National Alliance on Mental Illness
page printed from FaithNet NAMI
The Healing of Legion
Dear All –
For those of you that are Christian, I thought you might like to read one of the types of responses that I give to a variety of questions that I get now and then regarding what, if anything, did Jesus have to say about mental illness, was Legion really possessed by a demon and etc.. (Please see below.).
In addition to showing love and compassion to those that were suffering, I believe Jesus gave us a wonderful example of reaching out to those with a mental illness as he sought and then healed Legion. I refer you to this account as it is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Legion was described to be screaming raging and harming himself.
The gospels describe this behavior as being demonic. As we are well aware in the 21st century, this type of behavior is unfortunately sometimes manifested by someone suffering with psychosis of mental illness. Thanks to present day, scientific knowledge, we now recognize that this type of abnormal functioning of the brain has an explainable biologic basis and in almost all cases can be shown to have a hereditary predisposition. Two thousand years ago, however, anything that had a deleterious effect on our body or mind, which appeared to be unexplainable, was considered to be caused by the devil and described as being "demonic." Unfortunately, this ancient explanation of mental illness continues within some religious groups.
Whether or not, at any time, God permits the devil to cause cancer, a broken bone, mental illness, a heart attack or any other abnormality of our body is beyond human understanding.
The point of the passages in the Gospels concerning Legion that I wish to emphasize is not a clarification of the use of the word "demonic." It is rather that Jesus asked the disciples to take him from where he was ministering to the multitudes to the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee to where Legion was kept in chains in a Gerasene cemetery.
Jesus sought Legion. After meeting him, Jesus put him in his "right mind" and returned him to full membership in the community.
I believe that God has shown us in the life of Jesus that he wants us to reach out to those with a mental illness and help them in their recovery so that they can resume a position of "full membership in the community."