Xanax and Kierkegaard

I interrupt my remarks on C. S. Lewis to announce that the New York Times has been running a series of articles on anxiety. This one is about Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety. The author notes that in our culture anxiety is conventionally treated with medication. Of Kierkegaard: “Is there any doubt that were he alive today he would be supplied with a refillable prescription for Xanax?”

The same is probably true of Augustine in 386, the year of his conversion to Christ. Many other religious and philosophical figures might, in our day, have been diagnosed and given anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication. A few who come to my mind are David and some other Psalmists, Jeremiah, Boethius, Nietzsche, and the Buddha (the article actually mentions Buddhism in relation to this topic). You can probably think of your own examples.

“Stop writing Psalms. That won’t do you any good. What you need is a prescription.”
(Picture originally from here.)

Now I have no problem with seeking medical solutions to anxiety. Sometimes there is a medical condition that calls for a medical response; I disapprove of religiously motivated rejection of medical care for a genuine medical problem.

But I think our culture has gone wrong in not seeking a spiritual solution. (What if David, Jeremiah, Augustine, Boethius, and Kierkegaard had taken these medications?)

“No more philosophy for you, Boethius! What you really need is pills!” (Picture originally from here.)

And I think Christians often go wrong in not applying a spiritual treatment for anxiety and depression. Whether or not there is a medical problem, isn’t there always a spiritual problem that calls for a spiritual response?

After all, what does Scripture tell us? What do the Psalmists do with their fears and worries and miseries? And what does the Sermon on the Mount tell us to do with our anxiety? And Philippians 4:6-7? Until we can learn to have the Cross and the Empty Tomb always in mind, until we can learn to pray without ceasing, can we expect any amount of medical care to solve all the problems in our souls?

(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)
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