Yesterday, I talked about my frustrations with the symptom focus of the new hands-free law in California. Today, I want to expand the need to not focus on symptoms.
So one of my struggles in my field (psychology), particularly with the more medicalized aspects, is the over focus on symptomatology rather than the root of the problem (or strengths, gasp). I have found psychiatry (the medical part of the field) tends to focus only on the treatment of symptoms, with little concern for the persistent presence of the actual disorder (slight hyperbole and separating symptoms from disorder is difficult and another discussion). My hyperbolic bias would be to ignore the symptoms and treat the underlying problem. Qualifying this, symptoms must be addressed. Anyone who has had a urinary tract infection would probably be excited that antibacterial pills are treating the underlying problem, but also want something to treat the pain now. The problem is that in the medical field, the symptoms are the primary focus.
The same is true in the Church. We look at people's behaviors and just want them changed. When someone looks holier, then they must have had some powerful influence from the Holy Spirit. And if someone is struggling with some behaviors, then they need to get closer to God. While I would agree there are correlations between relationship with God and behavioral holiness, this is not a 1:1 ratio. We struggle through life and various circumstances, no matter how close we are to God.
We need to qualify the holiness movement with remembering Jesus' words about the inside and outside of the cup. It's a lot more important to have the inside clean than the outside. It's more important to have a sinful-looking person who is close to God than a holy-looking person who doesn't know God from a doorknob.
This is hard to do because a person's relationship with God, the mind, and the existence of a medical problem without symptoms cannot be measured. So we focus on what we can point to, which can be helpful. We have major problems, though, when we reify the symptoms as the problems themselves.