I’ve already mentioned that a very good childhood friend of mine developed schizophrenia when we were in high school (he wasn’t diagnosed until his mid-twenties however, despite years of counseling). But wait, that’s not all. During a summer session in college, one of my four dorm roommates was particularly interesting. His name was Codé; he was French and rode a Peugeot bicycle around campus. We all thought something didn’t add up to his story though. There were just too many odd twists and inconsistencies. Then after about a month, he disappeared and nobody knew what happened.
Well, toward the end of the term, we finally learned that “Codé” was in a psychiatric hospital on the West Coast. He wasn’t from France, but he was from Versailles, Kentucky (where they pronounce it “ver-SAILS”). And he was bipolar. The moral: when someone is acting very strangely, there’s a good chance we’re dealing with a serious mental illness.
Warren Throckmorton has been digging further into the “Highway to Heaven” story. He talked with three principals in the story: Rev. Joe Oden of the Dallas-area Heartland World Ministries Church, Paul Strand at CBN, and Michael Johnston at Pure Life Ministries. The interesting thing that’s coming out is that they all saw clear signs of mental illness, but they all chose to ignore it. Unless there’s a worse possibility: that they are not trained to recognize it when they encounter someone who’s mentally ill.
The episode with Codé surprised all of us. But then, none of us were studying to be mental health professionals, nor did any of us pretend to participate in the neo-counseling netherworld in which so many ex-gay ministries operate. Heartland World Ministries and Pure Life are being supremely reckless when they take on the task of “counseling” those who they say are suffering from a “pathological” condition while refusing to submit themselves to professional regulation. They get away with it by saying that they’re Christian counselors, not psychologists, psychiatrists or, you know, real counselors. But they’re doing nobody any favors. What’s more, their purposeful lack of professionalism exposes them and their clients to potentially serious consequences. Heartland and Pure Life are lucky things didn’t spin tragically out of control. But the luckiest of all is James Stabile. Damn lucky.