The true Gospel—and purity—bring, not malady, but health and life

Psychic illness attacks so many clergymen and church workers these days that it seems almost an occupational hazard. To make matters worse, some psychiatrists point an accusing finger at the Christian community for attitudes that they say bring about mental sickness. One, Germany’s Eberhard Schaetzing, has even coined an adjective for supposedly church-induced neuroses: “ecclesiogenic.”

Ecclesiogenic (i.e., caused by the Church) would be a misnomer if it meant the illness were directly traceable to authentic Christian doctrine. But as used by Klaus Thomas, a Lutheran whose work on the problem is best known, it generally describes a state of mental conflict caused by “taboo-izing” education in which sexual areas of life are banned from open discussion and sexual desire is considered something immoral or forbidden, or even a cause for punishment.

“After twenty-five years of pastoral and psychiatric practice, I cannot have any doubt about the overwhelming harmonizing, health-restoring, and transforming power of the Bible’s message and of a genuine Christian faith,” Thomas says. But there is another side: “Whenever and wherever natural human feelings and wishes, especially in the field of sexuality and eroticism, are declared to be basically sinful, unendurable burdens are put upon the shoulders of man. Whenever healthy sexuality is repressed and denied instead of being recognized and either practiced or joyfully and voluntarily renounced, perversions and compulsions, anxiety and scrupulosity, even ultimate despair and suicide, are the frequent consequences.”

True, the problem of repression is far less obvious today than that of libertinism. In years gone by, many ...

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