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Moral responsibility and mental illness

Whether you agree it is deserved or not, religious institutions are typically expected to have more stringent moral standards than "average" society. Is it irresponsible for a religious institution to accept and encourage converts who are obviously mentally ill and unable to fully contextualize what they are being taught? Would holding them at arm's length until they are sure they actually understand what's being taught fall under discrimination? If so, how does one safeguard against the manipulation and/or exploitation (intended or unknown) of the mentally ill?

This isn't only about our most recent troll, though it seems that's a perfect example. There's a family I know that is devout and deeply involved in a charismatic non-denom congregation, the type where you aren't a "good" member unless you participate at least 4 days a week, bonus points if you speak in tongues. They've recently taken in 2 mentally disabled adults who are very literal and overly emotional (their mental ages are far below their physical ones). While it's great that they do this, part and parcel of the good deed includes some very immersive indoctrination. The 2 people they've taken in don't have the ability to tell fact from opinion. IMO, the family is wrong for doing this to these people, but the question is - should the church have a responsibility to curb it?

Answer Question
 
NotPanicking

Asked by NotPanicking at 2:18 PM on May. 27, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 51 (421,172 Credits)
Answers (24)
  • I agree that the family would be wrong for those people. Indoctrination of those who cannot truly grasp what they are being taught is disgusting if done knowingly and sad when done without realization.
    bandgeek521

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 2:28 PM on May. 27, 2013

  • Oh, and yeah the church probably SHOULD curb it, but then you have people who think that their job is to teach the truth, and that the cognitive abilities of the intended convert doesn't matter as long as they can get them to do what they want. Heck I hate hearing the idea that we have to get our kids while they're young - and this kind of goes with that. Yes you may think what you believe is THE truth, but that doesn't mean you have the right to brainwash people and deny them the chance to decide for themselves.
    bandgeek521

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 2:30 PM on May. 27, 2013

  • LOL, actually I think the children thing is a good comparison. You have adults who aren't capable of understanding doing the equivalent of the children's "You're going to hell!" in the school yard. It's negligent and even dangerous to allow for those who aren't capable of comprehending what they're taught to be so absorbed with these concepts that are so above their level. And I certainly don't understand how someone with these issues is allowed to teach or "witness" or "minister" to others. That seems like a recipe for disaster...
    bandgeek521

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 2:33 PM on May. 27, 2013

  • I have to agree with BG on this one. I wonder if it's sort of a blind leading the blind sort of thing. If the ultimate goal is to bring others into the fold, no matter how off center the fold is, this might be seen as easy pickins.

    As you know, back in the 14th and 15th centuries, people with mental illness were practically deified. Their mental illness (of course, unrecognized at the time) was viewed as divinely inspired.
    Mrs_Prissy

    Answer by Mrs_Prissy at 2:34 PM on May. 27, 2013

  • I've struggled hard with this one. For several years, I lived next door to a woman who had the cognitive abilities of a seven- or eight-year-old. She was converted to Mormonism, which meant to her that some people came to her house and took away her coffee and Pepsi. She didn't understand why, but they said not to drink it, so she didn't. It also meant that she would get up early, do her hair and put on her best dress, and sit by the window every Sunday, waiting for her ride. I think she mostly wanted to go for the social contact; she was lonely. About one out of three Sundays, someone would come to get her. The other days, she sat by the window for five or six hours, then said sadly, "I guess they're not coming today." It was heartbreaking. (cont.)
    Ballad

    Answer by Ballad at 2:43 PM on May. 27, 2013

  • I tried many times to get her away from the window, involved in yard work or having lunch or whatever I was doing, but she was like a little kid waiting for her dad to show up for the weekend visit he'd blown off yet again. I chewed the Mormon missionaries a new one over that when they came to my door. I said if you're going to haul someone into your church who doesn't understand the meaning of what you believe, at least have the decency to show up and take her to service every week instead of dashing her hopes more than half the time. Personally, I felt they should have left her alone, or at least left her drinks of choice alone, if they had no way to make her understand why they expected her to follow certain rules.
    Ballad

    Answer by Ballad at 2:43 PM on May. 27, 2013

  • That's heartbreaking, Ballad. :(
    bandgeek521

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 2:54 PM on May. 27, 2013

  • Yes, the church does have that responsibility.
    gdiamante

    Answer by gdiamante at 3:20 PM on May. 27, 2013

  • Shame on the church that doesn't take on that responsibility!
    Sad Ballad. :(
    PMSMom10

    Answer by PMSMom10 at 3:59 PM on May. 27, 2013

  • Is it irresponsible for a religious institution to accept and encourage converts who are obviously mentally ill and unable to fully contextualize what they are being taught? yes


    Would holding them at arm's length until they are sure they actually understand what's being taught fall under discrimination?  I'm sure someone would make that claim


    If so, how does one safeguard against the manipulation and/or exploitation (intended or unknown) of the mentally ill?  I really don't know.  Pretty much every church that I have personally attended or been around was ALL about converting - having the numbers (of warm bodies)

    charlotsomtimes

    Answer by charlotsomtimes at 5:35 PM on May. 27, 2013

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