Radio review: In Our Time, File on 4, and Hooked: The science of addiction

04 October 2019

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CYRUS I. SCOFIELD’s Reference Bible, first published in 1909, sold more than two million copies by the end of the Second World War. A do-it-yourself manual for understanding biblical arcana, it ensures that you are one of the Chosen. At least, Melvyn Bragg’s guests on In Our Time (Radio 4, Thursday of last week) regarded the volume as responsible for the dumbing-down of a scholarly theology into the metaphysics of the Left Behind novels.

The programme, ostensibly about belief in the Rapture, valuably extended beyond what many would regard as a peculiarity of Evangelicalism in the United States. John Nelson Darby, the Irish Anglican of patrician stock who most thoroughly developed the dispensationalist theology that underpins millennial eschatology, would be horrified to see his highly evolved scholarship caricatured in novels and movies of dubious merit.

Of particular interest is the fact that Darby has no particular axe to grind when it comes to identifying the Antichrist or the exact dates at which the End Times are to occur. Such predictions have become a commonplace in the Rapture tradition, and generally reflect contemporary social and political anxieties.

What all of this tribulation is doing to our mental health is hard to say; perhaps, in a decade from now, Post-Brexit Stress Disorder will be a recognised pathology. If so, perhaps the smart graduate will get him- or herself an online diploma in psychotherapy, available — as we heard in File on 4 (Radio 4, Tuesday of last week) — for just £12. And, since the market in therapists is unregulated, you can then set yourself up and make your money back in approximately 20 minutes.

This investigation into the therapy business was conducted by Jordan Dunbar. As somebody who has himself experienced mental ill-health and poor counselling, Dunbar was a sympathetic listener; and the story told to him by Anne was as disturbing as they get.

A survivor of sexual abuse as a child, Anne’s first and long-delayed encounter with a therapist culminated with her being abused by the therapist. Although subsequently struck off by the NHS, the therapist continues to practise. The accreditation of professional bodies might provide some reassurance, but many therapists will happily operate outside such bodies.

Hooked: The science of addiction (Radio 4, Tuesday of last week) provided a further perspective on the mental health of the country: the driving question here being why, when we have been so successful in reducing addition to smoking, we find that addiction rates with respect to alcohol and drugs are still so high.

The neuroscientists now dominate such discussions, but no amount of genetic determinism or environmental fatalism could detract from the individual heroism of Lavinia, Mel, John, and Kevin, whose stories of recovery seem to defy all that nature and nurture throw at them.

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