• Contending with Spiritual Reductionism: Demons, Shame, and Dividualising Experiences Among Evangelical Christians with Mental Distress

      Lloyd, Christopher E. M.; University of Derby (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2021-05-15)
      The belief that mental distress is caused by demons, sin, or generational curses is commonplace among many evangelical Christian communities. These beliefs may have positive or negative effects for individuals and groups. Phenomenological descriptions of these experiences and the subjective meanings associated with them, however, remain somewhat neglected in the literature. The current study employed semi-structured interviews with eight evangelical Christians in order to idiographically explore their experiences of mental distress in relation to their faith and wider communities. Through an interpretative phenomenological analysis, two superordinate themes were constructed: negative spiritualisation and negotiating the dialectic between faith and the lived experience of mental distress. Participants variously experienced a climate of negative spiritualisation, whereby their mental distress was demonised and dismissed, and they were further discouraged from seeking help in secular institutions and environments. Participants often considered such dismissals of their mental distress as unhelpful and stigmatising and experienced heightened feelings of shame and suffering as a result. Such discouragement also contributed to the process of othering and relational disconnection. Alongside a rejection of church teachings, which exclusively spiritualised psychological distress, participants negotiated a nuanced personal synthesis of faith, theology, and distress, which assumed a localised and idiographic significance. This synthesis included advocating for the uptake of aetiological accounts, which contextualised mental distress in terms of the whole person and resisted de-politicised, dichotomised, and individualistic narratives. Results are discussed in relation to a broad range of literature in the field, while further research suggestions are provided.