The past decade has seen a significant movement toward understanding between psychiatrists and ministers. Previously they had looked at each other with suspicion and even hostility. Ministers often felt that psychiatry was destructive of Christian faith, and psychiatrists often felt that ministers only complicated the problem in trying to deal with the emotionally ill. Both sides had some basis in fact for these feelings. Many clergymen seemed to think that neurotics were more guilty than sick, that they needed censure more than counseling, law more than gospel. On the other hand, psychiatrists were too much concerned with libidinal drives and organic causes, and often assumed that religious expression was in itself a neurotic symptom.

The whole picture today is rapidly changing. Clergymen are beginning to understand emotional “illness” and depth psychology, while psychiatrists are beginning to realize that religion can be a powerful factor in mental health. A steady stream now pouring forth articles and books on psychiatry and religion are dealing searchingly with the problem of their rapprochement. Seminaries are offering courses on these subjects, and clinical training for ministers is being provided in many places. Some medical schools are also using ministers to broaden the insights of their students. And most significant is the fact that the American Psychiatric Association at its 1959 convention had a panel discussion and two papers on the subject, along with the hint that a section on Psychiatry and Religion might be formed in the near future. In addition to such developments, resident chaplains in mental hospitals are becoming the rule rather than the exception, and are being included in the therapeutic “team.”

Evangelicals are in no position to say “I told you so.” They, even more than others, have been suspicious and hostile toward psychiatry and have done little that could be called constructive and positive. However, a small group of Christian doctors, ministers, and laymen in the United States brought psychiatry and Christianity together in a concrete way more than 50 years ago. They put Christian mercy into action by establishing Christian mental hospitals at a time when mental hospital conditions were generally deplorable, when Clifford Beers (The Mind that Found Itself) was just beginning his great work, and the National Committee for Mental Hygiene had started (1909).

They were a small band of people and still are today, but their vision and labors have been signally blessed.

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There are today three Christian mental hospitals in the United States, established and supported primarily by members of the Christian Reformed and Reformed Church in America. Their purpose is to minister to the mentally ill as “persons” with spiritual needs as well as mental and physical. This is not to say that the originators understood fully the relation between psychiatry and religion, or that their chaplain was oriented in depth psychology. They too had to grow with the rest of the profession. But one thing they held as a firm conviction: the “insane” are not beyond the healing hand of God, and the Christian faith can be meaningful to the mentally ill as well as to other sick people. Each of these hospitals is established by its own society or association of members who elect a Board of Trustees which sets the policies, engages the staff, and is responsible for the operation of the hospital. They are independent of each other though they have the same viewpoint and are supported by the same church denominations in their own areas.

These hospitals were established primarily to serve the mentally ill of the supporting Reformed churches. Its founders felt, and this is their position today, that Christian patients have special needs that can be met only by therapists with Christian preconceptions. Problems of sin, guilt, prayer, sex, and so many others which disturb the mentally ill cannot be dealt with understandingly by a psychiatrist or counselor with non-Christian standards and values. This is not to say that a non-Christian psychiatrist can never help a Christian patient; they can sometimes be a great help. But personality “wholeness” and “health” can mean something different for a Christian than for a non-Christian, even different for a Protestant than for a Roman Catholic. For example, guilt can be objective as well as subjective, related to fact as well as fiction, awakened by the Holy Spirit as well as produced by sick delusions. How can a humanist with relative moral standards help a theist with the standards of God’s holy law? How can the love of God be made meaningful by a therapist who thinks that “god” is only a father figure? How can the atoning work of Christ bring comfort to a guilt-ridden spirit if the doctor thinks of Jesus only as a good man and not without neurotic symptoms himself? Permissiveness and acceptance are important in a therapeutic approach, but the therapist’s own personality and value system can never be eliminated from the therapeutic situation.

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While these hospitals serve primarily their own people, they do not exclude others. Indeed, they are an important mental health resource in their communities, and many outside of their own supporting constituency bear testimony to the high quality of care given to the mentally ill of all faiths. This too is Christian mercy in action—serving the community.

What about their results? Are they more successful in curing and improving their patients? Comparative figures are not available, but they probably do not exceed the results of other hospitals of similar size. It must be remembered, however, that their work is directed toward “Christian health,” and their results must be evaluated not merely in terms of ability to function in society, but also in terms of peace with God which is the deepest need of any Christian, sick or well.

History can testify of giant souls whose compassion embraced the miserable and the forgotten. These were a breed of men and women who dared to “lose themselves.” Then there have been the little people, one talent saints, their names known only to a few, but their deeds a benediction to many who have never heard of them. Today their monument is being built not in stone or metal but in a movement, a social force, a science for the healing of man. Their faith performed at a time when others had not yet begun to speak. As psychiatrists and ministers are coming to learn from each other and to work together, they are recognizing that a philosophy of life is important to health, that man without God is lost even to himself.


Some months ago The American Weekly carried a tribute to foreign missionaries active at grass roots in the ministry of compassion. The title, “People Who Work While Diplomats Doddle,” especially irked an International Cooperation Administration official in Formosa, since the article cited the work of the Dicksons among the lepers, orphans, and aboriginals of Taiwan. The diplomat found time to post some letters of protest over the insinuation about diplomatic doodling or doddling.

Recently we were in Formosa, just after the worst typhoon and torrential rains in 60 years had destroyed 40,000 homes and left 145,000 homeless in the Chunghua area. A Christian physician, our traveling companion, rushed to Taichung to help missionary forces assess the needs. The Dicksons had sent a motorcycle through from Taiwan loaded with medicines before automobiles could make the trip; they sent an auto and trucks, in cooperation with Church World Service and World Vision, to areas inaccessible to airplanes.

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When our physician friend returned by Chinese Air Force plane, he relayed his impressions of the need to the ICA hospital administration advisor in Taipei. That was the night after the Taiwanese and Chinese lepers in a prayer service at the Church of the Lepers pledged themselves, despite their poverty, to a special offering for relief of the victims of the flood disaster. The physician told the ICA representative of needs of the victims and of the suffering they were enduring. He told of mothers whose homes had been destroyed—their husbands killed by the flood—with no place to lay down weary bodies nor a place to put their babies save on their own backs. These people had lost everything; they had no clothes except what they wore, and also no food. He told of numbers of orphans left in the wake of the flood, with no place to stay, wandering the streets of the towns begging for food. One Christian organization was setting up an orphanage in Chunghua with 30 orphans to start the project. He told of the possibility of typhoid outbreak because of contaminated water and of complete destruction of rice fields as valuable as rich Midwestern farm lands, without which the people had no means of livelihood for families.

After listening to this doctor stress the need of medicine, clothing, blankets, and mats on which to sleep, the ICA spokesman dissolved the needs one by one by the following statements:

1. These Chinese and Taiwan people have gone through these disasters for centuries. They have remarkable resistance. During the war years they slept for weeks in water and lived through it.

2. They have had cold weather all their lives and their resistance has kept them alive.

3. Last year after a flood in a nearby town, the water stood three feet in the streets, and following this there was not one case of typhoid.

4. These people recover remarkably fast from this sort of thing and will have their homes up again and living in them in a week.

It seemed to matter little, to one who thought of statistics and averages, that individuals suffered. In many cases the wife not only lost a home, but also the husband to rebuild a home. And in others, a father with children had no one to care for them during work because a wife was lost.

The Christian physician asked other leaders about the official’s interpretation.

Upon investigation it was found that the homes are not rebuilt in seven days, but clay must be dug and made into bricks for walls, and straw woven and thatch prepared, and that to rebuild their homes requires a time period of months rather than merely a week. No one who knew sanitation problems would state that because typhoid did not break out in one situation, it would not begin here. Sewer water was mixing with flood waters and actually flowing into the homes of these people. Yet this representative of the United States seemed undisturbed. This man had flown over the area the first day after the flood, but he had not waded through the mud and filth of the streets and come in contact with the people who, in their misery and wretched water-drenched condition, lacked even dry mats to sleep upon. Even the Presbyterian Hospital had no dry blankets for its patients. But sooner or later, ICA was comfortably self-assured, help would be coming to these people through certain sources, even though the sources were rather slow in starting relief operations. Meanwhile, U. S. Marines were airlifting a ton of rice every 15 minutes into the flood area, and its helicopters were carrying supplies of clothing for distribution.

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Missionary forces were triggered by radio news of the emergency. American medicine, clothing, and food were flown in by U.S. armed services and taken to the scene by marines, and then distributed by Catholic and Protestant workers whose mission projects were already established as centers of assistance, and by other social service agencies. But the Roman Catholics were largely in command of the operation from Taipei. As elsewhere, they had cultivated government contacts well, and Father F. O’Neill was the coordinator. Distributions were made by priests bearing the insignia of the church. According to some reports, it was an old story in Formosa. There among the aboriginal hill tribes, where Protestantism has established hundreds of churches, Catholicism has charted out a new objective. In recent years canned milk provided by the American government for distribution to the needy has been given to the aboriginals by Roman priests after—and on condition of—attendance at mass. There can be little doubt of the efficiency and effectiveness of Roman Catholic effort, and many stories of sacrifice and self-denial must be credited to Rome’s workmen. Catholic Relief Services had done its homework, and when the typhoon struck, it knew how to use and even to exploit American aid on a larger scale.

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Bishop Otto Dibelius, bold champion of freedom, has dropped a minor bombshell by pronouncing some East German traffic laws illegal. East German Protestant leaders immediately backed away from his controversial letter to East and West German pastors. Rather than obey the law, the bishop announces he will pay the 10-mark speeding fine, all the while maintaining a clear conscience.

Nor has he forgotten Romans 13. Indeed, he quotes from it in his letter (“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.… The powers that be are ordained of God”). But, says Dibelius, it is “blasphemy to regard the rulers of a totalitarian state as powers” in a biblical sense. He cites East German Premier Otto Grotewohl’s definition of the good as what is good for the state. Soviet cars are allowed to speed, this being a prerogative of party officials, while slowdowns are imposed on other traffic to West Berlin.

Otto Dibelius cannot accept a definition of truth bound to man’s whim. In this issue of CHRISTIANITY TODAY, he indicates some of the enslaving evils of the totalitarian state. He apparently sees the East German government in terms of Revelation 13 more than of Romans 13. For the beast of the Apocalypse is pictured as blaspheming God’s name and making war with the saints. Despite the beast’s “great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,” Bishop Dibelius obviously fears the wrath of the Lamb more than the terrors of the agents of bestiality.


Breakdown of negotiations in the steel strike has provoked an emergency injunction returning workers to the mills for an 80-day Taft-Hartley “cooling off” period. President Eisenhower termed failure to reach a voluntary settlement by 25 basic producers (representing 87 per cent of the country’s steel-making capacity) and United Steelworkers of America (with 500,000 members in these mills) “a sad day for the nation.” The fruitlessness of free collective bargaining gives obvious leverage to advocates of direct government intervention, including federally-decreed arbitration and federally-controlled wages and prices.

Kaiser Steel’s pact, made independently, prodded other producers to compromise differences with labor, despite inflationary pressures, while a Supreme Court appeal by union chiefs delayed actual enforcement of the strike injunction. In principle, individual bargaining is fully as sound as collective bargaining. Although scornful of individual bargaining in their own ranks, union bosses pursued it with Kaiser to splinter management’s united front.

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The industry-wide strike holds some sobering lessons for our economy. For one thing, it dramatizes the fact that strikes, as well as lockouts, retain little if any significance as instruments of economic justice. The shutdown of the mills has hurt not only big business, but big labor and the national well-being—a factor increasingly apparent as effects of the strike are felt. The strike is an instrument of violence more than of persuasion. Economic differences require reason and good will, not violence, for their just resolution.

Another important lesson is that today even voluntary bargaining takes place within a free enterprise system weakened by already existing pressures and compromises. One of these, obviously, is the threat of labor chiefs to use the unions as a punitive political force at the polls. Labor leaders make bolder claims in this regard than they can fulfill, but some politicians readily accept the notion that all the legislative goals of union bosses must be best for the economy as a whole. The proximity of a strike to a national election becomes a factor influencing the political pressures exerted on negotiators.

Even more somber skies shadow today’s bargaining sessions, especially the compromise with inflation and the uncertainties of an unstable dollar. One would think that wage negotiators would be reminded at every step how much government tampering with the economy has already contributed to, rather than rectified, our financial dilemmas.

When labor contract negotiations first got underway, many steel companies were reporting record earnings. They lost an opportunity to cut steel prices (even if with one eye on growing foreign competition) on condition that wages remain fixed at their already high level. Yet industry attempts the impossible if it seeks by itself to stop the inflation spiral, since this is really a government responsibility; only the government can give the necessary assurance that there will be no further increase in the supply of money or credit. Union negotiators, on the other hand, aware that wage boosts in one industry inevitably supply a precedent for others, seem oblivious to inflationary pressures, and offer no formula that leads anywhere but “ever upward.” Their dismissal of complaints against featherbedding and loafing as aimed to “restore industrial dictatorship” are hardly to be taken at face value.

The force of public opinion, seeking voluntary resolution of these issues in terms of the good of the whole, is now urgent. It will be better for the Republic that economic issues be resolved through pressures of good conscience and the compulsion of basic ideals than through pressures of big government. Given full sway, the latter alternative can only destroy free enterprise and the Republic alike.

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