Everything is connected

Mind and Soul

May 18, 2023 | Opinion | Volume 27 Issue 10
Randy Haluza-DeLay | Columnist
(Photo by Tumisu from Pixabay)

This column is going to attempt two tasks, because, well, everything is connected! As usual, I may be trying to do too much—let’s see!

First of all, May is mental health month. Several years ago, I wrote about my own mental health struggles. Of all the columns I have written, it was the scariest of all to send to readers, but also generated the most public and private responses.

Some of my struggles are ongoing, although I have more clarity about them through personal reading and therapy. For example, I have learned that what I was experiencing back then was severe burnout, which explains why medication for depression didn’t work, and why my body now overreacts to stress. In fact, as I write this, the past three weeks have been an agony with stress-associated symptoms that mimic a heart attack (the electrocardiogram was negative) and ongoing brain fog. Anxiety or panic attacks, the doctor now thinks, albeit not from any specific triggers. I feel embarrassed, but that doesn’t stop the paroxysms of pain. Even now, I wonder if I’m complaining too much, if I should just pull up my socks and stop making excuses.

Online searches point out the stigmatization of mental health in some religious communities. But the Bible includes the Psalms, full of feelings of sadness, fear and despair, and Jesus’ ministry to people struggling with mental and emotional difficulties such as the man possessed by demons in Mark 5. Many people still experience stigmatization, and we may even impose it on ourselves. We need more discussion of mental health.

The second task of this column is to bridge from mental health to the Doctrine of Discovery. An Indigenous friend of mine observed that Indigenous people have experienced catastrophe for five centuries. Due to the transatlantic slave trade, intergenerational trauma also marks most of those with a heritage traced to Africa. Colonialism has been devastating to colonized countries around the world. One of the most important thinkers on the impacts of colonialism—Franz Fanon—was a psychiatrist. He wrote about the “colonized mind,” an internalization of the explicit ways colonialism tries to make colonized peoples feel and then act as inferior.

As a linchpin of European colonialism, the so-called doctrine of Doctrine of Discovery developed over time, starting with papal pronouncements in the fifteenth century. Those pronouncements, while not actual Catholic doctrine, began a process that legitimized European taking of land and the superiority of European Christian cultures. For more, see Sarah Augustine’s book The Land is not Empty: Following Jesus in Dismantling the Doctrine of Discovery.

The Vatican formally repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery earlier this year (see the April 21 issue of Canadian Mennonite). That this formal repudiation came right before Holy Week is auspicious. The Doctrine of Discovery has had a global reach. The initial pronouncements first opened up colonization of Africa, predating Columbus’s (re)discovery of the Americas. Most importantly, the work of eradicating its effects is ongoing. We need discussion of how social injustices are entrenched in our society.

I do see a common purpose in both tasks. The Christian life is one of following Jesus in what and how and why we do things. Whether growing as a whole and healthy person or working for a whole and health society—everything is connected. 

Randy Haluza-Delay lives in Toronto and can be reached at haluzadelay@gmail.com.

Read more Mind and Soul columns:
Dandelions for the Gospel
Chickadee as sacrament
Beyond free speech
Say no to moralistic therapeutic deism
Christmas delight?

(Photo by Tumisu from Pixabay)

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