A Response to Blogger Matt Walsh Regarding Depression
Before I address Matt Walsh’s post about depression specifically:
For anyone who wants to read a compassionate, balanced view about mental health problems, including depression, by a Christian author, please read a copy of the book,
Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded?: Helping (Not Hurting) Those with Emotional Difficulties – by Dwight L. Carlson.
Carlson is a Christian doctor who explains how much, if at all, personal sin, choice, or biology play in issues such as depression.
An excerpt from the book’s page on Amazon reads,
- It’s no sin to hurt. Thousands of Christians suffer real emotional pain– such as depression, anxiety, obsessiveness.
Many other Christians, including prominent leaders, believe emotional problems are the result of sin or bad choices. These attitudes often only add to the suffering of those who hurt.
In this book Dwight Carlson marshals recent scientific evidence that demonstrates many emotional problems are just as physical or biological as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
While he never discounts personal responsibility, Carlson shows from both the Bible and up-to-date medicine why it really is no sin to hurt.
Understandably and compellingly, Why Do Christians Shoot Their Wounded? brings profound help for those who hurt and those who counsel. For those who suffer, here is a powerful liberation from guilt. For those who care for the suffering, here is vivid proof that those in emotional pain deserve compassion, not condemnation.
MATT WALSH, ROBIN WILLIAMS, AND SUICIDE/DEPRESSION
In the day or two after it was announced that movie actor Robin Williams died by suicide, Christian blogger Matt Walsh wrote a blog post about it called “Robin Williams didn’t die from a disease, he died from his choice” (url: themattwalshblog.com). A copy of Walsh’s first post appears (Link): here on Barbwire (the link will open in a new window).
The very title of the post suggests, or assumes, that Williams was wholly in his right mind, capable of making rational decisions, and was therefore totally responsible for his own death, that he could have easily avoided his death (if only he had “chosen” joy and/or read a Bible more, etc), and, by extension, deserves no compassion.
Walsh would probably counter, “But I never specficially said he didn’t deserve compassion, or that he should just read his Bible more!”
Well, no, you didn’t say that exactly, but the wording of your blog post heading alone certainly implies it. The rambling in the post itself, which was intended to bolster the claims implied in the title, further suggests these views as well.
Walsh got so much negative feedback from that post, he wrote a follow-up post to it the other day.
I don’t know at this point if I intend on writing a full-scale rebuttal to Walsh’s post here – or, if I do, I may do it in the days or weeks ahead. I’m undecided.
I found Walsh’s commentary so revolting, I can’t bring myself to go back and re-read the piece again. Once was enough. I’ll try to re-visit the pages to grab some quotes, if I can.
I skimmed the Part 2 earlier today. Part 2 is entitled, “Depression isn’t a choice but suicide is: my detailed response to the critics”
The attitude of Walsh’s primary post was very victim-blaming, in spite of his protestations to the contrary.
Walsh evidently feels post # 1 was very loving and supportive of Robin Williams or anyone who deals with depression.
Perhaps Walsh is merely a very poor writer and failed to accurately convey his views in the first place, so that they came out as insensitive as they did, and now he’s upset so many people have taken his post the “wrong way.”
That has happened to me a time or two online – I fail to clearly explain my position on a sensitive issue, and folks take it the wrong way, and assume I’m a heartless jerk. (On the other hand, people are sometimes guilty of reading things into posts I’ve written that I never said or felt.)
If I am not mistaken, Walsh implied in part 1, and admitted in part 2 (again, I cannot bring myself at this time to re-read both to double check this) that he has had depression in the past, or some sort of problem.
Okay, I shall wade into the post again to find the exact quote. Here is what Walsh said in part 2 about his own experiences:
I actually found myself getting emotional as I wrote it. I’m not suicidal but I have demons of my own, so I submitted that post to the public, praying others would find the same solace in the promise of hope and the power of free will.
From part 1, Walsh says,
And before I’m accused of being someone who “doesn’t understand,” let me assure you that I have struggled with this my entire life.
I want to pause here to say I find that wording odd, from the quote from part 2. Walsh says he hopes people can find hope in “the power of free will.”
Christians usually feed depressed people the cliché’ that they can be freed of depression in “Jesus alone.”
Just as believing in Jesus alone cannot free a person from depression, neither can celebrating “free will,” or a “pick yourself up by your bootstraps and solider on” mentality.
I’d say often, a lot of people with clinical depression operate under one or both those paradigms for years to start with anyway, along with psychiatric visits or medications, until they realize none of it is working, they get mentally exhausted and want to stop fighting to live.
It is exhausting to live another day when all you want to do is stay in bed all day long with the sheets over your head, or take your own life.
That is, people with depression already have tried to “choose joy” and so on; they don’t need a Matt Walsh telling them to give that a go.
Having severe depression is not an automatic death sentence. There can be a way out, but it might vary from one person to the next.
But the vast majority of people I’ve seen who have made it through depression and lived to tell about it usually do not credit their survival with pure choice (ie, choosing to be joyful), Bible reading, attending church, or Jesus alone.
As a matter of fact, many of these recovering folks will tell you that one thing that made their journey MORE difficult was receiving well intentioned, yet hurtful advice, such as the very things Walsh was writing about and which is common among Christians: believe more in Jesus, attend church, choose to be joyful, etc.
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