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Does Religion Make You Depressed?

It might, maybe for good reason. William Willimon, observer of the American Protestant scene for many years, once told of a friend of his, a pastoral counselor, who theorizes that depression is “an ecclesiogenic illness.” With the church itself in mind and not necessarily all religion, he explained that the church is always talking about the gap between what is and what ought to be and then, never satisfied, issues the challenge to work for the yet-to-come. Unfortunately, the yet-to-come never seems to arrive but the challenge to keep at it still remains. In a happiness-seeking culture, that’s not just a tough sell—it’s enough to make one depressed.

As if to drive the nails in even deeper, the good Pastor Willimon quotes Marx who held that “the first requisite for the true happiness of a people is the abolition of religion,” and he then most certainly speaks for us all in concluding, “how much easier it would be without the stuffy old church around … reminding us of sin, death, suffering, and injustice.”

Not exactly of the happiness-sort, those words. Toss in the command to love, the reminder that Jesus had an expressed preference for the abused and oppressed, and the invitation to listen to his words and follow in his ways and, of course, we will feel another ecclesiogenic illness coming on.

As if we needed a reminder, those words and ways threaten to turn the world upside down, a world that not only has no intention of being turned upside down but also knows what to do with and to those who try.

But give it a go anyway, so the Story goes.

Even with the foundations of civilization itself trembling to their core, the very idea of “giving it a go” seems as out of place as the milkman and about as attractive as a fiber diet, the yet-to-come equating to the never-to-be.

Still, if that is your lot in life, what choice do you have? Really.