About the Book
Book: Whispers in the Pews
Author: Chris Morris
Genre: Mental illness & Spirituality
Release Date: November 9, 2018
Mental Illness is real. Will the Church get real?
This book is a collection of essays from various authors: men and women, pastors and congregants, counselors and nurses, parents and children. All have a unique view of how mental health conditions affect people, and how the church has responded to these circumstances. Whispers in the Pews tackles how the mentally ill have been, and still are, treated in the church at large by sharing stories.
This is not fundamentally a teaching book, but a book of moments and lives, knitted together by the common theme of mental health. No sermons will be included, though lessons learned from difficulties and their foundations in Scripture are encouraged.
This collection will expand your vision, and your heart, about what the church does well for the mentally ill, and where we can improve.
Click here to grab your copy!
I don’t think I’ve had such a difficult time writing a review for a book. After reading it, my mind was all over the place and I struggled to piece together my thoughts on the message this book conveys. But, I know this for certain: the message in this book is important.
Now, I have to preface this with the point that I don’t think everything in this book is a mental illness. I do, however, think that some churches lack the willingness and/or resources to help those who are struggling with these illness and issues.
I cannot stress how important I think this message is. I would extend it to those who have what they call “invisible diseases” or even “invisible illnesses. As you may or may not know, my mom suffers from A-typical migraines with seizure-like activity; she’s suffered from it for the past seven years. There are some days that are better than others, but we’ve all learned how to help her and just be there for her, but I’ve seen the church’s lack at understanding what’s it’s like for people who suffer from these things. They only see what social media and things like that allow them to see, and they base their assumptions on those glances at the good days. I can understand how this can be an issue for those with mental illness and other issues. The church needs to be rising up and helping (whether it’s just being there for them or holding them accountable when the situation calls for it) those who are coming to them for help. Church should not be a place where people feel alone, unloved, or invisible because of their health. Mental or physical. Jesus did not reject those who needed His help. He came to them, or even just stopped for a moment to help them. It reminds me of the woman who knew if she just touched the hem of His garment, she would be healed. Jesus didn’t push her away, He blessed her. He told her to have courage and that her faith saved her. The church should not be pushing people away when they need help just because they don’t know how to help, and if it’s just a lack of willingness, then there are some serious flaws there. We, as a church, should be embracing those who need our help, just as Jesus has done for us in our hours of need.
I think whether or not you consider everything in this book mental illness, the point remains the same: there are people in our Body who need help beyond the (in my opinion, unhelpful) “you need to pray more”, or the “you need to have more faith” answers.
I didn’t mean to get off on a tangent with this review. It’s just something that is close to my heart. I’ve got to meet Chris at a few conferences and I know that this is a message that’s important to him. I think it should be important to all believers as well. How can we function as a unified Body of Christ if we can’t help each other in our time of need? I hope you all pick up a copy of this book and read it. I think your eyes will be open to those in our Body who are in need of help, and maybe this book will help you understand how to help them better.
I received a copy of this book from Chris Morris via Celebrate Lit and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All these thoughts are my own.
About the Author
Chris Morris writes about the juxtaposition of faith and unresolved pain, those moments where we feel like God should show up, but He doesn’t His writing focuses on bring hope, encouragement, and practical steps to those disappointments, we we don’t get stuck.
He is familiar with the confusion and pain of a life interrupted by an illness. He’s had seizures of one kind or another for his entire life. Some days, he loses hours of his day. Other times, the steel trap that used to be his mind…leaks like a sieve.
His daughter is epileptic, and has had over 5000 seizures in her life. She is also a high-functioning autistic, with increasing frustration as she begins to realize she is not like her peers.
Every day, he is reminded in some way that his family will never be normal.
But he won’t give in, he won’t give up. He won’t let the pain and aggravation, the injuries and difficulties that are part of his normal keep him from living a full life. At least, most days that’s true. His heart is to show his readers how to do the same.
More from Chris
Mental illness isn’t going away any time soon, as statistics say more than one in four people are diagnosed with a mental illness in the United States. And yet, the church at large has had a mixed response to mental illnesses. The church should be the one place where people are accepted as they are, no matter the details. Jesus accepted everyone who came across his path—adulterers, tax collectors, fishermen, critics. It didn’t matter. As His footprint upon the earth, the church should be the same.
Even with, or perhaps especially with, mental health conditions, the instinct should be to lean into kindness and love. The local church body should gather around, provide a place of safety and transparency, upholding those who are not well in their midst.
And this is exactly what happens, sometimes. There are pastors who are actively looking to normalize mental health conditions by mentioning depression alongside diabetes as an illness that can be overcome.
But for every pastor looking to build a healthy understanding of mental illnesses, there is a pastor lumping depression in with pornography, equating anxiety with faithlessness, telling their congregation to avoid medicine for treatment, or otherwise refusing to recognize the complexity of mental illnesses.
Definitely there are spiritual disciplines that can help those suffering from depression, but often it’s not enough. And yes, talking with a pastor or a counselor can certainly provide some relief for anxiety, but that’s not always the path forward either. Sometimes medicine is the answer, or at least part of the answer. And sometimes, there is no answer. Sometimes, trauma has left an indelible mark upon a person that cannot be overcome.
How can anyone tell the young man who is battling depression because of his abusive upbringing with a violent alcoholic father that a little more Bible reading and some memorization of a few verses will make the nightmares go away? No, that’s not how it works.
That’s not to insinuate every mental health condition comes from trauma. But even when the root isn’t trauma, there is still complexity involved. Some come from chemical imbalances…and no, that’s not a cop out. This is why antidepressants ease the burden for many suffering from severe depression, because these medications work to balance out various neurotransmitters. This is why some diagnosed as bipolar are able to find rest from the highs and lows with lithium, because a lithium imbalance was the problem in the first place.
Unfortunately, these truths are not always appreciated or understood in the church at large. No, many pastors paint with broad strokes, equating any mental illness with immaturity in the faith. It’s uncomfortable at best, and fear inducing at worst, to tell a pastor that he’s wrong. Especially when it’s hard to nail down why it is that he’s wrong.
Because of this discomfort, many choose to put on a happy shiny Christian mask and act like they’re not hurting. It’s more painful to confront church leadership and answer all the accusations and questions.
Even more disheartening than putting a mask on, many with mental illnesses choose to step away from the church altogether. They’ve been hurt too often, and too consistently, to have any space left in their hearts for trust. So they hang tight to a belief in Jesus, but walk away from the church because it hurts too much. Some of the voices you’ll read in this book have walked away from church for this very reason.
We can do better as the church. We must do better.
This reality is why I’ve gathered almost two dozen voices to share their stories. It’s only in listening—truly listening with every fiber of our being—to story after story of mental illness that we are able to see just how different every person is, even when the diagnosis is the same.
Mental illness isn’t a simple diagnosis, under any circumstances. It’s not like a fractured shoulder blade, where the path to healing is clear. With a shoulder, the bone needs to be set, the shoulder needs to be immobilized, and healing will take place. If there’s a complex fracture, then surgery might be necessary. But, the basic path is the same. This is never true with mental health conditions. Too often the church has treated those with mental illnesses as though there is a straightforward path toward healthier living, and that’s been painful to bear.
Whispers in the Pews has been written because I am convinced that it is fundamentally stories that will change the allowances for bad theology and inconsiderate (or worse) treatment of people. By hearing the pain and the victories that others have experienced in the church, my hope is that there will be room for a new way to approach mental health—one that sees the person before the health condition.
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Just the Write Escape, October 18
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A Reader’s Brain, October 20
Rev. Rebecca Wtites: Read, Write, Pray, October 21
Inklings and notions , October 22
Artistic Nobody, October 23
Inspired by fiction, October 23
To celebrate his tour, Chris is giving away the grand prize of a $50 Amazon gift card and a copy of the book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.