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Epilepsy Blog Relay: Former Christian Fundamentalist on Epilepsy and the Bible

This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™ which will run from March 1 through March 31. Follow along!

Epilepsy and the Bible

For most of its long history, epilepsy was, and sometimes still is, viewed by Western religious institutions as caused by demon possession. The Biblical connection between epilepsy and demon possession is based on a passage from the New Testament, Mark 6:13. There are other passages in Matthew 17 and Mark 9 that are also cited as proof that epilepsy is a demonic possession.

I find it surprising that this interpretation of scripture is still in use, but by doing a Google search on the words “bible verses about epilepsy” I found a number of websites that provide detailed information about how to interpret Bible verses to prove that epilepsy is caused by demon possession. There are also a number of online training courses available that offer classes on how to stop seizures using scriptural authority and prayer to cast out demons. The websites I found are current and in use as of now, 2019.

Read more stories by Elaine

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Using poetry to cope with TLE

When outdated ideas threaten health

The language in the Bible verses that are said to be useful for stopping seizures is disturbing to me because it describes people with epilepsy as having a “foul spirit,” a “dumb spirit,” a “deaf spirit” (Mark 9), “unclean spirit,” (Luke 9).
It is not clear to me that any of these New Testament verses are an accurate description of epilepsy or ever were. The writers of the Gospels wrote in good faith with the knowledge that was available at the time, but new knowledge is available now. I do not have a foul, dumb, deaf, or unclean spirit. I have a medical condition that can be addressed by knowledge gained from current medical research. To deliberately persist in using ineffective, outdated ideas about casting out demons as a substitute for effective medical care is irresponsible and unethical.

Steven Waterhouse is a Christian minister with experience in helping families understand how to apply Bible verses in a compassionate way that combines both Bible truth and medical treatment without casting out demons. In his book, Strength for God’s People, Waterhouse writes, “Through ignorance of medicine, clergy and church members run the risk of misapplying the Bible and harming innocent people in the process. Theologians, ministers and church members must understand a human problem accurately before applying the Bible to it. Failures to understand medical problems can lead to blunders in ministry.”

Truth that matters

When I was a Christian fundamentalist, I took the Bible literally word for word believing that all that mattered was the “truth” of God’s Word. I believed that as long as I was in God’s “truth,” I was OK. As a result of the life disruptions that I experienced because of a lack of accurate medical diagnosis for epilepsy, I began to learn that sometimes the only “truth” that matters is my “truth.” Using my own eyes and ears and not the lens of distorted Bible verses taken literally, I learned to not be afraid of being punished by God for seeking help from “secular” doctors and medicine. When I learned that I had a medical condition my mind was healed from the fear that I was sinful and being punished by God for leaving God’s “truth.” Then my body could heal, too.

A Proposal for Healing

An exaggeration of fear finds harmony in
An exaggeration of beauty.

Unsettled restlessness can learn to
Rest by the green springs of wine and hope.

Deathly terror can learn to
Drink flowing waters and live.

Broken trust can understand that
The wise and healing mother bakes bread.

The voiceless void of regression can produce one sound-
“I am not forsaken, I am not alone.”

My leaden body, filled with doubt and dread,
Will dance beyond gravity transcending the clouds.

An exaggeration of fear finds harmony in
An exaggeration of beauty.

by Elaine M. Reeves


NEXT UP: Be sure to check out the next post by Stephen at livingwellwithepilepsy.com for more on epilepsy awareness. You can check out any of the Epilepsy Blog Relay posts you may have missed.

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