It’s been another of those weeks where this blog seems to have an embarrassment of riches in the “Christians Behaving Badly” department. This is another of those stories I think about when people try to head into “aww, what’s the harm?” territory.
David Barton is not a neuroscientist or a trained clinical psychologist any more than he’s a credible, reputable historian (his sole degree is in “Religious Education” from Oral Roberts University), but like that stops any fundagelical right-winger from spouting bibble-babble junk science to pander to toxic Christians (like his hilarious claim that legalized abortion is causing climate change because his incompetent god can’t figure out how to communicate with people except by raising the world’s temperature). Put him together with Kenneth Copeland, a televangelist who preaches prosperity gospel (the shamelessly predatory idea that his god will financially reward the obedient, especially if they give lots of money to Mr. Copeland’s ministries) and is an anti-vaxxer whose church was recently the epicenter of a big measles outbreak (and a guy whose educational credentials are just as thin as Mr. Barton’s are), and you get nothing but comedy gold–but then you realize that they are capable of inflicting incalculable damage on real people and suddenly it isn’t quite as funny anymore.
Right-wing Christianity’s latest crime against humanity comes in the form of an interview these two charlatans did in which Mr. Barton says that PTSD isn’t Biblical because it never seemed to happen to soldiers in the Old Testament. His partner in crime, Kenneth Copeland, had this to add:
“Any of you suffering from PTSD right now, you listen to me,” Copeland said as Barton affirmed him. ”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 will get rid of it.”
Warms the heart, really, doesn’t it? “You don’t take drugs to get rid of it. It doesn’t take psychology.” That is so ignorant I don’t even know where to begin.
Let’s ignore that Mr. Copeland isn’t any better-equipped to deal with neurological disorders than is David Barton himself. Neither one of ‘em understands what PTSD actually is, or understands how amazingly effective modern psychiatry can be with treating it. I’ve actually had PTSD myself (shocking, I know, considering what-all happened with my preacher ex), and I can inform you that prayer did not work to cure it. My therapist, once the disorder was finally caught, told me my case was as bad as anything he’d ever seen from a front-lines combat-weary veteran–it was, quite literally, a textbook case down to the bullet points. So I was about as bad as someone can get, I reckon. What did work to cure it? I took a mild SSRI for a year or so to even me out while I underwent cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and I haven’t had a serious outbreak of symptoms in the fifteen years since. Minor outbreaks? Sometimes. It’s a neurological disorder, which means that my brain chemistry has been altered by the trauma I went through, and the damage is likely permanent. And that’s okay. We’ve all got war wounds, don’t we? It’s something I deal with and know how to deal with. It’s not mystical or magical any more than diabetes is.
But these irresponsible con artists are doing nothing different from those equally irresponsible con artists preaching faith-healing for cancer and handling rattlesnakes. These ignorant, criminally negligent hucksters are trying to convince suffering people not to get therapy that works–that we know works–that has been demonstrated to work–in favor of them trying snake-oil approaches that have never been shown to help with PTSD. And they’re doing it from behind the cloak of their invisible friend. The Bible never talks about PTSD, so obviously Christians should never ever suffer from PTSD! They should be able to just pray up and get over it by themselves!
Well, here’s a short list of other stuff the Bible never talks about:
* Cell phones.
* Dental preventive care.
* Prenatal care.
* Treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases.
* Turn lanes.
* Women getting to choose who they marry.
* The idea that slavery is really bad and nobody should do it.
* Video games.
* Breakfast cereal.
* Casts for broken limbs.
* State lines.
* National forests.
* Mandatory overtime pay.
* Fluoridated water.
* Car insurance.
I expect David Barton to immediately stop going to the dentist, buying car insurance, going to restaurants, or using a cell phone, since the Bible never talks about those things so therefore Christians shouldn’t tangle with them.
You know, you’d think that between these two master sheep-fleecers, Mr. Copeland–whose church, again, faced a measles epidemic that his god didn’t seem to protect them from and that faith alone didn’t seem to be able to cure–would know better than to be so irredeemably irresponsible. He of all people should know that prayer doesn’t help much against diseases and problems and when faced with something serious, even a Christian needs to drop the pretense and just go to the damned doctor or therapist.
Not like either of these two men need to worry about it, of course. Clearly neither of them face PTSD. They’ve never had hallucinations or unstoppable, horrifically invasive and intrusive thoughts, never faced entire nights of “what if…,” never had to visit an ER for a panic attack. They’re perfectly safe talking like this. They’ll never have to comfort someone in the middle of a panic attack or face the real threat of suicide when someone finally loses to his or her “demons.” I find their babbling to be beyond irresponsible and self-serving. They have nothing to lose by pushing this nonsense, this twaddle, this junk science. By contrast, their listeners have, potentially, everything to lose. But what are a few suicides in the grand scheme of things? What are a few more sufferers? Just collateral damage, I reckon. Their culture war will claim many lives, but who cares if they win? The ends justify the means. The many sick people who are hurt by their advice don’t matter.
Thankfully, the SBC–yes, you heard me, the Southern Baptist Convention, no less–calls what Barton and Copeland have said “profoundly ignorant” as well as “shocking and unconscionable.” I can’t disagree. This is unconscionable. This is shocking. At first it’s kinda funny to see someone say something so ridiculously stupid and untrue and realize they believe something so foolish, yes, but then it sinks in that there are Christians listening to these two scammers who may put off seeking aid they need, aid that may stop them from being violent or suicidal (PTSD claims a lot of lives), because these scammers need to pander a little more to their frightened, gullible sheep. By talking like this, by lying like this, these two beasts in human form are doing nothing less than further stigmatizing mental illness and denigrating therapy and psychiatry–which, again, are what actually work to help with PTSD, unlike prayer.
Christians, hear me: these nasty hucksters, these predatory scammers, these liars, these evil and manipulative little man-children, these irresponsible grifters, these shameless fleecers, these heartless predators, look upon them: these are your bedmates. These conniving charlatans, these unspeakable mountebanks are two of Christianity’s biggest voices. These snake-oil salespeople are taken seriously by millions of Christians. They inform the dialogue of Christianity; they shape the religion; they lead millions upon millions of people into deception and cruelty and possibly even death, and they do it with a folksy chuckle and pious prayers.
Aww, what’s the harm?
This is the harm. This right here. This.
It’s not like their attitude is only applied to PTSD, of course. I’ve got plenty of friends who have lifelong diseases and problems who prayed and prayed and prayed rather than seeking real help because their churches taught that prayer worked while real help didn’t. Of course, when their diseases and problems didn’t go away, the churches found ways to blame the sufferers. They hadn’t prayed hard enough. They hadn’t done enough. They hadn’t been faithful enough, tithed enough, believed enough. It is revolting to me to see what Christianity does to people with legitimate problems that can be legitimately helped. I can easily imagine that if these sufferers with PTSD somehow fail to be magically fixed by magical magic, these two jackasses will find some way to blame them for not doing something right. It is beyond horrifying to think about the damage that will be done to people whose lives and mental health become mere pawns in Barton and Copeland’s culture war.
Let me end with a PSA:
If you are experiencing the symptoms of PTSD, please, please, please don’t listen to these preying assholes. Whether you’re Christian or not, this isn’t something you can fix by yourself. Please seek help. Help is out there. Even though I was broke and uninsured, I found sliding-scale therapy and free medication in two different ultra-Republican states, and I can tell you that seriously, therapy saved my life and my sanity. Please do not listen to these guys. You can’t pray away PTSD any more than you can pray away a cavity, and just like how a cavity becomes a root canal, PTSD can escalate into something unbelievably worse than whatever it is now. There is help, and it works. Please find that help. If the first (or second, or third) therapist you talk to doesn’t seem to help, get a referral to someone else. Don’t stop till you find effective help. Please believe me: PTSD is curable and you will be okay if you are aggressive about tackling this thing head-on.
If you have no idea of where to begin, do what I did one dark, horrible, terrifying night when the disease finally overwhelmed me: pick up your phone book and call any one of the 24-hour hotlines listed in the services section–even if you’re not suicidal or facing domestic violence, these lines’ operators will have resources at the ready to share with you and I totally promise they won’t mind helping you even if technically you’re not the line’s target client.
Prayer does not work, but these hotlines do.
I need a shower now. I feel filthy just thinking about this disgusting situation. I could never be a Christian of the sort these two men profess to be–I’m just too honest and care too much about people to prey upon vulnerable sufferers’ fears and weaknesses in such a shameless fashion. How can people even do this to others? How can people be this evil and immoral? I didn’t get it as a Christian, and I still don’t get it now.
I just hope they don’t hurt too many people with this latest installment of reckless abuse in the name of their invisible wizard friend.