“How to Win Over Depression” review: 212-241

how to win over depression

To be honest, if Tim had stopped writing the chapter on how to help your depressed child at page 216, I wouldn’t have a single problem with anything he says in this single, solitary chapter. His first bits of advice are:

  1. Give your children a lot of love and affection.
  2. Accept them.
  3. Avoid anger in the home.

Those are things I can absolutely get behind, and I’m actually surprised that Tim included “accept your children” here– acceptance isn’t something conservative Christians usually talk about in regards to raising children. But then he does a complete about face with the rest of his advice, which is focused on “discipline,” which he makes clear is “the rod.” He says that “The Bible makes it very clear that if you spare the rod, you will spoil the child” (217), and I’d like to take this moment to point out that this isn’t actually a Bible verse. It’s a quote from a satirical poem by Samuel Butler that mockingly suggests that spanking your romantic interest will make them love you.

Also, for an alternative interpretation on all those “rod” passages in Proverbs, I recommend reading this. Many Christians believe that those metaphors in Proverbs are supposed to be taken literally as a command to physically abuse their children, but I, and many other Christians, believe that is a grossly inaccurate interpretation.

Tim also takes the time to make sure his reader knows not to discipline his children “in anger,” and I want sit on that for a moment. A recent study revealed that the way my parents were taught to spank me– be calm during, and then be extremely affectionate and warm after– can actually make anxiety worse. The lead researcher suggests this might be because it’s “simply too confusing and unnerving for a child to be hit hard and loved warmly all in the same home.”

There’s also evidence linking the sort of spanking that Tim advocates to depression, anxiety, other mood disorders, and substance abuse later in the child’s life, which completely unravels his argument that children need to be physically abused in order to have the depression literally beat out of them. Other studies suggest that spanking can cause cognitive impairment and increase aggression. Couple that with the fact that many parents are likely to underestimate how hard they are hitting their child as well as how often they spank, it should be obvious to all of us that spanking is actively harmful, ineffectual, and not something even the most loving parent can practice responsibly.

Tim claims that spanking “assures the child of his parent’s love” (218), but I can think of few claims more preposterous. How in the world is hitting a child supposed to communicate “I love you”? I believed that spanking was a moral imperative for most of my life, and I never connected it to how much my parent’s loved me. I believed it was necessary, but that was completely separate from how much my parents loved me. The closest word to describe what I felt after a beating would be rage. It was humiliating and excruciating, and having to look at my parent and mumble something about loving them made me so angry I could choke.

Oh, it temporarily “fixed” my behavior. I usually managed to slap on the “thankful attitude” that Tim thinks parents should spank their children into (221), but it was a lie. It was something I pretended out of some sort of survival mechanism. Spanking “works” because of fear, not love.

~~~~~~~~~

“How to Help a Depressed Friend” wasn’t too terrible; his only real piece of advice in this chapter is not to be “too cheerful,” mostly because he thinks that depressed people find it annoying. That’s not true in my experience– I find overly cheery people annoying all of the time. Tim’s obliviousness also comes out a little bit with “Even the depressed will rarely refuse prayer, which they usually recognize as their last hope” (226). I have desperately wanted to say “oh my god, no” many times when someone has offered to pray with me, and the only thing that keeps from me vocalizing it is the fact that would generally be considered fairly rude.

The last two chapters were troubling, since he mostly focuses on biblical figured to communicate the message that depression is a sin. What troubles me is that he chose examples like Jeremiah and his Lamentations. I think it’s a truth (almost) universally acknowledges that white middle-class American Christians have lost the ability to lament. A google search of “Christians need lament” turned up articles from pretty much every significant American Christian movement, from The Gospel Coalition to the Emergents.

One of the things that deeply bothers me about Christian culture is this whole “happy happy joy joy,” “Rejoice in the Lord Always, and again I say rejoice” attitude toward faith and worship is that it ignores reality. Living on planet earth is a catastrophic nightmare sometimes, and if we are robbed of our ability to grieve and lament, then we’ve lost a connection to our humanity. Christianity is not about being happy, but sometimes I get the feeling that’s what it’s been reduced to. Our theology needs room for shit just happens, and “Rejoice in the Lord!” doesn’t cover it.

All the way through this book, Tim has advocated a position that being thankful for everything, including the awful, terrible, no-good stuff, is the only way to avoid depression, but I think all that really does is turn us into Stepford-level automatons. We’re people, and part of being human means being sad.

In the end, that’s the biggest mistake Tim has made in How to Win Over Depression. He doesn’t understand what depression actually is– he confuses it with sadness, with grief (227), and then tells all of us that experiencing those emotions is sinful. He robs us all of our humanity.

“How to Win Over Depression” review: 192-211

how to win over depression

Thankfully, I think we only have this week and next week and then we’ll be done with this book. One of my biggest complaints today is that this book wasn’t edited– only proofread. There’s not a lot of development to this book, and Tim has a tendency to repeat himself. This chapter– “Ten Steps to Victory Over Depression”– barely contributes anything new to the book.

A few interesting things happen, though. In a previous post I’d mentioned that Tim’s language surrounding his “self-pity” concept echoes how evangelicals typically talk about “bitterness.” However, in this chapter, he just comes right out and says it:

By gaining the ability from Him to forgive her parents, she removed the root of bitterness that had immobilized her for years. (193)

He spends a lot of time talking about bitterness in this chapter– all of the examples he gives are people he thinks of as “bitter,” but, once again, he completely and totally ignores the realities that abuse victims have to face every day. Infuriatingly, he even dismisses one woman’s experience as being imaginary. This woman says that her mother “smothered and dominated” her “every decision,” but Tim overrides that opinion and says her mother was just a struggling single mom who got a little over-protective and she’s just imagining her problems because some guy who took a psychology class told her she had them (200).

I’m not even shitting you. This woman came to him, described an extremely controlling home environment, and Tim says she made it up. I cannot even imagine the re-victimization and trauma that he has put these people through. He has an extremely misogynistic opinion of women: this chapter included examples of five women who were 1) vain, 2) a bad mother, 3) liars, 4) gossips, and 5) nags. He even praised a HR executive for basing his hiring decisions on the submissiveness and gentility of the men’s wives (203)!

The book might have gone flying a few times today, especially when I got to this:

If the individual is aware of your resentment or bitterness, apologize personally if possible or by mail. Admittedly, this is a very difficult gesture, but it is essential for emotional stability. (199)

Oh. My. God. Oh my god.

If I were being counseled by Tim, he’d tell me that I must contact my rapist and apologize to him or I’ll never have emotional stability and “spiritual maturity” (198). This shit is fucking dangerous. I go out of my way to make sure that he can’t find me. I don’t have my location anywhere– not on Facebook, not on Twitter, not on LinkedIn. I don’t connect any of my accounts to my phone number, no matter how much Google and Facebook pester me about it. I ask people who take pictures of me not to tag the location on Facebook. I not only blocked him on every platform I have, I also blocked everyone he knows. I maintain this blocking religiously. I have cut off contact with friends because they were still mutuals with him.

And Tim would tell me I’d have to undo all of that. Sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln.

But, the biggest problem with this chapter is that he emphasizes, once again, that all anyone really has to do to overcome depression is give thanks. If we just inculcate a “spirit of thanksgiving” and maintain a “thankful heart,” then everything will be fine and our depression will go away.

Except that’s just plain not true.

When my rapist ended our engagement three months before the wedding, one of the things he told me (besides “I can’t trust that you’ll be a submissive wife”) is that I am a “persistently negative person.” Believing my rapist to be a better judge of my character than I was, I made it my New Year’s Resolution to find something every day to be thankful for, no matter how small or big. I did this publicly; every day I would post a status update that began with “happiness is” and then finished it with something like “snickerdoodle coffee!” or “buying another bookcase!” or “being accepted to grad school!”

That year was the worst depression I’ve ever had.

This past winter was a struggle because of depression, as well. But Handsome could tell you that at the end of every day when I would be laying in his arms while we watched Gilmore Girls, drinking tea, that I would look up at him and say something about how blessed my life is, about how grateful I am for my life with him, that there were so many moments in my life to be thankful for– even in the midst of gut-wrenching despair and grief. I have never ceased being thankful, mostly for the small things. Vanilla beans and carmelized onions and buttermilk pancakes. Munchkin games. Moonlit strolls in the woods. Soft pine needles. Ocean spray. Swimming pools. Pride parades.

I’m still depressed, though. It’s getting better now that summer is here, finally (thankssomuch seasonal affective disorder), but all through this winter I was thankful, and it didn’t matter. It didn’t change how my body and mind responded to the darkness.

I think if I was ever Tim’s patient and I tried to take him seriously, I probably would have died.

~~~~~~~~~

In much happier news– remember the poll I did before I started How to Win Over Depression and Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love was neck-and-neck with Tim’s book? Well, a good friend, Dani Kelley, decided to take on her own review series. Redeeming Love was one of her favorite books as a teen and young woman, so I’m very much interested in her perspective on the book now that she’s come out of purity culture and fundamentalist Christianity. I didn’t read it until after I was already a feminist and critical of purity culture, so I think Dani’s take on things will be more valuable than mine.

My plan is to cross-post her review series every Monday starting July 6th, and I’ll be reading along with her and adding some of my own thoughts. Comments will be closed on those posts so that we can keep the engagement in one place on her blog (which is fantastic and y’all should be reading it if you’re not already).

thoughts on Charleston

Emmanuel steeple

If you haven’t heard about what happened in Charleston, South Carolina this past Wednesday night, here’s a brief summary:

A white man walked into a Bible study at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church– which is one of the oldest black congregations in the country and is an icon of the Abolitionist and Civil Rights movements– and sat in the service for an hour before shooting and killing nine black people, mostly women, while saying “I have to do it. You rape our women and are taking over our country and you have to go.” This white man has confessed to the terrorist attack and told the police that he “wanted to start a race war.”

There are no ifs ands or buts about this. This was a terrorist attack motivated by white supremacy. This white man did not do this because he was “troubled,” or a “disturbed,” or “mentally ill.” He did it because he is racist. He wanted to make it very clear to all of us that he believes he has the right to kill black men and women because they are black, and he is white.

As this woman of color put it (talking about the Santa Barbara mass shooting):

Unlike real mental illness, white male entitlement is a choice. It is the choice to see oneself as better than, the choice to see others as less than and deserving of violence, the choice to believe that one has the right to punish women/people of color/queer folk for daring to exist outside of servitude. White male entitlement is a learned cultural behavior that is the logical extreme of the systems of oppression at work in US society. So this gunman is not crazy, it is not crazy to believe things you have been told your whole life. 

White people in America are all racist. All of us. Most of us will never walk into an AME church and murder black people, but there are slivers of racism embedded so deeply into our identities as white people that rooting them out is the work of a lifetime. All the unconscious things we believe about race add up to a worldview that condones this terrorist attack, that tells people like this shooter that other people– everyone like him, really– implicitly agrees with what he did.

One of the things that can help challenge our white supremacy is to listen to what black people have to say, so I am asking you to read the following articles and listen to them. Grapple with it. Let their words change you. Also, please don’t just read these few articles– start paying attention to the bylines of the articles you read, and seek things written by people who aren’t white, straight, and male.

What I Need you to Say in Response to the Shooting in Charleston” by Osheta Moore.

“The pain we’re feeling right now is akin to the loss of a child because whenever black lives are treated as worthless, whenever our story is marked yet again with violence, whenever we’re forced to remember the brutality our grandparents endured when they stood for freedom and dignity- it feels like Dr. King’s dream is a hope deferred and our hearts are sickened.  As a white person, you may have heard Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and thought, “yes, that’s a nice sentiment.” That “nice sentiment” is a defining dream for the African- American community.  We don’t want to be angry anymore.  We’re tired of being afraid.  We’re tired of these headlines.  We want to have peace.  We dream of unity too.”

The Only Logical Conclusion” by Austin Channing

“The level of terror that black people feel in America at this moment cannot be underestimated. Because when the driving force of such a massacre is the very thing imbedded in the roots of America, thriving on the branches of generation after generation, sitting in the pews unchallenged every Sunday morning in white churches- there is no reason why black Americans should feel safe.

The sin of white supremacy is thriving in this country because white Christians refuse to name it and uproot it, refuse to confess it and dismantle it, refuse to acknowledge it and repent of it, refuse to say the words

“Its in my family”

“Its in my church”

“Its in my soul.”

The Charleston shooter killed mostly black women. This wasn’t about rape” By Rebecca Carroll

“The shooter allegedly used the salvation of white women’s bodies as a motivation for his acts, an old trope that was once used to justify the lynching of black men and the denial of rights to all black people. The idea that white women’s bodies represent that which is inviolable while black women’s are disposable hasn’t changed enough since it was first articulated by white men; but again, aimed at black men on Wednesday night, it was predominately black women who suffered by their invocation.”

I am also asking you to read the following two books as soon as you possibly can. I believe that every white Christian should read these books.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone

Please listen to these voices and learn from them.

become a Patron

arms up in the air

I started this blog in February 2013 for a few reasons, but, honestly, the biggest one was boredom. My health won’t allow me to be employed full-time, and I discovered after about a month of getting married and moving in with him that I needed something to do besides read books, play video games, and surf the internet. I’d blogged before (anyone remember Xanga?) and had started reading blogs like Sarah Moon’s and Elizabeth Esther’s and Dianna Anderson’s and Rachel Held Evan’s, and figured– I can do that. It seems like fun.

I never in a million years expected what happened. The first day I got more than fifty visitors Handsome came home to me in the fetal position because I was so overwhelmed. Fifty people read my blog that day. I didn’t know what to do with that. But, by the end of the year I’d gotten a quarter of a million hits and it was more than a little mind boggling.

To this day I’m still a little confused as to why y’all keep showing up to read what I have to say three times a week, but I am so incredibly grateful. I’ve said this before, but I really do think of this space as a community. Over the past few years I feel like I’ve really gotten to know some of you, and consider you colleagues. Some days, knowing that you’re here is why I drag myself out of bed. Knowing that I can count on you to deal with the occasional jackass helps, too.

I’m eternally interested in what you have to say, and you have taught me so much. Your investment here, in this community, is why I’m hoping that you might consider becoming a Patron.

I heard about Patreon last year, and the concept intrigued me. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it– the idea of a “tip jar” or asking for money made me a little nervous– but I appreciated that someone(s) had taken the time to create a platform like it. But, I’ve decided to go ahead and create a “Patreon campaign,” as they call it, for a few reasons.

The first, and biggest, is that I’m moving to a self-hosted blog! Exciting! (Well, to me, anyway). Hopefully in the next two to three month samanthapfield.com will be up and running, and I could not be happier about it. Having my own domain name helps with professionalism and credibility, and I get to have a logo and other fancy stuff. However, hosting your own blog costs a little bit, and I’d like to keep ads minimal and unobtrusive– which is where Patreon comes in. $30 a month would cover all my self-hosting costs.

Having support through Patreon would also make it possible for me to do things like go to conferences. I was invited to attend the Faith and Culture Writers Conference last year, but I couldn’t go because it was in Portland and just the plane ticket was out of our budget. I’d also be able to put out a free e-book (like on how complementarian theology is really just the rationalizations of abusers wrapped up in pretty paper), and I think having material like that freely accessible could be a really good thing.

One of the more important reasons, though, is that it would allow me to stop pitching my best writing ideas to other blogs and magazines. I could keep all my best work here where it hasn’t been put through another editor’s vision, which can be a neutral experience to something downright infuriating. For example, I wrote a piece for Relevant last year, and they took anything “controversial” out of it, which made it weak and insipid. I hated what they did to it, but I had no control over what got posted. Being confident that I can keep my own blog running means I won’t have to worry about that so much anymore.

Anyway, I set up the Patron where it’s per month, and you can commit to any amount you feel like– even just a dollar. You can find the campaign here, and it would be incredible if you shared it around wherever you feel comfortable doing so.

As an aside: Patreon has a “rewards” program where, if you pledge “X” amount per month I can offer a reward. Except, I have no idea what to even offer– so, give me some ideas! What sorts of things would you like that you don’t already see around here?

“How to Win Over Depression” review: 160-191

how to win over depression

Honestly, this chapter, which Tim titled “Depression and Your Temperament,” was more than a little befuddling. He bases his entire argument on Hippocrates’ Humorism— and no, I’m not joking. This chapter is dedicated to a medical theory thousands of years old that was completely obliterated by the advent of modern medical knowledge.

What is ironic is that Tim uses the concept of the “Four Temperaments”– even attributing this idea to Hippocrates– without bothering to note that in Hippocratic theory, the bodily humors (yellow and black bile, phlegm, and blood) affected temperament. Tim is still continuing to insist that biology is not linked to depression in any way (178), all the while relying on a theory that totally contradicts him.

Something that amused me about this chapter was reading his descriptions of the Four Temperaments (which are: sanguine, choleric, melancholy, and phlegmatic) felt like reading horoscope personality profiles. Supposedly, according to this test, I’m phlegmatic, and reading Tim’s description of the phlegmatic felt about as accurate to me as reading what Virgos are supposed to be like.

What bothered me about this chapter is that Tim argues that some personalities are far more prone to depression than others, which sounds like just that much swill. The sanguine and choleric personalities, if they’re “filled with the Holy Spirit,” will be “untroubled by depression” (164) or “will never become depressed” (167); the melancholic will merely be “helped” by the Spirit to “try to avoid depression” (174) and the phlegmatic will “definitely become depressed” (175).

Tim is practicing introversion discrimination in this chapter. “Sanguine” and “choleric” personalities are both extroverted: sanguine people are the “social butterfly,” often charismatic and outgoing, while the choleric is the passionate, spontaneous personality type. Melancholy people are creative, but private (think Romantic poet), and phlegmatic persons are quiet and calm.

This is a society-wide problem. As Steven Dison in the linked article points out, in the aftermath of events like the Aurora theater shooting, the media tends to get myopic about the perpetrator’s personality and social life. These mass shooters seem to be withdrawn, secluded, anti-social? Well, that must mean that being withdrawn and anti-social is bad. Whether or not these people are actually any of those things gets lost in all the talking-head chatter about it. In our culture, traits associated with introversion (like preferring seclusion to social events) are rhetorically linked with mental illness, and Tim does that in this chapter.

Tim is also deeply ignorant about the existence of personality disorders. In his description of how sanguine people can experience depression (which they can easily overcome with the Spirit, while the introverted temperaments can’t), what he describes sounds like narcissistic personality disorder:

As these charming sanguines who often act like overgrown children become aware of their own shallowness, their insecurities are heightened. They become defensive, sensitive to slights or criticisms, almost obsessed with others’ opinions of them. (163)

And his description of how choleric people experience depression (“he quickly becomes angry … he explodes all over everyone else” (165) sounds like borderline personality disorder. People with all sorts of temperaments and personalities can experience these disorders, or have maladaptive behavior that echoes them.

But the most frustrating thing about this chapter is that he sees depression as the exception for sanguine and choleric temperaments, but the natural consequence of being melancholic or phlegmatic. In the context of How to Win Over Depression, this is especially bad, because he has made it crystal clear that depression is a result of sin; the logical progression is that melancholic and phlegmatic people are naturally more sinful– in regard to depression– than sanguine or choleric persons. See what I mean about introversion discrimination?

~~~~~~~~~

The next two chapters are “Depression and the Occult”  and “Depression and Music.” Not much needs to be said about “Depression and the Occult”– he spends a few pages telling Christians to not learn about it because Satan, and that suicides are caused by demonic possession (because demons like to inflict self-harm, as illustrated by Matthew 17).

“Depression and Music” pissed me off, though. This is on the first page:

To a large extent, the highest musical forms were found in the western civilizations. In fact, that art of music was not really developed to any high degree of proficiency in other countries because of the influence of the various religions on their respective cultures … Paganism has always been dominated by the dirge or the chant. (187)

WHAT. THE.

I mean, I’ve heard this before– I was explicitly taught this in my “History of Music” class at Pensacola Christian College, but it took barely any digging at all to figure out how utterly ignorant and false that idea is. For an excellent discussion of how fundamentalists are flagrantly racist when it comes to music, I suggest you read “Patriarchy, Christian Reconstructionism, and White Supremacy” (scroll down to “Note on Music”).

Also, the only people who argue things like “Western Music is just better” argue ridiculous things like “black music had no affect on American rock music,” which is asinine in the extreme.

But that wasn’t the only thing that pissed me off about this chapter, because Tim also said this:

The once happy music of the West, because of the atheistic control of the communications media, is rapidly degenerating into the same depressing tunes I heard in India, Africa, and China. Unless a musician is filled with the Holy Spirit, he will tend to create morbid, pessimistic, negative music that features a detrimental beat or tune. We need a return to happy music today.”

To which I say: “DUDE HAVE YOU NEVER LISTENED TO GREGORIAN CHANTS.”

Also, I looked up what the most popular music was in 1974, when this book was published, and Tim is just so wrong. The chart-topping numbers that year were songs like “The Loco-Motion,” “Kung Fu Fighting,” “Rock Your Baby,” and  “Hooked on a Feeling,” all of which are pretty doggone happy. The rest of the songs were mostly about how much love is amazing, plus “Cats in the Cradle” and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

Depressing music? Ok, if you listen to Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” on repeat, maybe you’ll get a little bummed (I don’t, I just really like it. Who doesn’t get a thrill out of “and the people bowed and prayed to the neon god they’d made … and the sign said “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls”?). Peter Paul and Mary’s “500 Miles” bums Handsome out in 10 seconds flat while I adore it, but even they are better known for “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

Different people react to music … well, differently. I will sit around and listen to Kansas’ “Dust in the Wind” and John Denver’s “Annie’s Song” ’til the cows come home, but Handsome prefers “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding (I prefer the Sara Barielles version). Tim says that no one “can growl through breakfast” while listening to “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” (190) and I beg to differ. Songs written by Martin Luther I find I particularly annoying.

So yeah … I didn’t think my opinion of Tim could get any lower, but it did. Because presenting factual (and racist!) inaccuracies about the global history of music cannot be forgiven.

bisexuality and purity culture

Head in Hands

I’m going to my first-ever Pride event this weekend, so I’ve been paying a little more attention to the things people have been saying about bisexuality recently. Being bi has its own particular struggles, mostly because it seems as though people are just as confused about bisexuality as they used to be about being gay. I feel like our culture has a somewhat decent handle on what being “gay” means; while there are still plenty of ridiculous stereotypes about gay men, I get the feeling that many/most people realize that those things are just stereotypes.

The same is not true of bisexuality, as you can see from the following.

The first is a quote from Andrée Seu Peterson’s “B is for Bogus“:

The LGT guys should be asking themselves about now, “What’s with this ‘B’ guy standing over there in a circle having laughs and a martini at our party? He’s not a real anything! He’s not hard-wired homosexual or a tortured misfit in his own body trying to climb out; he’s just coming along for a free ride. He makes us look bad, because intelligent people will come to their senses and say to themselves, ‘The whole LGBT movement is as phony as a three-dollar bill; look at this “B” thing in the middle that’s just clear-cut straight-up promiscuity.’ This ‘B’ guy blows our cover!”

If there were a book for gays with parables in it like the Bible, the “B” guy would be the one at the wedding feast who gets kicked out when it is noticed by his lack of proper wedding attire that he is an imposter.

The second is from James Dobson’s radio show:

I’ve been thinking about those pastors, those people in the clergy who are compassionate to those who have attractions to same-sex individuals. So their inclination is to be all inclusive and put their arm around them. I would like them to think, just for a moment, about ‘LGBT.’ The ‘B’ stands for bisexual. That’s orgies! Are you really going to support this?

I hear things like that, and all I can do is:

seriously

Seriously. Where the hell does this come from? Just because my potential dating pool might, theoretically, be a bit larger than your average straight person’s does not mean I’m running around having sex with every single person I’ve ever been attracted to. All of them. At the same time. Where did they even come up with this?

Granted, hard-right-wing conservative Christians like Andrée or James aren’t the only ones to think this. There’s a heavy cultural link between bisexuality and our supposed inability to keep it in our pants, or maintain a monogamous relationship– a leap I’ve never been able to follow. Yes, bisexual people can cheat on their partners. Just like straight people. And gay people.

Bit, as s.e. smith points out:

In a society that hates women, and hates female sexuality, it would make sense for sexually active and comfortable women to be, naturally, condemned. And that goes double for bisexual women, who can’t just be happy with men like nice young ladies; they have to go around chasing women, too … There’s something people seem to find almost offensive about the idea that bisexual women actually exist, that they have relationships with both men and women, that those relationships may be long-term, committed, and monogamous …

I don’t experience the world as a bi man, but considering that female sexuality has always been strictly and harshly policed while male sexuality just hasn’t, this makes sense to me. Any time a woman steps outside the socially-acceptable constraints we’re going to run into condemnation.

But, a few days ago, it occurred to me that in a specifically Christian context, there’s some other things happening that create this horrified “THAT’S ORGIES!” reaction. I’ve written about this before (in a post about emotional adultery here and another about why purity culture doesn’t teach consent here), but I realized that what I talked about in those two posts come together in an interesting way when it comes to bisexuality.

If every person on the planet exists in a default state of consent– which purity culture subtly and overtly teaches– and if it’s impossible for men and women to “just be friends” (as argued in a recent Relevant article), then of course bi people will be promiscuous. Duh.

According to many Christians, the only real way to ensure that you don’t have an affair is to avoid deep, meaningful connections to people you might be sexually attracted to (which, for them, is always someone of the “opposite sex,” which erases bi people and non-binary people). To them, men can’t be good friends with women and vice versa, and everyone needs to take super-duper-extra-careful precautions to make darn-tootin’ sure you don’t develop pants-feelings for people. Because, as we all know, once you have pants-feelings for someone you will have sex with them, because consent isn’t a thing.

But, for bi people, the “obvious” precautions in this context don’t make sense. What are we supposed to do– have no close friends? Ever? Never be alone with any person? Lock ourselves in our bedroom, Elsa-style? So, they don’t advocate that. Instead, they either a) refuse to acknowledge our existence or b) call us all sluts.

Christian teachings about basically any relationship are horribly flawed, and I believe that a lot of the problems are rooted in this idea that people are incapable of controlling their pants-feelings unless you eliminate any possible way to express them. We’re all so deeply afraid. We don’t have sexual ethics based in consent and love, but in making us all terrified of our sexuality. That’s not healthy, and it should a concept we confront and root out– for all of us, not just bi people.

“How to Win Over Depression” review: 137-159

how to win over depression

Books like this make it almost impossible for me to believe that there’s any meaningful difference between fundamentalism and more mainstream evangelicalism. Theologically there’s no real difference that I’ve ever been able to find, and all the differences I can find are surface trappings. In my view, fundamentalism and evangelicalism are on a sliding scale of how much modern culture they’re willing to adapt; fundamentalists are just stuck in the 60s while evangelicals are stuck in the 90s.

None of that really matters, though, when people like Tim quote from Bill Gothard for five pages and describe him as “phenomenally successful” (141) and “wise” (148). And yes, I mean that Bill Gothard. The man who’s been accused by several dozen women and minors of sexually harassing or sexually assaulting them, the man who is responsible for teachings like “the sin of bitterness is worse than the sin of rape.” Tim raves about him and spends most of this chapter regurgitating information found in Bill’s “basic seminars.”

Another observation: so far, in each of the books I’ve reviewed (with the exception of Zimzum of Love), there comes a part when the white supremacy and classism of many American Christians becomes blindingly apparent. The classism comes screaming out of this chapter:

She always looks her best wherever she goes; she is not overdressed but extremely attractive. She chooses her clothes and accessories with care and and exudes the confidence that always exemplifies a dynamic Christian. (139)

A porter will approach an individual and address him politely and with dignity, whereas he will speak to another with quiet disrespect. Through these contrasting treatments, I have judged that the man who exudes self-confidence and self-acceptance is extended respect by others. You can observe similar episodes in a restaurant as the waiter approaches his customers. (140)

After twenty-five years of dealing with people I do not find that vocational triumphs provide lasting self-acceptance. Instead, many individuals would willingly relinquish the fortune earned during their lifetime if the could reclaim the failure experienced … (143)

There is nothing new about ghettos; we have always had them. They are simply larger today because of our increased population and more conspicuous because of recent national attention. (146)

He connects success and self-confidence to wealth and power over and over again, and because Tim is a financially successful white man, he’s able to ignore the role that economic disparity plays in how people are treated by society.

Example:  a friend an I walked into a West Elm a little while ago, spiffed up a bit for a trip into the city. We walked around the store, looking for something she needed and if were weren’t completely ignored by the staff, we were openly sneered at. A few minutes after we entered, a pair of women walked in who reeked of money. The employees fawned all over them. They walked out without buying anything, while my friend bought what she’d been looking for.

Ordinarily I’m a self-confident person, but it’s extremely difficult for me to portray that when I’m in a place that’s only supposed to be accessed by the wealthy. Recently I was able to score a deal for a super swanky hotel, but checking in made me feel like an imposter. There’s always a part of me that thinks they’re going to know I’m not wealthy, that I don’t belong, and they’re going to call security to throw the riffraff out.

I’d also like to point out that we made the ghettos. They didn’t just appear; they’re not just a normal, if unfortunate, part of our capitalistic society. Our economic policies made them.

~~~~~~~~~

This chapter is titled “Depression and Your Self-Image,” and while there are some basic things I could agree with him about the general population (negative self-talk is a thing, and we should learn to stop that), he tries to take things that can be true of mentally healthy people and apply them to people who are struggling with worthlessness and/or intrusive thoughts.

His solution also has a two-fold problem. While he seemingly spends most of this chapter preaching the benefits of incubating a positive self-image and learning self-acceptance, he asserts repeatedly that self-acceptance is only possible through religion. He doesn’t actually want people to love themselves, he wants them to feel validated by his version of Jesus. People who get all their feelings of value, love, and acceptance through their religion are not actually practicing self-acceptance.

This could be extremely dangerous for a depressed person. If they accept Tim’s idea– “I will feel worthwhile and loved if I become a Christian!”– they could very well accept Tim’s version of Christianity, which is extremely focused on deciding who’s “in” and who’s “out.” A depressed person trying to feel validated by their faith could end up with a religion-induced sense of scrupulosity.

The other half of the problem is what Tim teaches about human nature:

[A doctor] went on to explain that during his internship in a mental institution, he found that “ninety-five percent of the patients were there because of religiously induced guilt complexes.”

“Doctor, you couldn’t be more in error,” I [said], “People feel guilty because they are guilty!”

To a depressed person, this sentence says all those feelings you have about being a disgusting, worthless, vile, waste of human trash? Well, they’re right! You are a vile waste of human trash! That is not something a depressed person needs “confirmed” for them. Our brains are already screaming that.

Tim tries to mitigate the damaging effects of this concept by talking about how “forgiveness” is readily available to anyone who asks. Sure, we might be nothing more than waste, but God is oh-so-ready to forgive us for being worthless wretches! And once we’re forgiven, Jesus will love us, and we’ll have the magical ability to pray and imagine our depression away!

This is one of the reasons why I disagree with the idea of Imputed Sin. I’ll have to write a whole post out explaining my reasoning for that, but for today, I think it’s enough to stress that this doctrine is inherently harmful, especially to those of us who struggle with depression or other illnesses that try to convince us that we’re useless and worthless.

~~~~~~~~

Final count of examples involving women: 9 out of 12. He describes several of these women as “frigid” (one because she was married to a verbal abuser, although of course he doesn’t say that), and in one case he says that a woman’s trichotillomania was caused by vanity.

Also, I noticed something interesting in this chapter: when talking about how silly depression is, he almost exclusively uses examples of women, but when he starts talking about what a “godly” and “mature” person looks like, he switches to using exclusively male pronouns. Just … an observation.