• Dear Ray Comfort and David Barton: Depression is Not a Culture War Battle by Warren Throckmorton

Dear Ray Comfort and David Barton: Depression is Not a Culture War Battle by Warren Throckmorton

I myself just wrote a Part 1 and Part 2 about the very same subject – Christian apologist Ray Comfort’s movie about suicide, called “No Exit.”

The “Exit” movie has its own website. There is a trailer available for the Exit movie on You Tube.

What I appreciate about Throckmorton’s take on this is that he plainly puts it out there that Comfort (while perhaps well-intentioned) is making depression and suicide evangelization tools. That was something I noticed too in Comfort’s presentation of the topic on TBN’s “Praise” program but didn’t think to mention it.

Comfort seems to be using depression and suicide as apologetic tools by which to convince Non-Christians, including atheists, to accept Jesus as Savior.

One problem of this, as I noted in Part 1 and Part 2, is that as someone who was a Christian for many years, and who used to have clinical depression for over two decades (along with suicidal ideation and anxiety) is that being a Christian did not deliver me from the depression (or anxiety or thoughts of suicide).

Depression is Not a Culture War Battle

by Warren Throckmorton

Excerpts:

During his April 21 Wallbuilders Live broadcast, David Barton had Ray Comfort on to discuss his new movie about suicide, Exit.  I intend to watch and review the movie but for now I want to advise readers to be wary.

For the most part, the advice given during this episode about depression and suicide is not helpful and in fact for some could be counterproductive.

….Suicide is Not a Cultural War Issue

Good intentions or not, there is a troubling thread here which continues throughout the program. The hosts and the guest treats suicide like it is a culture war battle — Christians on one side and non-Christians on the other.

The problem with this should be obvious.

One does not need to be a Christian to oppose suicide. People of all religions and none view suicide as a tragedy.

On this page, Throckmorton types up a partial transcript of this radio program, where Barton is talking to Comfort. Here is part of what Barton says:

…[quoting Barton]: What’s interesting is the culture also promotes things that increase depression. For example, when you look at studies on abortion, women who have had an abortion have depression rates three to five times higher than everybody else.

As I noted in one of my posts on this very topic, teachings within Christianity (such as gender complementarianism and a Christian belief or teaching that it’s selfish for a Christian to get her own needs met) fed into my depression for years.

Part of my escape from most of my depression and a lot of anxiety is that I had to un-learn concepts and views that Christians had taught me for years, that they said were “biblical” (but which were not biblical or healthy).

Here is another excerpt from the Throckmorton page:

..Portraying the causes of depression as being about believing the right Christian things [as Barton and Comfort do] is unhelpful and may drive some people away from getting the help they need.

…After acknowledging that religious people get depressed, he [Comfort] seems to say depression will be lifted if you just belief [believe] the right things. Again, I will wait to see, but if there is nothing in the film about getting treatment with a message that depression can be managed by competent medical care, then it will be of little value.

Please click here to read the rest of Throckmorton’s page about this.

Throckmorton says he plans on doing at least one more post about Comfort’s “Exit” movie in the future (after he watches it), and he has this other post on his site right now you may want to read:

Describing Depression: An Experienced Voice

(also mentions Comfort’s “Exit” movie)


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1- 800- 273- 8255
Available 24 hours everyday


More on This Blog:

For Most, Jesus and the Gospels Are Not the Answer for Depression, Suicide, and Other Mental Health Maladies (Part 1)

Why Does Being a Woman Put You at Greater Risk of Having Anxiety? by Cari Romm

For Most, Jesus and the Gospels Are Not the Answer for Depression, Suicide, and Other Mental Health Maladies (Part 2)

Non-Church, Non-Spiritual, or Secular Remedies and Treatments Don’t Always Work

The Psychology of Victim-Blaming by K. Roberts

Victimhood, Compassion, and Time Limits

Victimhood, Victim Blaming, and Moving On

Topics and Concerns Under-Reported by Christians or Abuse and Survivor Sites

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14 thoughts on “• Dear Ray Comfort and David Barton: Depression is Not a Culture War Battle by Warren Throckmorton

  1. Haven’t had time to read all this however I agree with what I have read. Christianity deals with the heart and the heart attitude. As one who suffered from depression for many years in my early life I can say that without professional intervention I wouldn’t be where I am today.

    Antidepressants deal with the symptoms of depression Psychology helps with tools to manage depression. I am sick of the Ray comforts and Bill Gothard’s of this world trying to sell their snake oil and send people back to the dark ages.

    • @ chrissymonde65.
      I had depression and anxiety for many years. (I still deal with anxiety to this day, not so much the depression, or the depression isn’t as severe as it was, maybe. It’s hard for me to explain)

      All I ever got out of all the Christian sermons, books, and articles I read over the years I had depression and anxiety was usually victim-blaming type attitudes (that I must have done something wrong to be depressed, or I just needed to trust God more, etc).

      I myself wasn’t helped by the psychiatrists and medications I took for depression and anxiety, but I do think that others should give those things a try because they may work for others, and I believe that those methods are still better than most Christian advice on mental health.

      (I wrote more about my own experiences with depression and anxiety in another post or two on my blog, such as this one:
      For Most, Jesus and the Gospels Are Not the Answer for Depression, Suicide, and Other Mental Health Maladies (Part 1))

      • I understand where you’re coming from I have suffered long term illness and got much the same response from some of my former friends at my church fellowship. Sadly there are many I know who fall for the “you’re sick because you did something wrong! I didn’t swallow their guff or let them guilt trip me. I challenged them to show me the specific link between my illness and what ever sin they thought I may have committed. Every reply I got was either based on suspicion of modern medicine or some anecdotal evidence (mostly old wives tales. Then I had the other nutters who push all natropathic remedies that rejected most modern forms of medicine. To make a long story short. The bible only gives general advice about health most of which has to do with hygiene or ritual practices in the Old Testament. Where it goes awry is when certain teachers take bible verses out of context and also their historical context to support their own and others theories on what causes disease, illness depression, disabilities both acquired or inherited; even death in some cases. Death according to the bible is the curse of sin and generically illness and disability is also the curse of sin. However In the Gospels Jesus healed a cripple and a blind man and was asked by his disciples what sin his parents had committed and Jesus replied none! That being said It is implied here that we as humans are not to speculate about the causes of illness, disability or death. Many fallacious arguments and beliefs are based on misinterpretations of the bible with no evidence to back them up. Those who reject modern science and medicine really need to move into their own isolated communities where they can live by candles made from animal fat and sinews accompanied by fire and let the rest of us move on. The bible and religion is not a science or medicinal text book. The bible deals with one’s spiritual health which does not promise health wealth and prosperity and problem free relationships. Nowhere does the bible promise a care/problem free life in fact it does say that because Christians are at odds with the world it will create tensions, persecution and even hatred towards its adherents. Anyone who reads the bible consistently would realise that Christianity isn’t for the faint hearted. Anyone who misses the constant tension between God and humanity and between people must be reading the bible with blinders on or have only read the Readers digest condensed version or one that has a black mark through all the bad bits. I think it is deplorable in this day and age that one’s such as Ray Comfort and his ilk promote unproven faulty theories and cures for whatever ails us. travelling salesmen in the 18th and 19th century relied on the ignorance of people to sell their snake oil. Many in the church today swallow the preachers snake oil that promote non-conventional cures and therapies. By the way my background is in counselling therapy and Social Sciences. Having suffered depression and long term illness I have had to educate myself against the ignorance these kooks promote. On the other side I also served as a missionary for a time. All I can say is don’t throw the baby out with the bath water and don’t blame God or the bible for human ignorance and stupidity. Don’t become bitter or angry at God and the bible for what these kooks advocate. Educate yourselves against this type of medieval thinking that illness, depression and even death is a direct result of some unforgivable sin that one might have committed or that the only mercy God might show is by taking away your health or your life. Generically speaking sickness and death are the cause of being fallen imperfect human beings that rebel against God that is sins curse. On a more positive note God also gave us modern medicine and science so that we don’t bore holes in peoples heads anymore to cure headaches or perform witch hunts to find the reason we or our church aren’t prospering. Also if one bothers to do even rudimentary research it isn’t hard to figure out that the charlatans who sell health wealth and prosperity are taking most people for a ride because they know most people wont do the research to expose this rubbish are have a vested interest in not ex;posing it. I can’t tell the difference between some secular motivational speakers and the Joel Osteen’s of this world or the witch doctors and people like Ray Comfort. Just remember that they want you to concentrate on the fireworks or the cinema screen; not the person behind the curtain… No apologies if anyone is offended by my reply.

    • Few people benefit from SSRIs long term. I took them for over 20 years. After a very gradual taper (never cold turkey! More addictive than street drugs) I am no longer depressed and can smile again.

      Churches fall into two camps. The anti-psychiatric crowd who say it’s all due to personal sin/demonic influence. Then the pro-psychiatric churches who say it’s all because of rotten genes that make you morally inferior and untrustworthy. Plus, now that we have all these magic wonder drugs that are safer than lollipops you only feel rotten cause you won’t shut up and take your mind altering drugs. Your fault still!

      I find the pro-psychiatric churches every bit as lacking in compassion as the antis. And just as ignorant.
      Nobody has even heard about Dr. Peter Breggin, Terry Lynch, or Robert Whittaker. If you really want to help depressed or psychotic people you need to learn how inexact and ineffective the science of psychiatry still is. We know maybe 2% of all the neurochemicals in the human brain for example.

      • @ Rachel.
        I saw doctors for over 20 years for my depression and anxiety, and I was on doctor prescribed anti dep. meds for many years.

        The psychiatrists I saw tried switching the type and dosage levels, but the meds never worked for me.

        You said,

        Plus, now that we have all these magic wonder drugs that are safer than lollipops you only feel rotten cause you won’t shut up and take your mind altering drugs.

        My mother sort of had this view point – though she was not mean-spirited about it.

        By the time I got to my late 20s or early 30s, I told my mother that I was still depressed, that the medications were not helping me.

        My mother swore up and down she saw a positive difference in me when I was on the medications.

        I think it was in her imagination. I think my mother wanted to believe that the pills would work for me, and it was easier for her to live in denial.

        Some people really want to believe if you just pop a pill it will instantly help or cure everything – but pills don’t always work for everyone.

  2. Daisy: First off I want to say, thanks so much for putting a link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at the end of your post.

    Next, in line with your blog post, I wanted to say that many Christians are in denial about the subject of suicide when it comes to their own. The truth is, Christians struggle with depression and often times it has little to nothing to do with their faith or belief/trust in God. Trauma that is not dealt with will fester inside and eventually rear its ugly head. And all the Bible memorizing and even prayer, will not address the origin of such depression.

    Adding to the problem is the very popular practice among Christians – Conservative Evangelicals in particular – of their strong insistence on “Biblical” counseling as a cure for depression. We could go even further and point to certain teachings within particular denominations/churches – such as double predestination, total depravity, evanescent grace, word of faith/health and wealth, name-it-and-claim-it – AND certain practices within particular denominations/churches – such as abusive church discipline, Patriarchy, legalism, sin leveling, just to mention a few – and we’ve got a Perfect Storm for the onset of depression!

    I’d call it a form of false advertising that Christians, like Ray Comfort & David Barton, use to convince people that if they would just trust Jesus, they’ll never be unhappy or depressed again. Everything will just be hunky dory. When a person believes this kind of message and accepts Jesus into their heart, but at some point they have to deal with depression, sadness, grief, anxiety, trauma, unhappiness, etc. – they often feel burdened with guilt because they were told that Christians don’t have to deal with these sort of things if they have faith in God. The fantasy of Happy-Clappy Christianity sold these people a lie.

    • @ Darlene

      I agree that Comfort and Barton are being somewhat misleading. I also believe they are being naive and simplistic.

      I had depression and anxiety for over 20 years (as well as the occasional suicidal thought), and I was a very devout Christian, but my faith and all the things that came with it that I tried – prayer, Bible reading, and so on – never alleviated the depression or anxiety.

      I’m also put off by how Comfort seems to be exploiting depression as a marketing tool or gimmick by which to “sell Jesus,” or to tell atheists that they are wrong. As if Jesus is a magic pill that one takes and can be instantly cured.

      How disappointed or disillusioned will someone be if they accept Jesus but still find that they wake up tomorrow with depression or anxiety?

      Comfort’s manner of presenting this information is such he almost makes it look as though he’s suggesting that “real” Christians can never, ever be afflicted with mental health disorders, when I myself was a devout Christian for years but still had to deal with depression and panic attacks.

      (As did my mother, who was a sincere Christian and a few other Christians I’ve known.)

      Instead of shaming Christians (or atheists) for having depression and sort of demanding that Christians get over their depression instantly (by Bible reading or what have you), why doesn’t Comfort just recommend that Christians be there for the person with depression?

      My suspicion is, I don’t think a lot of Christians want to do the hard work of actually being there for someone with depression.

      I don’t think guys like Comfort want to invest the time and energy of just being there for friends who have depression.

      (I experienced this also with grief after the passing of my mother – no Christians wanted to walk with me through the grief, but they either ignored me or insisted I just get over the grief pronto and do it on my own).

      And I hate to be so repetitive, but…
      I wrote more about my own experiences with depression and anxiety in another post or two on my blog, such as this one:
      For Most, Jesus and the Gospels Are Not the Answer for Depression, Suicide, and Other Mental Health Maladies (Part 1)

      I’m not sure if folks reading this post about Barton and Comfort saw my previous posts about mental health.

      I do agree that selling Jesus or Christianity as magic fix it alls is highly misleading.

      A person can believe in Jesus and still have depression. I also wish some Christians would stop it with the victim – blaming – some of them insensitively refer to having depression as the same thing as being “self pity,” or they suggest you’re depressed due to some personal sin of yours.

      • The best cure for depression? TLC and lots of it! We’re in short supply of this today. Many churches show how enlightened they are by throwing fistfuls of Prozac in your direction. Then they’ll turn their backs on you.

  3. Daisy, thanks for this post. It’s important to highlight what is being taught by Christians in a position of authority – and Comfort and Barton are in that position, whether they realize it or not, by virtue of their public, marketed ministries.

    Jesus told his disciples that in the world, they would have trouble. He never promised them a smooth, emotionally level, problem free life…if they would just believe HARD enough. In fact, it seems to me that while he walked the earth, Jesus, Himself, got depressed a few times.

    I grew up AofG, with a Word of Faith slant. There was always this suspicion of counselors and therapists…that they were anti-Christian (and to be fair, some of the were). There was also a teaching floating around that suicide was unforgivable. I know it’s not, but it was taboo to even talk about it, except to tsk, tsk…

    My last church was a mutation of Word of Faith that was (is) very cultish. The pastor actually preached that Christians had no business being depressed. Depression was a sin because it represented a lack of Faith. And Word of Faith worships…well…Faith.

    Having fought depression most of my life, this was very damaging teaching. Sigh.

    To he honest, Ray Comfort has always made me uneasy. He uses a form of bait and switch to try and trap people into admitting he’s right and they’re wrong. This is not the Gospel, IMO.

    • @ Jeannette.
      You’re welcome.

      I had mentioned in an older post that I wish that survivor blogs, such as TWW or SSB, etc, would blog about mental health problems more often, because there are a TON of Christians out there who have depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, but I rarely see these other well-visited blogs covering these topics.

      I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was about ten or 11 years old and dealt with it (and anxiety) for over 20 years, and I never found the spiritual methods Christians advise of any help.

      I wrote more about that and my own experience in another post on my blog, such as this one:
      For Most, Jesus and the Gospels Are Not the Answer for Depression, Suicide, and Other Mental Health Maladies (Part 1)

      As I discussed in that post, Ray Comfort was also marketing his “Exit” movie on a TBN (Christian TV network) program called “Praise” the other night, so he’s making the rounds, getting the word out about this movie.

  4. Daisy, since you want to help people avoid abusive relationships, please warn people how abusive the psychiatric system often is. I started with depression. Because of an allergic reaction to the drug anafranil I wound up with a bipolar diagnosis. Been treated like a piece of sh_t and shunned by everyone since age 20. Massive quantities of drugs did nothing to help, aside from slightly numbing the pain. “Scientific” Christians who faithfully watch the latest pharmaceutical commercials for updates on MI issues are some of the worst.

    I belong to an online website/forum for psychiatric survivors. People who came out of the psychiatric system ALIVE. Many of my friends weren’t so lucky. MadInAmerica.com.

    Uh, no, we don’t hate the mentally ill. Far from it!

    Just wish there was a Christian equivalent. 😦

    • @ Rachel N.

      I did sort of write a post or two about that topic. I wrote one post here:

      Non-Church, Non-Spiritual, or Secular Remedies and Treatments Don’t Always Work

      I saw psychiatrists for over 20 years, and they did not help me.

      On the other hand, Christianity did not help me either. I tried Bible reading, prayer, faith, etc, and God never did heal me from depression and anxiety. I had to figure something else out

      I try not to be dogmatic about either side of this.

      • Yes. It’s hard to have faith when no one has any faith in you. Just ask Job.

        While righteous Job sat suffering on his ash heap, his friends “helped” by probing into the horrible sin he had committed. How did they know he was guilty? Because he suffered and they didn’t.

        Interesting how these sweetness and light Christians would visit me in the mental wards and chide me for reading “depressing” parts of the Bible like Job.

        I was glad when they left. I found the books of Job and Ecclesiastical along with some of the saddest Psalms helped me more than any “self help” book or frothy Christian romance novel.

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