Is 21st Century Life Making Us Sick?

Anybody out there feeling stressed out?

This article makes me wonder what the Church’s role will be if Andrew Sullivan’s premise is true:

Are Americans increasingly seeking opioids and other brain-numbing practices in order to avoid the life we find ourselves living?  In Sullivan’s words “This nation pioneered modern life. Now epic numbers of Americans are killing themselves with opioids to escape it.

Addiction rates are overwhelming – from alcohol to heroin to fentanyl.  Many of us are addicted to nicotine, shopping, and our cell phones.  Post traumatic stress issues are the daily burden of everyone from military veterans to gun violence victims to children who have endured multiple Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

Just as medical students are being trained to ask their patients about their childhood experiences, I wonder if seminarians will soon be trained in asking parishioners the same questions in hopes of discerning the best way to offer spiritual care.  In deepening relationships with parishioners, will we be looking for evidence of childhood  . . .

  • Physical abuse?
  • Sexual abuse?
  • Emotional abuse?
  • Physical neglect?
  • Emotional neglect?
  • Household violence?
  • Substance misuse in the home?
  • Household mental illness?
  • Parental separation or divorce?
  • Incarcerated household member?

Clergy and other church leaders are usually not equipped to handle serious health issues.  We sing about a balm in Gilead that can heal the sin sick soul.  But we don’t generally know much about maladies of the body or mind.  And yet our congregations suffer with all the above.

How will we partner with nurses, doctors, social workers, teachers, and law enforcement officers?  The point is that 21st Century ministry indeed requires such partnerships.  The sooner we consider ourselves to be on the same team, the sooner we will serve our communities more effectively.

Jesus promised abundant life  while plenty of thieves still try to steal away our lives.  21st Century ministry is no joke. No longer is it enough to plan worship, visit parishioners in hospitals, and lead a Bible study.

We need emotionally intelligent, energetic, imaginative souls willing to love even those who are not very loveable because that’s who Jesus loves.  And I find this exciting actually.

It means that we in professional ministry are increasingly dependent upon the Holy Spirit to help us figure it out.  It’s a crazy world and we can’t save it ourselves.

Image of Papaver Somniferum which is the source of opium.

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