The best detector of someone’s observable worth is an insecure person.  An insecure person gauges their and others’ worth based on their connection to worth-making sources such as strong brands, prestigious institutions, high-status people, etc…  A couple things can be gleaned from this.  First of all, there is an insecurity virtuous cycle where insecurity begets insecurity.  More insecure people out there means more people gauging your worth by external sources and that makes you more insecure and more likely to partake in said behavior.  Secondly, the less worth-making entities in the system, the more insecure people there will be.  This recession has cut off jobs (worth-making entities, especially for men), cut leisure spending and made the country’s mood negative all around.

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Being at the right end of the power structure, therapists make up terms that cast the sufferer in a pejorative light.

Social Anxiety Disorder:  Most people are anxious in social situations for a very good reason.  They get rejected and even picked on.  By calling it social anxiety disorder you are painting the condition as a deficit of the sufferer while failing to acknowledge the hostile social environment’s role.  A better term for it would be snub sensitivity.

Co-dependence: Wow, having just one good friend is considered a disorder?  Shouldn’t having no friends be considered a disorder?  I would think having zero friends would be considered a worse disorder than having just one.  I’m not trying to paint co-dependence as healthy but I think it’s very often the lesser of two evils.

Social Skills: Again this term does a poor job of describing what goes on in the real world.  Take the term woodworking skills.  It describes someone’s ability to form good things out of wood.  The point here is the wood isn’t resistant, it is pliable and always stays the same.  In social interactions there are all kinds of feedback loops going on.  If there is something wrong with you the loop generally starts out negative and continues along on that path (as an individual with a physical disability and mental illness I experience this daily).  A better word for “social skills” would be social traction because that is a more accurate and holistic way of describing what goes on.

Being an Enabler: We don’t like people who love unconditionally so we have to come up with fancy denigrating names for them.  We do this because we know, despite what any significant other says, we are not loved unconditionally.  So when we see someone who is we want do demonize the one doing the loving.  I’m not saying there isn’t a place for “tough love” but from what I’ve seen people use the excuse of not being an enabler to withhold support from people who need it.

Social Independence: What social independence really means is you have enough social worth for others whose social interaction you depend on to come in to your life on their own free will.

Living For Something

With some people who are mentally ill, life, in itself, isn’t really worth living. What makes life worth living is the good things in that person’s life (generally relationships). When these things are taken away life is no longer worth living and suicidal thoughts and actions might take place. When someone with a mental illness threatens to kill them self if you leave them you can take it as a back handed compliment. They are living for you! It might not be healthy or right but it’s true.

The experience of being mentally ill (particularly with regards to the elements within your life making it worth living as opposed to life being worth living in and of itself) is a singularity.  It’s like those video games where you can reverse the whole gravity of a world and all the elements move in the opposite direction as they were before.  Relationships mean a lot to you but they mean so much more to us.  Our internal monologue is a cesspit—being alone is more like death to us.  What other people say may be bad but it generally isn’t much worse than what we are already saying to ourselves.  On a more practical note, relationships counter the self-absorption/rejection vicious cycle which is no good for anyone.  And friends who knew you before your mental illness started/worsened (who have stuck) help you relive a healthier version of yourself through shared memories.  Just them being there connects you to a part of yourself that was lost through mental illness.

Question: Disability and Prayer

It has been my experience that Christians treat people with disabilities (and especially mental illnesses) as bad or worse than their secular counterparts. People with temporary illnesses or injuries don’t get the same hostile treatment. If people actually prayed in faith for individuals with disabilities then, by that fact, they would believe these people were having temporary illnesses and thus would treat them better. Why don’t they?

Question: Doubt

David Bazan made a gripping album about his break with Christianity and it was lauded by Christianity Today.  There is this current within evangelicalism of viewing doubt as a form of spiritual maturity.   Why would doubt—something that often ultimately leads to apostasy—be viewed as such a positive?  Why would milling around the edge of the cliff be held in high esteem while actually going over the edge is met with such scorn?

Why Evangelical Christianity is Ableist

Below are some reasons I think Evangelical Christianity is ableist (prejudiced against individuals with disabilities).

Biblical portrayals. In the Bible, individuals with disabilities are portrayed as objects of pity who are broken.  This is particular true in the gospels.  After a cursory reading you come away with the idea that the only way to be accepted in society is by a miracle of healing.  This kind of thinking trickles down to the churches where modern notions of individuals with disabilities as people OK the way they are generally haven’t taken hold.

False hope of healing. Some churches believe if you just pray hard enough and have enough faith, your disability will be healed.  This adds a whole new layer of hurt on a life already burdened by disability.  Suddenly your faith is being called into question because you didn’t have enough to receive healing.  Miracles rarely, if ever, happen.

The Pollyanna effect. There’s this current within Christianity to try to focus on silver linings and try to use them to justify the clouds because, after all, life is supposed to make sense backwards. It’s easy to have a romantic notion of suffering when you observe it from afar.  After all, life is a story and there are challenges but those who suffer learn something won’t be worse for the wear.  Unfortunately a disability actually makes your life worse in ways that cannot be romanticized, partly because of all the relationship and vocational opportunities you’ll lose out on.  Also, there is this idea that individuals with disabilities are supposed to put on a happy face, despite the circumstances and are supposed to somehow overcome and do something heroic with their challenge (like the guy with no arms and no legs who pulls himself up in front of a crowd).  Individuals with disabilities are just people like you and me.  They aren’t heroes and they aren’t wallowing in self-pity and despair their whole life.

Intolerance. Christians generally have an aversion to people who are different (which individuals with disabilities definitely are).  Part of this makes sense because if you look different that means you might think different and thinking different is frowned upon (especially when you think differently about God).  Another part of it is just xenophobia and the fear of the unknown.  It’s easier to function in a comfy little bubble and pretend brokenness doesn’t exist except in third world countries.  Christians want to be happy and upbeat—there’s almost an aloofness in the whole thing.

Experience of God. Following the voice of God to me is just beautification of intuition.  But to Christians (particularly Evangelicals) it is a way of life. It works well for the mentally healthy, God tells them what drapes to go with the new carpeting and stuff.  Once you start telling mentally ill people to heed the voice of God things get very different.  You are just giving them fodder for their next psychotic break.  It’s a sad state.  I think it has to do with the fact that religion wasn’t made to survive every test case (like when you engineer a car battery that has to work in a huge range of temperatures).  Religion was just made to appeal to the experience of the dominate majority.

Artprize: Artist Statement

Sometimes it’s difficult to be an artist because what happens when you have your training is you learn to draw and you learn to look and you learn to listen and observe and then in this process you grow this very tall antenna and then you start collecting all this information and then you have this buildup in your heart and your soul and you try to speak it and you find that people are oftentimes not interested, don’t get it, or afraid of what you’re saying.

– Rick Beerhorst [see video]

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