Sunday, 1 June 2008

Psych Considerations

The recent and awful murder-suicide here in Calgary has got me thinking. If Lall killed his family and the tenant due to a psychotic break-down, can he be held accountable for what he did? Or, if we take a more traditional view of this, can someone who was possibly possessed be considered guilty of a crime?

If you're not familiar with the story, I'll post a link here. It's the worst killing spree that's happened in Calgary for a long time.

Nobody really knows why this guy just up and killed his family. It's unlikely that it was as completely without warning signs as it seems, though the attack was obviously a huge surprise. But if he was driven to do this either because he was having a schizophrenic episode or he was being tormented by spiritual beings (or both, if they're the same thing), can his actions be counted as sin?

Whether yes or no, there's also a more practical issue that has to be dealt with:
If I were a therapist/counselor, and he came to see me, and said that he was hearing evil voices in his head, what would I do?

My dad has this idea that maybe all ailments, or at least illnesses, have both a physical and a spiritual element, in the same way that someone can die either by being physically killed or by having their spirit leave them. But if that's the case, and I'm a counselor charging people by the hour to come see me, then what's the ethical course of action? Drug a person up get rid of the symptoms without ever getting rid of the "illness"? Or cast out the "demons", if that's what's really wrong here? I know it sounds archaic, but just because we live in the 21st century doesn't mean that demonic influences don't exist anymore.

And if it actually turns out that these people are being tormented by demons, then is it thoroughly disgusting and wrong to use God's power (because it wouldn't be mine) to free the people, and then charge them for it, because counselors charge by the hour? Is it even possible? Or would it be more wrong to not deal with the basic issue and just deal with the symptoms? Or is this entire mental illness = evil spiritual activity idea completely out to lunch?

What is a counselor supposed to do? Thoughts, anyone?

Wow, this is a really weird post.

Because I am completely confused:
"He attacked everything in life with a mix of extraordinary genius and naive incompetence, and it was often difficult to tell which was which." Douglas Adams


CavDawg said...

A common question I would get as a missionary and just as a Christian believer in general would be along the lines of, "This guy did x and y and z, but there were exonerating conditions a, b, and c. Will he still go to heaven?"

Obviously I don't know, and it's situations like that which make me glad that Jesus Christ is willing to take the burden of Judge, because I simply am not qualified to do it.

As for your duty as a counselor, my opinion is that you must give whatever professional advice is appropriate, but it would not be appropriate to attempt to cast devils out of the person.

However, I'm not sure we'd actually agree on how efficacious the attempt to cast devils out would be, anyway, so from your perspective, I'd take my advice with a grain of salt ;)

Timothy said...

Here are my thoughts on the issue.
Usually I would be more concise but I need to practice in-depth writing for my diploma. ;-)

In regards to your first question about whether or not he should be held accountable if he was under demonic influence or had mental problems. My reply is as follows: 1. He should not be judged under the same standard as a normal murder because he did not plan for it nor have a choice in the actual act.

In most countries common law indicates that murder is a pre-planned act of malice to take the life of another human. The Old Testament shares this statement of law. In Numbers 25(v.15-34) the God of the Israelites says that if a man accidentally kills someone then he is not guilty of their blood. On th other hand, if one does “lie in wait” to take the life of another then he should come under the full force of the law. This demonstrates the difference between pre-planned and accidental killing, as well as re-iterating my point. The way that this passage frees one from guilt who accidentally murdered another is clear. So if Lall did not act with malicious intent but schizophrenic/demonic impulse he is not guilty of murder. This conclusion can be dangerous if taken out of proportion but it does not need to be. My understanding declares that Lall would not be guilty of the murder of his household IF he did not act with malicious intent.

On a side note before I move to the more practical issue; it is intriguing that Lall did not murder his youngest child. Several conclusions could be drawn from this: 1. He did have malicious intent but seeing his daughter gave him the realization of his error, 2. His Schizophrenic/demonic mindset ended when he saw his daughter and the shock of finding the majority of his household dead led him to suicide.

Your more practical question is also complex. I have had almost no personal experience with demonic manifestations but have heard from those who have been exposed to this a great deal.

I definitely believe that ailments have a spiritual connection. The ultimate connection is that due to a specific spiritual breaking of God's law in the Garden of Eden ailments do occur. I am sure that there are demonic influences constantly at work today. The bible makes the fact that we are in a constant spiritual battle clear.

If I was a counselor and received a patient who claimed to have demonic influences I would discuss this with the patient and would gradually mention the control over demons that Jesus has. It would be horrendous to just counter the symptoms and not the root cause. But before casting the demon out I would ask them if they wanted to be free. If they said yes then I might either deal with it right then and there or ask them to meet with me at another location. Either way I would not charge them. I would also make sure to inform them of the gospel and highlight how important it is for them to accept it.

Sorry to leave such a long comment, hopefully you were able to brave through it. People always say “it's the thought that counts,” there are my thoughts. Hopefully they make sense. :-)

By the way, I was looking at some of your past posts on Evangelism; very good stuff. We've done a fair bit of the WOTM courses and really like Living Waters Tracts. Keep it up! Never stop sharing.