Monday, April 11, 2011


I miss the show "Monk". There's just something about a detective who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder piecing together clues from a crime scene while being afraid of the germs on a doorknob. Of course, that's just one characterization. You can flip through TV and see shows on "strange addictions" and hoarding. You can look around and see people bite their fingernails or pick at their skin. And there are many other examples of such behaviors. The fundamental basis behind these compulsive actions is a need to control one's environment when feeling uncomfortable. That's not to diminish the seriousness of OCD to some people. It can be a serious debilitating psychological disease.

But imagine if Christians felt the same need. Imagine feeling so uncomfortable in this sinful world that we would do anything, no matter how odd it may appear, to control our environment. What would you do if you had a spiritual version of OCD? Would you run from someone trying to seduce you, even if that meant leaving your clothes behind (like Joseph)? Would you leave a successful business to follow around a homeless guy who claimed to be the Son of God (like Peter and Andrew)? Would you allow yourself to be tortured and killed even though you are wrongly accused (like Jesus)? Would you be willing to abandon the religion of your youth, the rigorous training, and the cause you've felt called to (like Paul)? Chapter 8 of Francis Chan's Crazy Love gives more examples.

Disclaimer: There is such a thing as a spiritual, religious version of OCD. It's called scrupulosity. Usually this is manifested as a guilt that is felt so deeply it shows as a serious case of depression. Like clinical cases of OCD, this can be debilitating, preventing someone from functioning normally. But what is normal? Quitting a job because you choose to put Christ first may not be normal, and it can be financially stressful, but is that debilitating? Not giving in to the latest popular fad may not be normal, and it may cause us to be outcast from society, but should that cause concern? I know many who have chosen to follow Christ to such an extreme that their families would seek to "deprogram" them through the same psychological treatments used to treat OCD.

But I don't hear of cases like that too often anymore. I think the "abnormal" behaviors that we should expect from Christians are even considered too weird for our own churches today. We like routine. And so we've created religion around a list of rules that we know and understand in advance. Don't throw any new expectations my way and don't raise the standards, I might feel too uncomfortable. Well maybe I have scrupulosity, because I am extrememly uncomfortable in the comfortable church.

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