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Harmful attitudes about depression and faith

So I was reading the Kansas City Star this morning (yes, we still receive the paper version – though I can also access it on my  iPad; I’m not a total dinosaur) and with my usual trepidation I reached the “Faith” section. To be honest, I think it’s a little weird for a major-ish newspaper to have a faith section, but that’s life in Kansas for you.  And in the interest of full disclosure, I am a full-time church employee of the lay minister variety.  Much of my life is spent thinking of, acting on, and working with people in the area of faith. But, largely because of the kind of thing I saw in the Faith section this morning, I’m reluctant to discuss that fact with people who aren’t familiar with what I do, how I believe, and the kind of theology my particular congregation practices.

So here’s what was in the Faith section, in a regular column titled “Voices of Faith.” Rev. R. L. Baynham, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church of Kansas City was asked “How can one keep faith during times of depression?”  The following excerpt from his answer disturbed me greatly:

“Those who have faith can experience and overcome the places depression takes us. If we believe and trust God and continue to maintain a strong relationship with him then those isues and concerns will dissipate.”

OUCH!!!

This is the type of thinking that 1)alienates those who have struggled with issues of depression and faith, 2)leads to making depressed people feel that “faith” is just one more thing they’re failing at, and 3)perpetuates the misconception that depression is just a “mind over matter” thing – if you think hard enough, pray hard enough, etc., you can overcome your depression.

This is simply not true. Yes, faith in a loving God can be powerful and help toward healing.  But faith and prayer alone do not heal depression, and lack of faith and prayer does not mean you’ll never heal or that God no longer cares. I shudder to think of all the depressed people and their loved ones, sitting in their living rooms this morning in Kansas City, reading that if they’re depressed it means they’re not praying enough and not faithful enough.

And when I put on my ministry hat, I shudder to think that there are people who haven’t experienced a God who is with them, crying alongside them, holding them up in the darkest of times – whether or not they’re able to pray or even think of God at all.  That is the God I know, and no amount of or lack of extra effort in prayer can possibly affect the powerful love that God holds for every single person ever born.  -Amy

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