Running for Judge: Campaigning on the Trail of Despair, Deliverance, and Overwhelming Success, by Tim Fall (2020; Resource Publications). Link to publisher’s webpage.
As of April 4, 2020, there is still a limited time 40% discount if you order the print book directly from the publisher (use the code JUDGE40 at checkout). The eBook edition in still under production, and an audiobook edition — read by Tim Fall himself — is forthcoming.
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It is not often that I hear about a new book and sense that I should read and review it, perhaps even be on the author’s launch team. But that’s what has happened with Running for Judge by Tim Fall – which makes this review series only the seventh time in over 10 years.
The subtitle on Tim’s book is, Campaigning on the Trail of Despair, Deliverance, and Overwhelming Success. He describes it as a “mental health memoir,” dealing with anxiety and depression, and notes on the back cover that a quarter of our population contends with one or both of these. So, Tim’s topics definitely are relevant.
But what exactly contributed to turning my attention to this newly released book and led me to investing myself to review it? Oftentimes, the leading of the Holy Spirit has a lot of fuzziness – even mystery – to it, and the why-to’s and where-for’s emerge later (if at all). Sometimes the reasons seem more immediate and clear. This seems to be a combination of those polarities.
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REASON #1: THE AUTHOR
First off is Tim Fall himself. I’ve lost track of how long I’ve been following his social media accounts, but it’s at least a few years. I appreciate how he is kind and respectful to commenters, even when they don’t exactly act that way toward him and/or others in the thread. He’s got great wisdom and a good sense of humor, and is holistic instead of reductionistic when it comes to what it means to be human. He’s also got a strong sense of justice – which you’d expect would comes across, given the fact that he is a judge and also teaches on judicial ethics.
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REASON #2: THE TIMES
Second are some of those more “squishy,” mystical, and futurist elements, all wrapped up in one word: providence. Mental health memoirs are timely. There are things in them that the Body of Christ as a whole needs right now.
I’ve worked in and around various “recovery ministries” since the mid-1980s. So, issues of mental health/illness have been on my radar for a while. It seems to me that a trickle of Christian books about mental health, self-care, abuse/trauma recovery, and the like have turned into a wave over the past 10 years or so. This has become an even stronger trend since late 2017, with the advent of the #MeToo hashtag social movement.
Are we at a tipping point on breaking through the glass ceiling on this? There does seem to be far greater awareness of issues related to mental health and illness these days – and of many Christian-ish approaches that are not merely unhelpful but actually harmful to those with such challenges and to those who try to offer support. Also, more books are available that balance compassion for those who suffer with critique for biblical-sounding but burdensome techniques: legalistic, formulaic, Gnostic, reductionist. Tim’s book seems to be exactly on target “for such a time as this …”
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REASON #3: MY OWN AND MY FRIENDS’ ISSUES
Third, I’ve got issues – no surprise there – from both my own emotional/spiritual brokenness, plus from organic and situational causes. My ongoing battle against depression at times has raged in riptides and other times ebbed back, over decades of dealing with multiple chronic physical illnesses.
But I’ve also been connected with numerous people who deal with significant mental illness issues. These include men and women, across multiple generations, in circles of close friends all the way to mere acquaintances. Sadly, I’ve lost several of them when they took their own life.
Most of these connections have ultimately proven compassionate and constructive. They may be dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, dementia, depression in mild to severe forms, dissociative identity disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, paranoia, and schizophrenia. And these I know from talking with my friends about it, and/or having them as housemates so I saw what it was like on a daily basis. And most of these are years-long relationships, not outside “drive-by diagnoses.”
A very few have been repulsing and destructive, from experiences with the people involved – mostly classic-profile abusive leaders who indulge in the toxic tactics typical of those with anti-social and narcissistic personality disorder. Some of them not only agitated the mental illness in others and made their issues worse, but they attempted to deny their victims from receiving solid, professional care and personal support.
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So, my extensive experiences leave me with a lot of questions about how we define mental health/illness, how to offer wise and empathic support to who suffer, what kinds of counseling approaches are legitimately helpful or eventually harmful and why, what to do with insidious people who purposely inflict abuse on others or who marginalize those with mental health problems. Questions are good. I may not get the answers I hope for, but usually find myself closer to the Answerer.
I don’t have any formal plan or fixed timetable for how I’ll approach reading and reviewing Running for Judge. I’ll probably just write about what strikes me and why, and at the end distill that down into a review to post on bookseller sites. But from the commendable character of Tim Fall and the apparent leading of the Spirit to read his book, I trust I’ll find good fruit from my interaction with the topics he shares.