Discernment

I find a great deal of pleasure in spiritual and metaphysical inquiry, and by that I don’t necessarily mean religious at all. I love podcasts such as On Being, I enjoy reading books on philosophy and experiencing poetry, I dig theater and nature. Also, I follow quite a few bloggers on Twitter that write about faith and justice, several of whom adhere to Christianity, but others still who are Jewish, Buddhist, agnostic and atheist. All of them teach me much.

As I was raised Christian, with all the familiar rituals and stories it contains, it’s often a spiritual home base to which I want to return. Still, I’ve struggled, from a very young age, with the idea of “one way” to God taught to me by ministers, ignoring my questions about good people that would not be “saved” except through Jesus. My mother, thankfully, told me the minister was wrong. I believed her, and my own 10 year old sense of fairness, over him.

I still struggle because I see real benefit in community and in groups working towards justice and through deed and symbol. And I occasionally start to get comfortable with the idea of claiming some part of myself as Christian, whatever that means, and feeling ok with that alignment, which for reasons stated above feels more “at home” than other forms or paths.

Then I see articles like this.

Right Wing Evangelicals Claim ‘Good Christians’ Can’t Get PTSD and I just want to go screaming off into the street.

“On a Veteran’s Day broadcast, two of America’s most influential televangelists claimed that good Christians can’t get PTSD.

Kenneth Copeland, who is famous for pitching a fit when a senator tried to investigate his nonprofits and for inspiring a measles outbreak, said, “Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me. You get rid of that right now. You don’t take drugs to get rid of it, it doesn’t take psychology; that promise right there [in the Bible] will get rid of it.”

Ok, then. In addition, he talks a lot about acting “biblically” in war and if you do so, you won’t get PTSD. I don’t know what that means precisely, but it does lead to this important conclusion.

“Unfortunately, there is a logical flip side to this statement: someone who has PTSD must have not been biblical in his actions, and thus he is ultimately responsible for his own PTSD.”

It’s a really infuriating article, and of course it’s entirely bullshit. In fact, much of the article goes on to discuss how issues like homosexuality rightly were taken out of the DSM, thus leading some conservative church leaders to distrust psychiatry and focus on treating mental disorders (which can be both circumstantial and physical in nature) as issues of sin.

This harkens back to much older Puritanical beliefs that health and wealth were signs of right living and gifts from god. Thus, illness and poverty mean you are seriously screwing up with the Big Guy and were all your fault.

Which, pardon me for saying so again, is crap (and frankly means that if based on religious reasons they come for my birth control, they might come for your anti-anxiety meds, or whatever else suits their fancy).

Articles like this sicken me SO much because it’s one thing to long for the mostly positive churchy memories of my youth with my family, child-like Disney World memories, but a complete other thing to see that Magic Kingdom taken over by what appear to me to be hate filled Zombie people, with goals of greed and manipulation, coating the whole shebang with slime. It’s one thing to still feel loving and nostalgic towards all the stories and candles and hymns and ritual, and another to watch current church leaders claim that people who are suffering and need help are sinners.

I feel ill watching those people twist the beauty of ancient texts, the symbols of thousands of years of contemplation, the power of actual community into something so abhorrent, greedy, and flat out toxic. They take words written in languages since translated tens of times, meaning lost or changed, or flat out obscured, and trick people into thinking along literal lines instead of metaphoric. They act like a virus run amok so far that most everyone thinks being sick is actually healthy, so much so that when the goldarned POPE wisely damns capitalism people lose their collective shit.

So yeah, I have a hard time figuring myself out and what I want in all this.

Sometimes, though, I find articles like this, by a Quaker writer, who takes on the conscience clause Evangelicals with great aplomb and logic and I sense deep humanity and truth in her words. It’s a brilliant piece.

For a long time I bounced between articles like that, one pulling me away from my deepest sense of spirituality, and the other holding me tight like a security blanket that “not all Christians are like that” without me actually seeing the point beyond it all. It’s not that I get to reclaim some nostalgic version of a Disney World Jesus, but to a much fuller sense that it is about being human, here now, more than anything, no matter what name you put on things.

It means, to me, that we are here now and real justice means calling out the bullshit as we see it. That symbols and ritual and comfort can mean everything, but wind up meaning nothing if you let them take over the community and humanity of the basic message of pretty much all spiritual paths.

Love each other. Help each other. Heal each other. See each other. Be Here Now.

The Buddha in the road is always needing to be killed, for as soon as dogma cements itself into plain text instead of yeah, the living word (which is basically US living and working towards peace), then it’s dead and beginning to Zombiefy taking all of us with it to someplace really nasty.

At least that’s all I have today, that and that anyone telling you your mental illness is due to sinning needs a good compassionate metaphorical kick right in the spiritual ass.

5 Comments

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5 Responses to Discernment

  1. Thank you for this.

    I have been told by well-meaning people that my depression flows from my paganism, because if I were ‘right with God’ he would heal my mind. I have had people quite sincerely explain to me that I would no longer suffer from depression if I would get down on my knees every day and pray to Christ to be relieved of it. I can only imagine, if I *were* a Christian hearing this, the despair I might feel when it failed, when no matter how hard I prayed I still faced these demons.

    My depression flows from my brain, which tries to kill me every so often and has thus far not succeeded. My paganism, it turns out, is a tremendous shield *against* that attack. And my will, which my paganism has taught me to wield with skill and courage, is turning out to be a pretty powerful tool against people who want to equate my struggles with the Traitor Brain to my imagined struggles against sin.

    This is well-written, and very much worth reading.

    • julesabouttown

      Thank you for visiting. Your words are right on the money and I’m so glad that you have found the right tools for you. I experience chronic depression as well. It’s a terrible disease but I’m glad we have resources. Best of luck and I hope to hear from you again.

  2. I have a very hard time commenting respectfully, or even remotely politely, when people start linking mental health to one particular form of religious expression. So I greatly appreciate your take on it here.

    I have encountered more than a few people who have tried to link my depression, et al to my atheism for me, despite the fact that my mental health issues predate my atheism by decades. I am always tempted to argue in response that if God (or any number of gods) does (do) exist, He (they) made me with a broken brain, but there I go again being impolite and not very constructive. The word “atheist” only describes one particular aspect of me, of course, and it has only been one small part of my mental health journey. Seeing religion offered as a literal panacea to an incredibly complex and nuanced mental condition makes me angrier than words can express.

    • julesabouttown

      I agree. I wonder why it is so hard for those to just hear you and what you have to say. That would be, in my opinion, more spiritual and more healing, then shoving “religion” down your throat. Fear I guess. Deep belief that’s been invested in. I’m going to write a post about another event I went to on mental health and creativity which was, to me, quite spiritual, but had nothing to do with religion.

  3. Pingback: 4 Plus 4 Equals | Julie Gillis

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