Kenneth Copeland, who has drawn criticism for public statements on post-traumatic stress disorder and the Bible, will appear at a prayer breakfast at For Jackson in Columbia today. A number of veterans’ groups have protested his attendance, based on public statements Copeland made in 2013 regarding post-traumatic stress disorder and the Bible.
According to an article in Newsweek, Copeland quoted Scripture from Numbers 32:20-22: “So this is a promise — if you do this thing, if you arm yourselves before the Lord for the war … you shall return, you’re coming back, and be guiltless before the Lord and before the nation.”
He then when on to state, “Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me. You get rid of that right now. You don’t take drugs to get rid of it. It doesn’t take psychology. That promise right there will get rid of it.”
On behalf of Christians everywhere who believe in the power of the Word of God, as well as God’s power to miraculously heal, I offer an apology for Mr. Copeland’s ignorance. He has taken Scripture out of context and applied it to a situation beyond its intended meaning. His comments also demonstrated a gross lack of knowledge about basic facts about PTSD and brain science.
Misapplication of Scripture
As a televangelist with a net worth of over $26 million, he should be committed to a solid hermeneutic (the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible and literary texts) in the interpretation and application of Scripture. One of the most basic rules of hermeneutics is the rule of CONTEXT: Every word you read must be understood in the light of the words that come before and after it—verses, chapters, the book of the Bible, and the entire context of Scripture itself.
Numbers 32 tells about division among the Israelites. Some were willing to go to war to take possession of the land God had given them. Others were not and asked Moses if they could remain behind and not cross the Jordan. Moses got angry and reminded them that when their fathers had visited the Valley of Eschol and seen the land, they discouraged the hearts of the people from going into the land God had given them.
As a result, the Children of Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years. In verses 20-22, Moses tells the fearful that they must cross the Jordan, fight, and drive out the enemies of the land in order to be free of obligation to the Lord and His promise and to the nation of Israel.
To use these verse to shame those seeking treatment for very real illness that results from changes in the brain caused by trauma shows gross ignorance of basic rules of biblical interpretation. It also shows gross ignorance of the biology and chemistry of the brain.
Ignorance of Brain Science
PTSD occurs when the brain is overwhelmed by a traumatic event. God created a fight-flight-freeze response that puts our survival instincts into overdrive for our protection. During traumatic events, chemicals and hormones wash over the brain and shut down the left side of our brain—the side that controls logic, sequence, and order. The traumatic experience becomes “stuck” in the right side of the brain, which captures emotions, sights, sounds, sensations, and visual memories.
During normal activities, the right and left sides of our brain work together, but a traumatic event causes a disconnection between the right and left hemispheres. We are left with flashbacks, nightmares, triggers, fears, and other symptoms that cannot be fully processed. Trauma therapists, psychologists, and others trained in methods for “reconnecting” and healing this life-altering break are as skilled and needed as the neurosurgeon who performed my brain biopsy.
Christians do not need to apologize for mental illness or physical illness. Both are part of a fallen world, and seeking treatment in no way diminishes the power of God in our lives. God is the author of all healing, whether it comes through a miracle or at the hands of a physician.
Kenneth Copeland recently clarified his stance on post traumatic stress disorder in a statement issued through Fort Jackson. You can read that response here. In spite of his clarified stance, Copeland cannot retract the impact on the lives of the soldiers and their families who heard his harsh judgment the first time.
Help is Available
If you or a loved one have experienced trauma and suffer from the symptoms of PTSD, seek out a trained trauma therapist. And while you may not be a person of faith, as a Christian, I would encourage you to turn to the God of all comfort, hope, and healing.
For treatment resources consult HelpforTrauma.com or call 733-2230-2310 to talk to Mary.