinnings that have served the global culture for 3,000 years. This is Marx’s new man. This is Huxley’s dystopia.
And so when the insurance company tells you that they won’t pay for chemotherapy but will pay for a suicide cocktail or when your children decide they want to inherit before all of the money is gone don’t be surprised. It is already happening in places where physician assisted suicide has been legalized. It has been well documented. This is Huxley’s death conditioning.
When interviewing the few survivors of suicide attempts from the Golden Gate Bridge the common theme was regret for the decision to jump. Palliative care is well developed, reasonable, and humane. There simply is no very good reason to check out early. We and our loved ones grow through the lessons at the end of life. These are some of the hardest lessons, but they are central to our humanity.
The philosophies of Marx and Nietzsche have been proven empirically wrong through the destruction of the Axis in World War II and of Communism in the early 1990’s. We are being asked to re-embrace what has been proven wrong instead of acting to become our better selves.

Advertisements

Re-examining attitudes towards addiction

Featured

“Addicts are the lepers of the 21st Century.”  So said Dr. Garrett O’Connor in his keynote address at the September California Society of Addiction Medicine conference in Anaheim, California.

They are difficult. They break the law. They can be violent and dishonest. Their conduct affects everyone around them. It destroys families and relationships. Society shuns and incarcerates them. But the fact is that close to 50 years after the War on Drugs was declared, drugs are winning. We’re doing something wrong.

Dr. O’Connor’s address was entitled Recovery and Spirituality. As our nation has become more secular we have become in many ways less logical. The default response to these issues by civil society has been incarceration; the most expensive option, rather than compassion and treatment, the most sensible.

Once addiction takes hold of an individual most are helpless without spirituality and faith. Over 1,200 medical professionals listened to Dr. O’Connor’s address but the medical profession is in general skeptical of the spiritual.

However, the empirical evidence of the effect of spirituality in the treatment of illnesses including addiction is incontrovertible. Dr. Harold Koenig and others have done extensive work on understanding how stress affects the body and how many people with faith achieve significantly superior outcomes to illnesses than those without strong faith. In a study of 100 medical research papers in 2001 conducted by Dr. Koenig, 79% of those papers reported a significant positive association between religious involvement and improved well being. Dr John Graham has also written extensively on the subject.

In addiction medicine Alcoholics Anonymous and the Salvation Army’s programs are recognized as the most successful alcohol abuse treatment programs. Both recognize that the addict cannot kick their addiction on their own. It takes a higher power, which most of us call God, to  grant the strength and will and fight the pain and anxiety. And yet as a society we refuse to recognize the importance of spirituality in recovery.

Last March, Saddleback Church and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange sponsored the Gathering on Mental Health, a call to the Church to provide effective and compassionate support to those faced with the challenges of mental illness and addiction. The first person many families turn to when faced with this trauma  is often their pastor or other spiritual guide.

And yet in the high complex environment of dual or multiple diagnoses and  the spectrum of addiction and mental illnesses, education is sadly lacking. Dealing with mental illness is difficult and with addiction even more so.

The stigma isolates the individual when they most need help. This stigma must be removed if we are to successfully address these deeply complex issues.Recovery is a long term process that never ends. So why is it that if we know Joe or Sally is in recovery that we cannot have compassion when they fall?

“There are five words that are part of every addict’s vernacular.Five words that come from the darkest place imaginable. To call it defeat would oversimplify the absolute loss of humanity. This is it; the disintegration of the soul.The point at which the body has no fight left. When helpless becomes hopeless and hopeless becomes despair.This is the moment in the game when there are no more plays. No more outs. No more options. This is the place every addict eventually gets to. The thought of living our lives without addiction is unthinkable. Even worse than the thought of living our lives with it. So when we say these five words it doesn’t come from a place of fear. It doesn’t come from a place of sadness.It comes from the core of our soul, the burning hot center that has begun to go cold.The place where nothing lives but the truth. These five words are so simple. Five little words. “I wish I was dead.”

The Cleaner

The essence of the Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation is the confession of sins and absolution. Both psychologically and spiritually, the penitent is given a second chance. It is that absolution and the spirit of compassion and forgiveness that allows even the greatest sinners to go forth and sin no more.

Addiction is a crisis of the soul and the mind as well as physiological and biochemical. The whole human must be healed. Medication, therapy, treatment and counseling are all parts of the solution and must be recognized as such.

The addict is perhaps the most difficult to treat. They are not sympathetic in many cases. But neither were lepers up until the last century.

So if we know empirically that spirituality works why is it not given a greater role in recovery? At that point where the addict wishes they were dead isn’t that the time for the greatest compassion? We have to go with what works.

Maxwell Chorak – Rest in Peace

Featured

Sunday November 2, 2014

Today is All Soul’s Day, the Dia de Los Muertos. It is an especially painful day for our family this year.

On June 10th I was called out of an early evening meeting and told that my step-son, Maxwell, had committed suicide. He had jumped from a 5 story sky bridge at UC Irvine a few hours earlier that was known as a site for suicides. The parking structure had suicide prevention tiles with hot line numbers cemented into the walls from the third floor upwards.It was the culmination of every parent’s worst nightmare.

But it had been a long time coming. Susan, my wife, and I had been living in fear of “the call” for years. She thought that it might be drugs but had never thought of suicide. We are still deeply grieving. What we do know is that the system let him down badly.

Max - 6

How does one deal with the sudden, traumatic death of a child? There are no guidebooks. It is the worst sort of emotional blow. His sister and brother are distraught. We were all deeply concerned for him but the cold reality of such a violent death at a young age is searing. But somehow we must go on and help change a broken system.

Maxwell exhibited his first signs of mental illness at the age of ten. He would act out. He raged. He sometimes became violent. When the Sheriff’s deputies got to the house they did not know what to do. At the time, my wife as a single mother was on her own trying to chart new territory. There was no place in the county to which a ten year old child could be taken to be treated for mental illness. There still isn’t.

She eventually found a psychiatrist who tried to “get” him and he was treated for bipolar/schizophrenic disorder but not formally diagnosed. But Max was using street drugs to self-medicate and the doctors pulled back.

Maxwell entered high school but it didn’t last long. He was brilliant. He was bored. He was different. But he also had charisma. He was a handsome young man with a very gentle way most of the time. But by his sophomore year he was out. His erratic behavior, drug use, and inattention just were not going to get Max through a conventional education.

He was a wonderful young man. He would take his last dollar and spend it on a gift for his brother or take his 90 year old aunt out for a pedicure and manicure. He was kind. He wanted nothing more than to hang out with his family. He loved his brother and his sister devotedly. And then the voices would whisper in his ear and it would get scary.

He was too smart for his own good. He could argue the most absurd point until even a well educated person could be fooled. He could also listen to a guitar riff or even a whole song just once and play it back brilliantly. His guitar was his refuge. He could pick up a cello never before having touched one and play it better than his mother, who had studied for years.

Maxwell took the GED test without studying and passed with flying colors. He entered the local community college. He wanted to be a doctor. Shortly before he died he was discussing textbooks for the next semester.

Clonazepam is a drug used to control seizures. Usually an adolescent is given one pill and would sleep for 18 hours. They gave Maxwell five once and still had to restrain him. Marijuana has been well documented for its terrible effect on individuals with schizophrenia. The literature discusses adverse or paradoxical effects. You bet there are.

Maxwell would eventually learn to study the side effects of the various drugs prescribed for his treatment in order that he could tell the doctors that he was having them in order to avoid the drugs. The prescription drugs left him feeling lethargic and hemmed in. At least some of the illegal ones gave him a brown haze to find refuge in.

I call him Max because it was what my grandmother called me. She too suffered from mental illness. She had a nervous breakdown in the 1930’s after being thrown out on the Brooklyn streets one too many times with her 5 children after her husband had once again squandered his plumber’s salary on booze.

She ended up at a place called Creedmoor in Queens, NY for 40 years and it was only when Thomas Szasz and his accomplices in government closed the psychiatric hospitals in the 70’s that she came to live with us. Creedmoor had been her safe place. Now her life was disrupted. When she came to live with us it was a wonderful experience because of my mother’s love and compassion. She taught us to be kind and caring.

So I had a lot of empathy for Maxwell. He had no place to be safe. There was no safety net. We have since the 1970’s gutted out mental health care programs.

His condition was slowly deteriorating. It was only when he became 17 that the handbook of the American Psychiatric Association allowed him to be formally diagnosed as schizophrenic. By that point he had been in in-patient programs in Southern California and Idaho to help treat his condition.

Max - 25

By the age of 18 he had been in the local hospitals for six 5150’s, which refers to the section of the California Welfare & Institutions code which allows for an individual to be detained for up to 72 hours for psychiatric observation.

And through all of this, Max’s friends and family became isolated from him. His mom and his family visited him when he was in treatment, but the loss of human contact was deeply upsetting. We loved him, but one of the things one encounters with the mentally ill and addicted is that it is difficult to love them in a normal manner. It is sometimes impossible to be close and to be there for them. You often don’t know what to expect and a lot of what you do expect is bad.

He was arrested for petty crimes and began the cycle of being in jail and on the street. 40% of America’s jail and prison population have mental health issues. Experts here in Orange County have told me that it is more like 70% -80% in our local jail. It is a cycle that we somehow have to break.

Maxwell was homeless at times. His interactions with law enforcement bordered on the absurd. While he was in jail he was sentenced for a “failure to appear”. He spent several months at a local mental health facility which is outsourced by the county. And then he would end up back in jail for another petty offense. He began to hear voices, holding conversations with them and laughing to himself. He would end up in the psychiatric unit.

The drugs, especially those that were self prescribed, left him in a haze that was better than the suffering, but psychoactive drugs do not affect the mentally ill the way they do others.

For most of his last 18 months Max was either at one of the very few facilities for the mentally ill in California, a drab forbidding site in Riverside, or in jail. Maxwell was a prime candidate for long term care. But there is almost none available. There are 5,900 acute mental health care beds in a state of 34,000,000 people. There are almost no long term facilities. And there are an estimated 1.5 million Californians with serious mental illness.

When he was released from the facility (you really can’t call it a hospital) in Riverside he stayed with his father. He saw his brother and mom and things were looking up. He had a great day with an old friend just hanging out. He left his father’s house one night and didn’t come home.

He was found the next day in a catatonic state in a local park and taken to the emergency room. He was then transferred to UCI Medical Center, the regional acute mental health unit, where he stayed for 9 days.

When we were informed of his admission to UCI his mother immediately contacted the doctors and nurses regarding his care. Maxwell did very poorly on Haldol, the drug of choice for the zombification (aka control) of the symptoms of schizophrenia in state run facilities. We knew this from years of experience. Haldol can cause severe depression.
We knew that Risperdal was more effective for Max and told his doctors so. The nurse responsible for him told my wife “It doesn’t make any difference since they don’t stay on their meds when they leave here anyway.” They put him on a maximum dose of Haldol.

She had requested that she and Maxwell’s dad be notified before he was released. This did not happen. Max was released at @ 1:30PM on the day of his death with the clothes on his back and a bus pass given to him by the hospital. He took the bus directly to the main campus of UCI several miles away and jumped almost immediately. After his mother found out and after collapsing, she called the hospital to ask why he had been released. There was silence at the other end of the line.

To this day we don’t know if Maxwell jumped because he was disoriented on Haldol or because of other factors. We will never know. That hurts.

The system is broken. Many of the professionals are callous and uncaring. There are petty jealousies and a lack of communication. The system as designed and implemented is malevolent. Our brothers and sisters with mental health issues are warehoused in our jails and in a very limited number of beds. We read daily of misdiagnoses and maldiagnoses and even misconduct in psychiatric care.

Treating mental illness is a matter of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. It is perhaps the most difficult of illnesses. With the mentally ill there are often no good answers. As a society, we don’t want to know. We don’t want to deal with them on a concrete level. The mentally ill are often stigmatized. And at the most basic family level it can be heart wrenching.

But Max is gone. He will be a statistic to most but he will have left a massive hole in the hearts of his family and friends. There is little understanding left except that he was deeply, fatally mentally ill in a world that does not treat those who suffer from this very well. He is at peace now.

We can honor him by doing better, as individuals and as a society.

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

Mother Teresa

© Matthew Holzmann 2014

8th Grader dies of overdose – Media silent

b6fc9d2c155111e3931722000a1fc67c_6The other day, an 8th grader at Niguel Hills Middle School in Laguna Niguel, CA died of a drug overdose. The cause of Branden Stock’s death was Vicodin, one of the most commonly prescribed drugs.

The only media report of his death was on Channel 5 News. His school and the district said nothing at all beyond their confines. He died at home alone. Imagine finding your child or your best friend cold and lifeless and there’s nothing you can do. His friends held a memorial service at Salt Creek Beach, where I spent many days in the water surfing like Branden was said to have loved to.

The death of a child is the most painful thing a parent goes through. No one should have to endure this burden. And yet his parents will carry this sadness for their entire lives. His friends will remember for a while and then more rarely and maybe a few will remember to pray for his soul sometimes over the course of their lives.

That the death barely made the news is indicative of the problem. Drug abuse begins in 6th-8th grade now. Kids are experimenting and going through new emotions and have left the cocoon of grade school. And the availability has never been greater. The taboos are gone. “Everyone is doing it.” I heard the same thing when I was a kid. And here we are 40 years later and we’re still getting it wrong.

And it’s not just public schools. It’s everywhere. Catholic schools, prep schools. If you go to the parking lot of Gelson’s in Newport Beach you can usually score within minutes. The Port Streets in Newport are considered one of the last bastions of the Ozzie & Harriet lifestyle and the drugs and alcohol usage by kids is pervasive. Laguna Niguel and every town in Orange County are the same.

Prescription drugs are the new battlefield. Vicodin, Codeine, Oxycontin, Zanax, Opana, Percocet, and Valium are all being abused at record levels. Between dirty doctors, pill shopping, and stealing from mom & dad’s medicine cabinet it is an epidemic. That people can even obtain some of these drugs like Opana, which is prescribed for very limited applications, indicates how awry the system is. And it is hitting 12 & 13 year olds, those who haven’t got a clue, the worst.

And after they can’t find the prescription drugs or can’t afford them, heroin lurks in the background ready to offer a brown haze from which there is little chance of escape. $80 for an Oxycontin or $6 for a bindle of Afghan white or black tar? This is the reality on the street here in the OC.

The Orange County Register did an article a few weeks back on heroin abuse in our high schools. The number of OC kids trying heroin has doubled since 2006. And once heroin has you it is a monkey on your back that is very difficult to remove.

And a lot of people just don’t want to know. Two girls were caught recently smoking heroin in a bathroom at Laguna Beach High School. “The girls caught smoking was an “isolated incident,” Laguna Beach High Principal Joanne Culverhouse said.”

30 years ago when I lived in Dana Point, Laguna Beach High School had one of the worst drug problems in the county. Nothing changes much, it seems. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.

In San Clemente, the community has bonded together through CURE, which links the church, counselors, schools, parents, other stakeholders and the kids. We need such programs in every city. Every loss of a child is one too many.

Education is vital and we need to get to the heart of the matter and educate parents and children about the consequences of bad choices. We have the resources. But first we must recognize the problem honestly and without blinkers.

Drug abuse and self medication are the scourges of our times. Between addiction and mental health issues we have responded in a woeful manner. We must open our eyes and our hearts to this plague.

 

 

Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Sartre, Foucault, Gramsci – Getting It All Wrong

Michael Totten noted the publication of the diary of the philosopher Martin Heidegger as critiqued in the most recent issue of The Weekly Standard with proper disgust. You see, Heidegger was an early convert to Naziism and even though he lived until 1976 he never expressed any regrets.

As  the most admired philosopher of the 20th century except for his political philosophy, Heidegger questioned the very essence of Being. That which had been assumed to be obvious for 2,500 years was called into question. “Cogito ergo sum” and all of the other variations on that theme became “WTF?”

The essence of philosophy centers on Ontology, or the nature of being; Epistemology, the nature and scope of knowledge; Logic, Metaphysics (the eternal why), and Aesthetics. Heidegger’s premise was to turn the work of his predecessors on its ear and deconstruct the history and principles of Western philosophy.

Heidegger’s work was considered the epitome of 20th century philosophy. His followers included Sartre, Derrida, and Foucault, the architects of modern existentialism, deconstructionism, and relativism and revisionism. His reputation was built on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Heidegger felt that Nietzsche was the culmination of Western metaphysics.

Nietzsche built his theories on Kierkegaard’s work and the dynamic of the aesthetic versus the ethical.  Nietzsche  attempted to synthesize Kierkegaard’s deeply held sense of the religious and of commitment and personal responsibility to strive for a higher level of being into the core principles of existentialism as outlined in “Man & Superman” which became the basis for Hitler’s Aryanism and perversely for Stalin’s New Soviet Man as well.

But it must be pointed out that Nietzsche was the Jim Morrison of 19th Century philosophy. He lived the lifestyle and threw philosophical bombs regularly. His arguments were contradictory, but the complexity and sheer scale of his eruptions of thought were overwhelming in the Victorian Age when all began to be questioned. He campaigned against morality and God Himself. He attacked the dichotomy of good and evil and his central expression of nihilism was the  greatest assault upon the nature of good and evil in history. He railed against Socrates and Aristotle and called for the death of metaphysics in favor of a transfigurative collapse and rebirth of the superman, separated from the masses through intellect and force of will.

This is the foundation of modern philosophy. The triumph of the Id over the Ego and Superego.

Existentialism fit the times. As all of the old order in Europe was collapsing in the midst of World War I the old ways were under extreme pressure. Religion, so deeply identified with the state in Europe, became another casualty of war. Faith was challenged by the carnage. The absurdity of war bred the absurdity of surrealism. Expressionism became another outlet for the authenticity demanded of existentialism.

Existentialists argues that authentic existence involves the idea that one has to “create oneself” and then live in accordance with this self. And yet Kierkegaard was explicit in his faith in an authentically Christian life well led. Nietzsche preferred the romanticism and role of the natural man outlined by Rousseau and this help synthesize his own ideal.

Marx and Engels developed the theories of dialectical materialism and class struggle that entranced those disillusioned by the economic divides of the Industrial Age. The romance of Nietzsche and of Rousseau was transformed into the new, atheist city on a hill offered by Marxism. In Germany Nietzsche’s social Darwinism drove National Socialism. the failure of both systems was both practically and philosophically inevitable in retrospect.

This was proven starkly by the fall of first the Nazi, and then the Soviet Empires. The moral and ethical underpinnings of each were rotten. Sartre defended Marxism, arguing that it had been applied incorrectly. We are still waiting on the workers paradise.

Foucault and Derrida pushed existential thought even further, into deconstructionism and revisionism. Gramsci’s contribution was historicism. Ideas simply cannot be understood outside of their historical or social contexts.  If all philosophies are simply alternative narratives how can one be held to be better than another? And if one can disassemble and then reassemble the facts into a new narrative that supports ones views, how can any narrative be true? There is, then, no objective truth according to these theories.

And yet this flies in the face of logic. Of course, both logic and metaphysics posit the existence of a higher force, God, who does not exist because His existence cannot be empirically proven according to the new rules.

But, as C.S. Lewis points out, the Tao exists across philosophies and cultures.

“The Tao, which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or…ideologies…all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they posses.”

This set of principles has been arrived at completely separately in many cultures; In Greece; by the Jews; in India; in China. Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many other traditions all reflect similar values on the basic levels.

These were not formulated as the tools for domination or the social constructs rationalizing ruling classes as deconstructionists or Marxists believe, but rather as social compacts derived from divine sources.

The histories of civilizations were best prepared by scholars to accurately depict the events of the times under study. Perhaps certain biases seep into narratives, but overall these histories are confirmed by multiple sources; scientific, mathematical, and historical. In each tradition accountability was demanded by a shared responsibility to future generations. You may not like some of history, but you are not allowed to choose that history. It can be critiqued, but it cannot be changed.

So if the foundations for modern philosophy can be so easily discredited why have our intelligentsia chosen not to do so?

Rationalism demands logic and order. Facts must be confirmed. The greater the theory, the more demanding the criticism of that theory must be in order to confirm or deny it. And yet if rationalism and logic are denied, how can we ascertain the essential truth.

Marxist dialectics emphasizes the primacy of the material way of life over all forms of social consciousness and the secondary, dependent character of the “ideal.”Thus as with Nietzsche’s theory God does not exist.

As St. Thomas Aquinas argued for the existence of God, there are 5 principles:

Motion -Some things undoubtedly move, though cannot cause their own motion. Since there can be no infinite chain of causes of motion, there must be a First Mover not moved by anything else, and this is what everyone understands by God.

Causation- As in the case of motion, nothing can cause itself, and an infinite chain of causation is impossible, so there must be a First Cause, called God.

Existence of necessary and the unnecessary- Our experience includes things certainly existing but apparently unnecessary. Not everything can be unnecessary, for then once there was nothing and there would still be nothing. Therefore, we are compelled to suppose something that exists necessarily, having this necessity only from itself; in fact itself the cause for other things to exist.

Gradation- If we can notice a gradation in things in the sense that some things are more hot, good, etc., there must be a superlative that is the truest and noblest thing, and so most fully existing. This then, we call God.

 

Ordered tendencies of nature- A direction of actions to an end is noticed in all bodies following natural laws. Anything without awareness tends to a goal under the guidance of one who is aware. This we call God.

The alternative is that Sh*t just happened. Which is more logical?

Today the vestiges of Nietzsche, Marx, Derrida, Sartre, and Foucault live on in a world of wishful thinking. Our intelligentisia see the world as the want or demand it to be rather than as it is. The destruction of logic and of critical thinking is leading to a new dark age, not in a physical sense but rather as one of illogic and superstition.

As we are finding out the hard way with dictators and national interests, reality is conflicting with the received wisdom. Despite 2,500 years of dialectics, we are being coerced into beliefs which defy logic.

Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury and others wrote of the dangers of modern irrationalism. Hofer’s True Believer was based upon the zealots of Naziism and Communism. Book burnings did happen. Races and those who disagreed were exterminated. The Jews, the kulaks in Ukraine, 50,000,000 victims of the cultural revolution and 3,000,000 more in Cambodia were all sacrificed within living memory on the altar of atheistic idealism.

Even in the face of the evidence the intelligentsia still hold many of those same beliefs in historicism and relativism and failed ideologies.

And yet the alternative is so simple that it has been obfuscated in a hurricane of sophism. All God has ever asked is to be believed. It’s called faith. Nietzsche is long dead. God isn’t.

To be continued…..

 

A Great Disturbance in the Force – The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church

An incredible thing happened the other day and I am still digesting it. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange and Saddleback Church held “The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church“. This is a first certainly for California and perhaps for the world. From all over Southern California and the country, 3,500 people gathered at Saddleback Church and thousands more participated on-line in a frank discussion of how faith-based organizations can contribute more to ameliorate a problem that is growing out of control.

We live in an increasingly secular world today that is overwhelming us both emotionally and physically. New technology is bringing us closer together than ever before and yet isolating us even further. Old boundaries are crumbling and as a culture we are becoming ever more dysfunctional. The effects of our physical and psychological world are taking a toll on our souls that is sometimes unbearable. The widespread availability of drugs both legal and illegal has turned us into a self medicating nation.

According to the experts at the Gathering, 26% of adult Americans will be diagnosed with some form of mental illness this year. 7-8% of our population suffers from addiction. from depression to bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to personality disorders were are facing a crisis.

These are issues that hide in the back of our collective closets. Individuals feel stigmatized and marginalized and our societal bias against the mentally ill and addicted is deep and pervading. Families are tortured and damaged and the mentally ill are reduced to hopelessness by a system that is deeply fractured and nonresponsive.

There is a War on Drugs that costs over $50 Billion/year. Mental health treatment costs our nation over $170 Billion/year. Incarceration costs our country over $40 Billion/year. And there are significant overlaps. And what is ever more clear is that we are doing it wrong.

Government is the large hammer. Our medical system is designed to prescribe medicine and perform surgery. Even psychiatry has been increasingly defined as the adjustment and prescription of medications.

The etymology of the words psychology and psychiatry is the Greek word ψυχή, or soul. And yet in our modern, rationalist, scientistic world the soul is the last thing that is considered in the treatment of mental illness. Holistic treatment of mental illness is secondary to biochemical investigation and treatment. And this is where faith based organizations are increasingly seeing the need and the gap.

Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop Kevin Vann assembled a stellar array of health care professionals, psychiatrists, neurologists, and mental health experts from a wide range of specialties in order to examine and propose how faith based organizations can deliver effective care to those with mental health problems.

Saddleback Church has taken mental health on as one of their core ministries. Church is one of the first stops for many people with mental health issues and their families. Faith helps individuals and families cope and hope.

But there is a wall between faith and the rest of the world today that must be broken down if we are serve our brothers and sisters effectively. I am not neutral in this. I have skin in the game. We lose two young people per week to overdoses just in Orange County and mental health issues have affected my own family.

In studying what works in addiction treatment, 12 step programs stand out as the most effective tool. What is even more evident is that compassionate faith based recovery and treatment increase the likelihood of a successful outcome. Almost every study confirms these results. Compassion and empathy are critical.

Working with those with addictions and mental illness is among the most challenging of callings. Addicts are often not nice people. Certain mental illnesses can be especially difficult to cope with on a daily basis. I know.

But it is often that engagement that is at the heart of the matter. Depression may not be logical but to know that someone cares and is listening can be a lifeline.Borderline Personality Disorder is a license for drama and conflict but can be managed. Dual diagnoses such as Bipolar Disorder/Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder/Addiction require fortitude and compassion as well.

And yet our society is doing its best to remove faith from our national dialog. We warehouse the addicted and mentally ill in our prisons and an emaciated psychiatric treatment system. The VA is very good at dispensing pills but is not so good at counseling and longer term treatment of problems such as PTSD. Government is the large hammer and a scalpel is often required in mental health treatment.

Modern humanism has become a cult of its own using deconstruction, revisionism, and disproven cultural models such as Marxism to support an ever growing disassociation from reality. Perhaps this may contribute to the psychological dissonance of the mentally ill and addicted. They are adrift in a culture that makes little logical sense.

Faith is the ultimate expression of reason. It is only through logic and metaphysics that we can make sense of the world around us. It is imperative that we as a society use all of the available tools at our disposal to re-think mental health care and treatment.

Stigmatization has done terrible damage to the mentally ill and everyone around them. The first step is to remove this stigmatization. The Church is one of the most effective tools for doing so.

The Church, as was made obvious time and again during the Gathering on Mental Health, can also take a lead position in working with specialists in providing a support network and counseling of the mentally ill and their families. As Pastor Rick Warren and Bishop Vann said time and again, the Church can also take a lead role in counseling and providing resources to those with mental health issues. The Church is one of the first stops, regardless.

Mental health issues are some of the most delicate and complex to face those involved in them. Proper training, empathy, and the right personalities are critical to successful outcomes. It is not for the faint of heart. Compassion and competence must go hand in hand. It is not just a job. It is a calling.

Who better to make this critical contribution but the Church? We have been on the front lines of health care, both physical and mental, since the beginning. The Byzantine Church was the first to set up hospitals in the form quite recognizable now. Today we are being called to re-think and to commit to a new ministry, the healing of minds and souls.

The Gathering was a call to arms for Christians. To open our hearts and our eyes and our minds to the treatment of mental illness. Movements, like chemical reactions start with catalysts. I believe this was one of them.  The Force has been disturbed in a great and wondrous way.

 

A Prayer for the Ukraine

The world is once again watching aghast as a dictator prepares to invade a neighboring country. Russia has massed its armies on the border of Ukraine.

Ukraine has been the bread basket of Russia for centuries. It was a primary goal of the German invasion of 1941. The Germans wanted to re-settle it in their quest for lebensraum. Prior to this, the kulaks of Ukraine were slaughtered by Stalin for their resistance to collectivization. It is the prize of Eastern Europe. And the same kind of oppression is once again stalking the land.

40 years ago the world was riven by the Cold War and the threat of a nuclear winter. A communist dictatorship oppressed all of Eastern Europe. It was unthinkable in 1978 that the Soviet Empire would fall. Communism was on the move through proxies in Central America and Angola.  The communists were supporting the ANC in South Africa. Vietnam and Cambodia had fallen. The Fulda Gap in Germany was to be the new Armageddon.The West was dismayed and confused.

There is an old saying that we Catholics get the Pope that we need in times of trouble.

By the late 1970’s a unique man had fought against the oppression and  tyranny of the human soul by communism in Poland for over 30 years. He preached non-violent resistance. He stood for God and for human dignity above all else. He preached the word of God in a country that imprisoned those who did so. He preached the community of faith, not just Catholic Christianity. His actions in defending Jews from the Nazi genocide and his transformation of relations with the Jewish faith are well-known. He met with the Dalai Lama eight times and stressed the bonds of faith between Christianity and Buddhism. He did the same with many faiths.

Karol Wojtila was elected Pope on October 16, 1978 and took the name John Paul II. For the next 10 years he worked tirelessly for the causes of faith, freedom and human rights around the world. This was done through prayer, diplomacy, and fostering the same principles used by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

He was God’s warrior in Eastern Europe, Nicaragua, Chile, Rwanda, Haiti, and anywhere there was oppression.

He worked with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher to create the circumstances for change. And in 1979 when he visited Poland he inspired the Solidarity Movement, which led to peaceful change in Poland. In 1989 the Berlin Wall, the greatest symbol of communist oppression, fell. Then the communists fell, peacefully.

A world which had been in conflict for over 70 years had a chance at real peace. This was foretold by the revelations of Fatima. These are not religious mutterings but well documented predictions long in advance of any scientific or historical evidence to support them. What else can one think but that they are true? The facts speak for themselves.

And today we are once again faced with fear and repression. The world is deeply corrupt. The powerful have become more powerful and injustice reigns.

John Paul II stood against that same injustice and oppression and won a great victory for man and God. Religious freedom was restored and flourished in the East.

John Paul II was beatified and placed on the road to sainthood almost immediately after his death.

We Catholics do not worship our saints, as some people suppose. We venerate them for their holiness and pray for their intercession with God to help us endure the unendurable, heal the ill, and for God’s help with our own personal travails and problems. We believe in God’s infinite mercy and direct intercession in human life.

In 1979 no one in their right mind believed that the Soviet Empire, which was in total conflict with religion, would fall. Ten years later it did. Is that not miraculous?

And today, for different reasons, another dictator is on the move. Who more appropriate than John Paul II to pray to for his intercession with Our Lord? When presidents and kings stand helpless or worse, it can only be through prayer that we find another miracle to avert a disaster of the human soul.

Reach out to John Paul the Great as we now call him. The power of prayer is real and is awe inspiring.Together, perhaps we can make a difference.