Yesterday we got a manic patient whose grandiosity consists of the delusion that he is God. He carries on very consistently: claiming to communicate directly into our minds by telepathy (very difficult to carry on a conversation – he answers a question by sitting there silently for a moment, then announcing that you now know the answer), claiming to perform miracles, offering to grant wishes, and explaining that in his current form he’s only 20, but actually he’s eternal.
This entertains the atheists on the team immensely. They love to repeat his blasphemous claims, mocking both him and God together. This morning, the intern, who described himself to me as an atheist, was asking everyone, “Now that we have God on the unit, what one question do y’all want to ask him?” Out of several blasphemous suggestions, the most repeatable was, “What do you think of Pat Robertson?” [at the time of the remark about assassinating certain leaders]
I wasn’t sure what to do with this conversation. I wanted to get out of the room, so as not to be tempted to laugh (which I couldn’t help doing at some points), but wanted to stay in case there was a chance to say something useful. Presently, as we were all sitting down for rounds, the intern asked me, “What do you want to ask God? Come on, surely you have a question.” I figured they were already out of line, so I could say whatever I wanted. “God already wrote a book with all the answers; you should try reading the Bible.”
“Oh really? What about Pat Robertson? Is he in there?”
Thanks to Don Walker’s Arrows of Truth, I knew that one. “Actually, the Bible says to pray for rulers and all men in authority, not to assassinate them, so God definitely disapproves of Robertson’s statement.”
“Well, ok, but surely you have some question you want to ask. Honestly!”
“Actually, I already talk to God every day, so I don’t have any other particular questions right now.”
And that shut off that conversation!
Later, when we were walking down to talk to that patient, the intern leaned over and quietly apologized if he had been offensive. I said it was ok; I wasn’t sure of a polite way to say God was the one who was really seriously offended. Later on, the intern and I struck up another conversation. He suggested that even I might want to ask God about the proper interpretation of Revelation, and he began distinguishing between Baptists’ and Presbyterians’ understandings. So of course we started talking about his church background, and I tried to point out some of the logical inconsistencies of rational skepticism. He enjoyed the discussion, and we spent a while at it. At one point, he averred that saying that God says something is wrong is no more authoritative than saying the society says it’s wrong. That led to God’s authority as Creator, and he asked in astonishment if I believed in creation – not literally? I told him, certainly, by the word of God, out of nothing, in the space of six days, and all very good. (Catechism is good for something!) At that point we agreed to go do some work before our superiors came looking for us. And just last Sunday I was resolving that I needed to witness to more patients, and this intern as well, and feeling very reluctant to tell a doctor that he needed to believe in Jesus. I love how God blesses even the first attempt or intention to obey him, and works out even more than we plan to do.
Update on my patient with voices: Everyone who talks to him gets the definite impression he’s smirking at us when we act like we believe his story, even though today his voices did develop very definite suicidal and homicidal plans. The main thing keeping us from kicking him out is that we’re not 100% confident the homicidal deal is fake, and he won’t tell us who he means to kill (if he does mean to). (Also no David Letterman voice yet.) So we gave him another day or two, and asked the nurses to observe very closely for signs of either really responding to voices, or acting way more cheerful than a suicidal person should.