Sunshine on the Soapsuds

sunshinesoapsudsIf your fundamentalist church ran its own radio station (as an inordinate number do) you’ve probably heard these words pouring forth from your radio:

The Bible says, “Every wise woman buildeth her house; but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands” (Proverbs 14:1). Each day, Beneth Peters Jones shares with you spiritual helps for building rather than battering your home.

This is pure gold. A show by a housewife for housewives (who one supposes are listening whilst they are baking, cleaning, and doing obeisance to their husbands) could not help but be a hit with fundamentalists.

In the clip below, Beneth takes on the topic of “Depression.” Notice that she takes care to address her remarks to women. After all, you wouldn’t want a man thinking she was trying to tell him what to do.

edit: Audio source has since been removed…

I feel better already.

For more soapsuds goodness, be sure to check out her two books from BJU Press.

20 thoughts on “Sunshine on the Soapsuds”

  1. My wife has told me stories about the women’s Bible studies at the fundy church we came out of. The pastor’s wife used to tell them that depression was a sin, a heart condition. Her counsel was basically to suck it up, put on a smile, and quit being so selfish. This kind of rhetoric is so dangerous, b/c it heaps shame on those who are really hurting.

  2. I read one of her books in high school- it was a textbook for a class actually. I thought at the time that she must have feminist leanings since she insisted upon using her maiden name along with her married! :p

  3. To be honest, I liked her advice.

    True, it doesn’t apply to every situation. I am no doctor, and people may need medication to get them back to balance, but personally I see that as only a temporary solution. For example, someone suffering from insomnia may need sleep before they can mentally handle anything let alone Biblical Counseling. Drugs may be needed to get that sleep, but the drugs don’t fix the problem that started the insomnia.

    Likewise, anti-depressants may also be needed to get the person to a level where they can emotionally and mentally handle counseling. Still, the counseling this Bereth Jones gave is solid. Christ is sufficient. I may disagree with her on her take on medication, but the answer we both agree on is God.

    Growing up Fundamentalist, morality and rules was normal. Persistant failure at keeping the standard, which was perfection, would lead to three options: 1) Pride, feeling like you actually were the standard of perfection 2) Anger, where you start blaming others, mostly authority for stuff 3) Depression, where you realize you can’t do it and you are a failure at being perfect. Personally, I believe these three emotions are the main emotions you will see in a fundamentalist group, although the anger may be directed at political authority rather than spiritual authority.

    As for the third option, Depression, that was me. I grew up knowing what I should be, but always falling short and you get to where you don’t even feel like your a Christian to begin with. It was at this point, where I was actually feeling like simply ending it all that a friend made an almost cliche’ statement, “Christ is sufficient.” God is enough.

    Looking back, that moment may have actually been the moment I stopped being a Fundamentalist with a capitol F at least. In that moment I realized I could never do anything in my own power, but in my weakness Christ is made strong. I can’t even write this without tearing up. It is a powerful thing when every last shred of Self-Sufficiency is cast onto God leaving nothing for myself to hold onto but Christ.

    What cured my depression? A verse, God, Christ? I can’t really put it into words, but I believe this Beneth Jones has the basics in what she said. I would probably say it differently then how she did, as you can read what I have already written, but she and I have the same “fundamental” answer, “Christ is sufficient.”

  4. J Leslie,

    What you’ve described may be called “misplaced guilt”, “angst”, or “bad feelings”, but does not fit the criteria for clinical depression. When a person is clinically depressed they don’t just “get over it” by being read a verse or deciding to feel better.

    Fundamentalists widely misunderstand mental illness and mental health issues in general. It’s the reason why you see the kind of craziness that I’ve been documenting over on the Nouthetic Survivors forum.

  5. Well put J Leslie, when Jesus is our all in all we tend to focus more on others than on ourselves. If I focused on myself and how messed up I am it would make anyone depressed.

    I’m sure Fundies consider depression a sin and you just need to fake it until you make it. I truly believe they would rather look down on you than help you, it makes them feel so much better about themselves.

  6. Yeah, I’ve heard the “just snap out of it and get over it” WAY too often. The thing is, if it was possible to “just get out of it,” there wouldn’t be anyone suffering from clinical depression, which, yes, can be either caused or worsened by Fundamentalism. It’s not that simple; I know, I’ve been there. If Fundamentalism taught me anything, it was to hide it and put a smile on my face. Thing is, that doesn’t jive *at all* with what you find in the Psalms (e.g., Psalm 88) or indeed in what you find in the NT about what the church is supposed to be. By the way Darrell, interesting forum. I’ll have to be sure to check it out more later!

  7. By the by, I did appreciate John Piper’s sermons on Spiritual Depression: based on the works of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

    Piper confessed to being depressed for years even while in the midst of his ministry. More folks need to have the guts to have that kind of honesty.

  8. I received a masters from a secular *gasp* school. While there are many things I certainly do not agree with that many social workers promote, I find that the view of many fundies in regard to psychological issues to be both unbalanced and hurtful, at best. They appear to disregard physiological forces at work completely… probably because they can’t control them! In addition, they leave no place for the idea that God may actually want us to experience sorrow as it truly is an emotion He has given us. I recommend “Mood Tide” a book by Dr. Horton which offers a much more balanced perspective. Advice to suck it up and put on a happy face promotes hypocrisy more than anything else.

  9. Beneth Peters Jones believes that she can give the last word on a variety of topics that she really has no training to do.

    Her other books, Beauty and Best & With Heart and Hand give explanations on how to carry yourself, how to control your emotions, how to counsel women, how to plan your wardrobe, how to lead the ladies at church without getting close to any of them so as to avoid favoritism, how to apply make-up, the proper role of bathing and shaving in stewardship of the body, the use of technology in the role of pastor’s wife, how to Baby-sit other people’s children, how to sit properly, how to walk in heels, how to deal with irritating people, how to plan retreats, how to deal with eating disorders, differences in body types, etc.

    She also has harsh words for overweight people. She writes, “Because overeating is a manifestation of weak self-discipline and pandering to fleshly desires, it can have an unwholesome effect upon the testimony God wants us to bear for Him.” She then relates a story of a girl who lost 100 pounds because it was marring her testimony with a bunch of small children.

    Are you impressed yet? She has Bible verses (many times out of context) to support everything.

  10. Darrell- “What you’ve described may be called “misplaced guilt”, “angst”, or “bad feelings”, but does not fit the criteria for clinical depression. When a person is clinically depressed they don’t just “get over it” by being read a verse or deciding to feel better”

    clinical depression 
    –noun Psychiatry. a depression so severe as to be considered abnormal, either because of no obvious environmental causes, or because the reaction to unfortunate life circumstances is more intense or prolonged than would generally be expected.

    If you identify with several of the following signs and symptoms, and they just won’t go away, you may be suffering from clinical depression.
    you can’t sleep or you sleep too much
    you can’t concentrate or find that previously easy tasks are now difficult
    you feel hopeless and helpless
    you can’t control your negative thoughts, no matter how much you try
    you have lost your appetite or you can’t stop eating
    you are much more irritable and short-tempered than usual
    you have thoughts that life is not worth living (Seek help immediately if this is the case)

    I was never tested to see if I was under “clinical depression” so you may be correct in saying that I was not clinically depressed. However, from what I listed above about defining what clinical depression is, I fit every qualifier. I was suicidal, in that most of my thoughts revolved around suicide, although I never actually tried to commit suicide.

    Now, there are many different causes of depression, and I am not saying a chemical imbalance is an invalid cause of depression. What you call misplaced guilt, or angst or bad feelings is no less valid a cause of depression then chemical imbalance.

    I did not mean to imply that a friend saying a cliche’ verse is what knocked me out of what I call depression. What I am trying to say is that God supernaturally used His Word, a verse that I have known most of my life to the point it was cliche’, and He used a friend, one who was outside what I would call Fundamentalism with the capitol F, and I am trying to say that God used these seemingly trivial things to break my heart, as opposed to trying to will myself better through my own power which I had been trying since before highschool.

    I am not even trying to say that this will work the same for everyone everywhere everytime. I don’t believe it will. I am saying that in my darkest moments what broke me was the realization that Christ is sufficient.

    Not only had that simple fact radically changed my depression to a peace, but it changed just about everything else in my relationship with my friends, family and God, and my Doctrine, my theology. That moment everything radically changed, and looking back there are times where I wonder if that was the moment God saved me.

    I can’t say I never battled with pain or suffering since then, but now when I go through these trials I no longer turn to myself, but God. Is it so radical for me to say that God, that Christ really is the ultimate answer for depression? I can only speak from what God has done in my life for my depression, and I believe that God can do the same for others. I do not believe I am in opposition to Scripture in what I have said, although perhaps I am in opposition to Medical Science. Still, I cannot say authoritatively from Scripture that what I have said is true for someone else who suffers from a different cause of depression, although I believe it to be true, I will not condemn anyone from disagreeing. I still will say, Christ is sufficient.

  11. J Leslie – I think God has given us a lot of different tools, gifts, and ways to face life’s challenges and hardships. I think that the prayer and guidance of godly people is a wonderful, healing thing. I think God also blesses people who practice modern medicine with the gift of healing as well. Healing can take many different forms. I think we can see God working in many different ways in people’s lives.

    When I was diagnosed with a severe hormonal disorder and received treatment for it, I finally stopped feeling the awful mood swings and depressive symptoms that accompanied the severe, ‘roid-rage-level testosterone surges I was experiencing (I’m a woman). I also saw a Christian counselor who helped me deal with some of the emotions I was feeling after receiving my diagnosis. I know that God was working through my prayers, the doctor’s hands, and the counselor’s words.

    I think we tread on very dangerous ground when we say “this is the only way you can receive help/be healed.” Should a prescription for Prozac be the automatic solution to depression for every person? No. But neither should saying, “You don’t need to see a doctor or a counselor. Just pray more.” God can work in many, many ways. And God has a perfect plan for each of us – and it won’t look the same for every person.

  12. UH- “I think we tread on very dangerous ground when we say ‘this is the only way you can receive help/be healed.’ ”

    I couldn’t agree more, and I hope I didn’t leave the impression that was what I meant. Telling someone who just had their arm cut off to ‘pray more and the pain will go away’ is somewhat foolish in my mind. So too would it be to tell somone with just as serious of a contidion to simply pray. James 2:14-16 comes to mind.
    14What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
    15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
    16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

    Telling someone that they need to pray more or have more faith without actually helping them with a medical condition, how does that actually help that person? Perhaps I misinterpret the passage, but I believe a principle you could draw from this would be to seek medical solutions along with faith and prayer, combining faith with action. Much like you did with counseling, going to the doctor, and prayer. I am glad you found healing, I am, and I praise God with you. I hope you understand what I mean, I am not against medicine or doctors, faith without works is dead, if I could put it that way without being too heretical.

  13. J Leslie, thank you for your thoughtful and articulate clarification. I think I read a little too much into your statement, “I do not believe I am in opposition to Scripture in what I have said, although perhaps I am in opposition to Medical Science” and perhaps misinterpreted what you were trying to say.

    I’m especially passionate about this issue simply because of my experience and my own medical/psychological struggles. I think was as Christians do so much damage when we compartmentalize the various aspects of our lives – “mental health goes in one box, spiritual health goes in another box, and physical health goes in another box” – and act like all those things don’t touch each other in a thousand different ways. I pray that we can all help each other recognize how to help people find healing using all the wonderful things God has blessed us with – whether they be medications or counseling sessions or laying of hands or group prayer. Because the awesome thing is that God is SO BIG, and wants to reach out to a hurting world – and to do so using us as instruments of healing! What an incredible and humbling thing. 🙂

  14. JLESLIE!
    Are you a doctor? Have you read a medical book? You can’t get over depression by leaning on God!!! Depression is one of the leading causes of suicide in this country. You don’t know JACK SHIT! So keep your mouth shut!

    Depression has affected so many people in my life, and I have seen firsthand what it does to people.

  15. Glossary of Depression Terms
    Antidepressant. A drug used to treat depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are one common class. It includes drugs like Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline.)

    Anxiety disorder. A chronic condition that causes anxiety so severe it interferes with your life. Some people with depression also have overlapping anxiety disorders.

    Bipolar Disorder. A type of depression that causes sometimes extreme mood swings between depression and mania (or hypomania.) This condition used to be called manic depression.

    Dysthymia. A type of chronic depression that is less severe than major depression. It can also last for years.

    Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). A treatment for depression that uses electric current to create a brief, controlled seizure. It is safe and often effective for depression that hasn’t responded to drugs or therapy.

    Hypomania. A milder form of mania.

    Major Depression. The medical diagnosis for depression that lasts for at least two weeks and interferes with daily life. It causes symptoms like low energy, fatigue, and feelings of hopelessness.

    Mania. A symptom of bipolar disorder, mania is a period of intense happiness, irritability, or recklessness. It is so extreme that it interferes with a person’s life.

    Mood stabilizers. A class of drugs used to treat some types of depression, like bipolar disorder. They include lithium and some drugs originally used for seizures called anticonvulsants.

    Neurotransmitter. A chemical in the brain, like serotonin or norepinephrine, that sends messages between brain cells. Medicines that treat depression often alter the levels of these chemicals.

    Panic attack. A sudden feeling of intense fear or anxiety, accompanied by physical symptoms, that isn’t triggered by real danger. Panic attacks are common in many anxiety disorders.

    Postpartum depression. Depression that affects women who have recently given birth.

    Psychotherapy. A way of treating a mental or emotional disorder by talking with a therapist. It may also be called “talking therapy” or “talk therapy.”

    Psychologist. A professional who specializes in the treatment of mental or emotional disorders. Psychologists typically use psychotherapy to treat people with depression and other conditions.

    Psychiatrist. A medical doctor who specializes in treating psychological disorders. Since psychiatrists are doctors, they can prescribe drugs like antidepressants. Some also use psychotherapy.

    Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Depression that occurs seasonally, usually starting in fall or winter and ending in spring or early summer. It is often treated with phototherapy, which is regular exposure to special lights.

    WebMD Medical Reference

  16. It drives me nuts that they not only don’t try to hide their patriarchal semi-mysoginistic attitudes, they act like anyone that would question it is the one who is disobedient to God. I’d love to have had a chance to hear them telling Mary Magdelene that she has no business telling them men in the upper room that Christ was risen on Easter.

  17. I read one of her books when I was a newlywed and trying like hell to be a “good wife.” FTR, I was raised by fundie parents – dad was the preacher, mom played piano/organ.

    Even then, in my muddled state, I knew it was a piece of trash. I’d read classic literature in college and to go from that to this? Tolstoy to this crap…I should’ve burned the ‘freakin’ book!

    I am no longer a fundie, or a practicing Xian, at all. I don’t miss it. :mrgreen:

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