It happens every time. Someone goes on a mass shooting. The public is looking for answers. The state and the media instantly scream "Mental Illness!" Is mental illness actually the cause? I don't know. Maybe.
It's kinda hard to say. Often these terrorist-types leave behind their manifestos, but in the interest of not allowing people to use murder to advertise their causes, law enforcement conceals these sources of information - pulling down websites, locking away diaries, etc. I've argued for a long time that such materials should be made public, because doing so might give the public a more informed view of what actually causes mass shootings, meaning that we're more likely to spot potential trouble-makers and less likely to sweep up false positives in a drag-net of hysteria.
But instead of publishing that information, the government gives us an excuse: mental illness. And we all know where that leads. The liberals want to take away everyone's right to own a gun. We can't allow that, because owning a deadly weapon (whether or not we use it for anything) is, in my opinion, a literal requirement of the Christian faith. And of course, all the conservatives want to pretend that they're going to shoot the redcoats. So the right and the left come up with a compromise that practically everyone can agree to: take guns from just the mentally ill people.
But I've got problems with that. Here's the biggest problem: how do we define mental illness, and who will decide what that definition is?
So, for example, Christians believe that there are unseen forces at work in the world around them. Not only that, but they believe in unseen spiritual beings. Sometimes they even believe that these beings (God, angels, demons, the dead), talk to them, hear them, or otherwise interact with them or influence their lives. If a Christian was given a suicide-risk assessment and answered honestly the question, "Do you believe you are better off dead than alive?" The answer would be a resounding "yes" whether or not the person was a suicide risk, because it is a fundamental Christian teaching that our eternal reward outweighs every good in this life. If a Christian taking an assessment for a mood disorder was asked, "Do you find yourself feeling angry, depressed, hopeless, frustrated... etc. etc?", well, in today's climate of cultural decline and encroaching anti-Christian oppression, I can imagine that alot of people reasonably feel in such ways. Real problems evoke reasonably unpleasant emotions. That's part of being human.
So, is a Christian mentally ill simply by being a Christian? If a secular/atheist psychologist - maybe one with a bone to pick against Christianity - sits down to conduct an evaluation, might he not determine that a person who is (in his estimation) unreasonably upset at the state of the world, withdrawn from life and looking forward to death, believing that she is hearing voices, and believing that she is controlled by invisible spiritual forces mentally ill? Maybe. Maybe not.
I don't trust some bureaucrat with an atheist education to make that decision.
But quacks are dropping "mentally ill" labels on people by the tens of millions. Currently, about one in six Americans is taking some kind of psychiatric drug. I refuse to believe that one in every six people I meet are mentally ill. Distributed evenly across the population, that's almost one person in every house.
And society is becoming less shy about just outright claiming that Christianity is a mental illness. We've heard it spoken softly in the halls of atheist universities for decades, and the thought is certainly expressed often in internet commentaries. Recently Joy Behar made news by calling Christianity a mental illness right there on television. She later apologized, but do you think she was really sorry? And how many people do you suppose were sitting at home wishing she hadn't apologized? And how many elected officials do you suppose their votes (and dollars) have put in office? How many of your elected officials (and the bureaucrats they hire) do you suppose were secretly rooting Behar on?
Back in 2013, I was in a political meeting in which some Republican-conservatives were saying that "reasonable" regulations on gun ownership should be made to stop the "mentally ill" from owning guns. I disagreed. When we give the state those kinds of powers - powers that are based on near-meaningless words with vague state-created definitions like "mental illness" has - we're essentially giving them the right to do whatever they want. And there's nothing to stop a government with a broad power to take guns from the mentally ill from taking guns away from practically everyone. Right now, a ban on guns in houses where someone is taking a psychiatric drug would remove guns from virtually everywhere.
And in 2014, I got a personal taste of just how real the threat of forced disarmament and false labels of "mental illness" can be.
As you recall, I had been arrested and seriously abused by the police for publicly advocating homeschooling in my capacity as a minister. As a condition of my excessive bond, I was required not to attend my church and to give up all of my firearms.
That you know. Here's the new stuff: It was determined not long thereafter that I had been arrested on an invalid warrant. My lawyer wrote a letter to Hall County Solicitor Stephanie Woodard informing her of this and asking that the charges against me be dropped. A few months later, I got a call from my lawyer. Despite knowing that the charges against me were completely bogus, Woodard had offered him a deal: your client can plea that he's mentally ill and go through the county's mental health court, where he'll likely be given a lighter sentence. If he doesn't, we'll go to full trial on the bogus charges.
I couldn't afford to keep paying a guy who was going to bring back an offer like that. I dropped him and hired another lawyer.
So, it looks like the state had endeavored to prove me always-right once again: I said bans on guns for the mentally ill would ultimately mean bans on guns for Christians, and here I was (more or less) being accused of practicing Christianity, being deprived of my right to bear arms, and being goaded by the state to falsely confess to being mentally ill.
Of course, I declined that offer. My faith and the practice of it are not mental illnesses. But I'm a rare exception to the normal practice, aren't I? 95% of Americans are cutting plea deals without a trial. If I was offered a mental health "deal," how many other innocent Americans do you suppose are being adjudicated "mentally ill" when they are no such thing? If this question is going to even come up in a case like mine - a case in which I was ultimately found to have been completely innocent, and in which no one could even find a valid accusation to make - how much can we trust our government to assess mental illness? And while we're at it, can we even trust our government to ever rightly prosecute crimes at all?
Well, the threat of new "mental illness" regulations on gun control have passed us in the news for this round. But we'll end up having the debate again with the next shooting. When it comes around next time, just try to remember that when the government says they want to take rights away from the mentally ill, what they really mean is that they want to take rights away from you.