Occuring before our very eyes on every hand are noteworthy changes in social and scientific attitudes and views. We are especially aware of the changing moral fiber of society as a whole, and it would seem timely to review some of the problems of individual character deviations in order to understand the human mind working en masse. To think for a moment that the church of today can remain unaffected by the intrigue and havoc increasingly manifested by distorted minds and personality structures would be the height of folly.
Through divine leadings the remnant church has been equipped in a special way to meet these subtleties, being provided with a strong representation of medical workers who are able to throw their weight of influence as well as their professional experience and counsel into the struggle for truth. When the cause has been embarrassed through failure of discernment and sound judgment in some matter involving mental aberration, perhaps we may rightly wonder who might have been at fault—layman or physician. Has appropriate counsel been sought? Has it been heeded? Or has it been adequately given, when sought? Only a consecrated physician may be able to assist in these matters, where such a fine division exists between the matters of the spirit and the mind. Never before was there greater need for studious attention to this neglected field and for greater cooperation on the part of all workers, where the slightest move may work either for good or for untold harm to one and all.
How may one detect the unfortunate individual whose character and emotional balance is somewhat inadequate? That would be a matter for the specialist, ordinarily, but with the abundant literature now available for the layman on the subject, a careful review of the problem might be timely and useful to workers of every station, as the work becomes more and more confronted with problems of this nature. The symptomatology of the psychopathic personality varies with different persons, but the following general pattern holds.
Other symptoms relating to these may be unsocial habit-systems ; failure to profit in a socially acceptable manner from ordinary life experiences ; inability to follow through acceptable plans for the future ; unwillingness to accept responsibility for misdeeds ; exhibitionism and extraversion to a marked degree ; paranoid tendencies ; emotional immaturity, instability, and inappropriateness ; lack of sympathy, ingratitude, sometimes callous indifference to the suffering of others ; stubbornness, irrascibility; hostile and vengeful attitudes toward others, vindictiveness ; inconsistency in behavior patterning; unpredictable, impulsive conduct.
To a Christian worker it becomes well-nigh discouraging to see the unmistakable evidences of a disordered social realm so clearly portrayed in certain individuals who offer so little hope of reclamation. Early environmental factors, as well as inherited fraits, are the causative agents leading to such flagrant disloyalty on the part of the poorly disciplined person toward every natural impulse and to practically every human relationship in life.
In recent years several far-reaching attempts have been made to restore those afflicted with such personality disorders. As yet the efforts have been futile, except to show that definite improvement is possible under constant guidance. Unfortunately, in many instances as soon as the guiding forces are removed, the patient has returned to the same hopeless irresponsibility. R. J. Van Amberg voices his belief that the problem in the future must be attacked by establishing a strong emotional bond between the patient and some protective, authoritarian individual or organization such as the church to start anew the reconstruction of the personality.
Much truth hangs on these words, and it can readily be appreciated what will be expected of the church, as an authoritarian agency, to an increasing degree as times grow worse. What a challenge this presents ! But it is not a new challenge. The history of Christianity is studded with many instances of would-be psychopathic youths, who by turning to their Creator and Saviour in complete surrender later became great benefactors to mankind and to the cause of truth.
"Psychopathic individuals of some degree of insight often recognize the force of good derived from church affiliation, but unfortunately not all permit the Great Healer to complete the soul work. He is the only true "Authoritarian." Any who are but half converted will not heed the pleadings of His Spirit long enough to become changed.
They are unmindful of the great truth that "it is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church." 2
The foregoing observations make clear, then, the type of person that through the years has inflicted severe tests upon God's people. They are the source of deplorable divisions, gross and unjust faultfindings, and innumerable other evils. They have been and will continue to be instruments of the evil one until the time of the harvest. What havoc has such fanaticism in all its varied forms played with those precious truths for which the honest of the earth have hungered, but been led away from by such members. What need there is for genuine conversions today. Seventh-day Adventist workers will have to be increasingly on guard against these wolves at our doors. The step of baptism and church membership must be more and more guarded. Emotional preaching must be toned down, as it is a veritable net for large numbers of unstable and immature "temporary" converts. The probational system as used among the heathen may become a necessary step the world over. Long ago this warning was given :
"That our influence should be a savor of death unto death is a fearful thought ; yet this is possible. Many who profess to gather with Christ are scattering from Him. This is why the church is so weak."
"For thousands of years Satan has been experimenting upon the properties of the human mind, and he has learned to know it well. By his subtle workings in these last days, he is linking the human mind with his own, imbuing it with his thoughts; and he is doing this work in so deceptive a manner that those who accept his guidance know not that they are being led by him at his will."'
Perhaps even more powerful than these' influences of the church on the individual life are the home influences. With the wealth of literature on the subject, it seems perhaps superfluous to elaborate on these forces ; yet how sadly neglected a matter this has been among professed Christians.
What responsibility rests upon every parent ! It is in the home that preventive seeds must be sown.
By and large, except for a very special miracle, prevention is the only answer to this problem. Major Louis A. Krause, of Walter Reed General Hospital, expressed himself as follows, in an address delivered to the graduates of the University of Maryland School of Medicine:
"I hope that we lose enough of the material trappings of our age so that we learn again to appreciate the home as the fountain of all spiritual values. And by home I mean the place where the stress is placed upon the simple virtues of decency, honesty, and work, where children are taught self-restraint and application, and the cardinal virtue of not wanting too much, and wherein children are not given over to the silly ideas of complete individualism and self-expression that many of our psychologists and psychiatrists so blithely proclaim."'
Intermarriages and binding alliances with those not of our faith inflict dangers on the persons concerned, and on their children, which are little realized until it is too late. The seeds of psychopathy frequently lie in the conflicts thus brought about in the home—the division between parents proving too difficult for the young developing mind to properly integrate. Seeds of disbelief, of vanity, and of pride thus gain hold in the child, and he may be nearly as bad off as the fatherless waif or the orphan of divorce.
The timely admonishments for our young people on the marriage institution and the home, so amply provided through the prophetic gift, were never more needed than now. We cannot warn our young people too emphatically that to play with the follies and the loves of the world is to play with fire. Sin has become systematized to a point where the innocent victim cannot become untangled without some scar that will last a lifetime. This was always true to a degree, but it is tenfold more so now. The psychopathy to which we have referred above has, to a large degree, spread over the masses, for the mode of behavior now existing everywhere and among all age groups is distinctly tending toward the above symptoms and signs, as every one of us recognizes. The unstable, ever "learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth," are more and more filling the earth, and will continue until the harvest of honest souls is completed. But His Word will not fail His waiting, patient people, who seek to be practical and sensible in their struggle for truth and right.
1 Psychiatric Quarterly (New York State Department of Mental Hygiene), Vol. 18, No. 1, pp. 61-77.
2 The Desire of Ages, p. 671.
3 Christ's Object Lessons, P. 340.
4 E. G. White in Review and Herald, April 6, 1944. Bulletin of the School of Medicine, University of Maryland, April, 1943.