Presidential Election Derangement Syndrome

This column, written by Dr. Heath Lambert, originally appeared in the print edition of the Florida Baptist Witness.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) is the resource our culture uses to list and describe mental illnesses. It has an authoritative status for psychologists, insurance companies, and other medical professionals as it seeks to delineate the kinds of problems that lead many to seek counseling and psychiatric care. The DSM can be a bit confusing for a couple of reasons.

First, the DSM is a perplexing mix of medical and spiritual problems. In its pages it includes problems that are obviously organic physical problems, like autism. Such problems require medical care and the assistance of experts in the field for help and relief. The DSM also includes obviously spiritual problems. These are problems that God discusses in his Word. For example, a problem like Obstinate Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a spiritual problem that God describes in the Bible as those who are “disobedient to their parents” (Rom 1:30). So the DSM is confusing because it is a curious mix of problems that require medical care from physicians, and spiritual care, which is informed by Scripture.

The DSM is also confusing because it keeps growing and changing. When it was first published in 1952 it was much smaller than the fifth edition that was published in 2013. The manual is not just bigger, but also shifts its evaluations about disorders from one edition to the next. This happens for a number of reasons, not least is owing to the fact that the secular people who produce the manual change their judgments about the moral problems it describes. For example, homosexuality was listed as a mental illness in the first edition of DSM. By the 1970s with the third edition of DSM homosexuality had been removed from the manual because of political pressure, and was therefore no longer an official mental illness.

Because the DSM mixes categories, and because it keeps changing I see some warrant to propose a new disorder for the crazy political season that is the 2016 presidential election. I call the disorder, Presidential Election Derangement Syndrome (PEDS). This is a serious disorder effecting Christians who pay close attention to politics. It manifests itself by creating despair and hopelessness on the part of these Christians who believe that if the election goes the wrong way then utter doom will ensue. After describing a potential electoral loss, they shudder and pronounce that if that happens, “Its all over,” or, “There will be no hope.”

Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that presidential elections are unimportant. I am not denying that this presidential election is of peculiar importance—indeed, I think it may be the most important one in recent memory. I write out of concern, not for those who are concerned about the presidential election, but out of concern for those who are tempted to despair over the election. I want to encourage those who battle against the PEDS-induced hopelessness that requires electoral victory in order to have hope.

For those people I want to point you to the cure for PEDS. It is found in 1 Timothy 1:17 and says, “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump all have a King who reigns over them in heaven. His name is Jesus Christ, his reign is not in doubt, and he did not have to campaign for the job. He will still be on that throne on November 9th, he will still be there on January 20th, and we can have great hope in that. Our hope does not depend on the American President. It depends on the immortal king who is in heaven. Since his reign is not in dispute, our hope should not be, no matter the stakes of a presidential election.

Heath Lambert
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