The Psychosocial Harm of God’s Word

This ought to be concerning for the church, as much of what is spoken about as psychosocial hazards, risks, or harm will be used to impinge upon the beliefs and activities of the body of Christ as we aim to live in obedience to the authority of God’s word. Perhaps the church of Australia will soon need to recognise that our society is bothered by what it understands in the Bible, and our laws are changing to reflect our nation’s increasing desire to be protected from the offence of the word of God.

“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” This is often attributed to Mark Twain. God’s word certainly has parts that are harder to comprehend, but as Twain implies, it also has plenty of clear ideas that are problematic to us as sinful humans, and often this causes us certain levels of distress and personal suffering as our worldview and way of life are challenged by God.

It is therefore not uncommon to hear people speak about their experience of engaging with God’s word as causing them some form of harm. Until recently many who were upset with the word of God would just reject it, or find some alternative view that was more agreeable to them. However, it appears as if this is changing, as Australian society has become increasingly focused on mental health, resulting in our laws taking on a psychological nature, aimed at protecting the fragilities of our minds and emotions.

In New South Wales, Work Health and Safety (WHS) have implemented a whole range of requirements, including a code of practice designed for managing the risks of psychosocial hazards in the workplace. Of course, every well-meaning citizen wants to reduce genuine harm, but to do this we must know what is meant by ‘psychosocial’ harm. It is common knowledge that in the normal course of social engagement different opinions and views are  expressed, and action is taken that not all agree on. This leads to hurt feelings and negative emotions and adverse physical responses.

To be helpful, psychosocial harm must be very clearly defined and limited in scope.

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