As a minister in an urban setting, I come into contact with my fair share of people with signs of severe mental illness. “Saucy J” told me she had an earpiece with the Secret Service and Beyoncé on speed dial. The next morning, I found her sleeping on the steps of my church. I offered to walk her over to the homeless drop-in center a few blocks away, but she said she needed to go meet some high-level government officials and took off in the other direction. Last year I met someone who thought he was the President of the United States. He asked me to pray for him, as he was feeling the weight of the office. I was more than happy to pray for the state of our nation and ask that God grant him wisdom in leadership and decision making. He found the church's phone number and has been calling me once a month for prayer ever since.
Saucy J and the President are obviously experiencing psychosis, a serious lack of connection to reality. But it’s not always not so obvious. People who present as psychotic often speak of spiritual matters. It’s hard to know whether the person is having a religious delusion, a legitimate religious experience, or both.
“You really don’t know who I am? I can’t believe you don’t recognize me. I’m Origin! The Virgin Mary appeared to me four times and told me she’d marry me when I got to heaven.”
Continued conversation confirmed that “Origin” was not fully grounded in reality, but who am I to say that he’s wrong about the Virgin Mary? I’ve had people who seem mentally ill tell me they have the gift of prophecy or can discern spiritual evil in others. They usually don’t make complete sense, but that’s not to say that God