It’s nauseating to believe that in 2019, there are still some areas of the country where those dealing with mental health issues might as well be wearing a scarlet letter. The biggest reason for this travesty is that those who should be lifting people up are instead kicking them in the teeth and a bunch of other places.
It’s a big reason why those who have been sexually assaulted by the rich and powerful don’t come forward for years, if at all. Invariably, even when the physical scars heal, victims have to deal with a lifetime of mental health concerns. But when they want to speak up, those who should be supporting them are dismissive at best and insulting and abusive at worst.
We got a lovely example of this sordid mentality late last week. A leading black conservative pastor known for uncorking verbal cheap shots may have uncorked his cheapest one yet. He claimed that if you suffer from depression, bipolar disorder, or any other mental health condition, it’s a sign that you’re sinning.
You may know Jesse Lee Peterson as one of the most obnoxious members of a very exclusive club–blacks who are all-in for Donald Trump. But Peterson is also known for social views that are staggeringly retrograde, even by fundie standards. This is a supposed pastor who believes children who are the product of rape or incest must love the scumbags who violated their mothers. This is a supposed pastor who thinks a congressman is a “beta male” if he believes his place should be at home to care for a baby daughter recovering from open-heart surgery.
But these pale in comparison to what Peterson spewed on his Friday show. He wagged his finger at those dealing with mental health problems and told them that they don’t need to go to a doctor. No, no–they need to clean out their hearts. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
Peterson was riffing on the suicide of Jarrid Wilson, an associate pastor at a California megachurch who took his own life last Monday. Earlier, Peterson crassly declared that Wilson’s suicide was evidence that the 30-year-old mental health advocate had actually been controlled by the devil. He expanded on this by arguing that true Christians are never depressed.
How’s that, you ask? Well, Peterson said, those who sin are “subject and are slaves” to such things as depression and suicidal thoughts. He believed that one big reason that we’re seeing so many Christians suffering through depression and having suicidal thoughts is that “they are still of the world”–and therefore, “Satan is still their daddy.”
His advice? Get the sin out of your life, and “you are not going to have all these issues.” After all, as far as Peterson is concerned, “perfect and holy people” don’t have to worry about depression and other mental problems. And just in case he didn’t make himself clear earlier, he had a message for anyone dealing with those issues–“Satan is your daddy.”
There is so much wrong with this that it’s literally impossible to pinpoint where to start. Many of my dearest friends have depression and bipolar disorder. Is that a sign that they’re sinning? Apparently so, if you believe Peterson. Indeed, it’s hard to believe it’s a coincidence that Peterson spewed this during the middle of a season change–when a number of people with depression have a particularly hard time.l
Moreover, a number of people who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault have to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder for some time after their original ordeals. That includes yours truly. I suffered through an emotionally abusive marriage for three years, and for some time after I left some of the things my ex-wife did brought me to tears just thinking about them. You mean to tell me that’s a sign I was sinning, Jesse?
What Peterson is spewing is nothing more than a modern version of an old canard that was all too common in much of the evangelical world until very recently. You were expected to put on a happy face and cover up whatever ordeal you were going through–all in the name of being “perfect and holy people.”
Well, Jesse, consider yourself on notice. If anyone listening to the unmitigated, un-Christian, and inhuman pigweed you spewed on Friday is dissuaded from getting help as a result, you will have blood on your hands. And we will make sure that you are held to account for it.
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