Why Jesus is Not Enough: Black Folks, Religion and Mental Health

By | December 6, 2015

Most black folks who love, respect and need the approval and validation of their families don’t spend much time challenging the wisdom and insight of their elders.

When we are depressed, Big Momaisms tell us to get something on our stomachs (let big momma make you a cake); pray to Jesus (turn over all rational thought and decision making to an outside source who will fix it for you) and attend church more often.

I have heard black folks quote bible verses and spout the always popular: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. I have seen folks suffer for years because they refuse to step outside church and family rhetoric and realize that (1) Nobody’s coming and (2) They better switch up the way they handle their affairs.

For many years, I honestly believed Jesus would fix it all.

And if that didn’t work, I could always go for the big guns, Jesus’ daddy, God.

While I have nothing against Christianity, I have seen it used to justify all sorts of foolishness and mistreatment of humans.

When something bad happens, I often see black folks say Satan never sleeps or we’re being tested.

When something wonderful occurs, we often trot out the immensely popular:blessed and highly favored.

What Christianity and several religions fail to point out is the common denominator in all situations both good and bad: the man in the mirror.

While I have experienced all kinds of life challenges, I’ve only learned and made better choices when I’ve owned my part of the situation.

Once I stopped waiting for Jesus to fix me, things began to change.

At 14, I began attending a very prestigious all boys high school. I knew nothing about studying, social codes and rigorous academic achievement.

My fist year’s grades were abysmal.

After failing History and being ordered to attend Summer School, I had a choice to make. I could continue to think the instructors would change what they were doing or I could change what I was doing.

Miraculously, I figured out how to study History and my grades began moving into High B status. Within weeks, I was heading towards A status.

I have watched family members and friends suffer needlessly.

I have watched people endure awful relationships and then pray that the other person gets their mind right.

What if God and Prayer aren’t enough?

This world is full of wonderful emotional and mental resources.

What if we prayed to find a great mental health expert, then started looking for and then found one ?

Mental Health must be as important to our community as church, tithing and making sure our pastor has what he needs.

It is time we stand up in our faith and demand more from those who say it is there “calling” to alleviate suffering and uplift the community.

You cannot be black in this culture and not have been psychologically, emotionally and spiritually attacked, violated and diminished at some point.

The very existence of this culture depends on it.

As a result, it is imperative that all black folks seek some type of ongoing spiritual and emotional uplift.

If we are lucky, we will unearth an individual who encourages a blend of spiritual undergirdings with emotional and psychological tools for well being.

Hopefully, we will find a therapist who believes in prayer and action. Community and solitude.

We must remember that the black church has been extremely pivotal in our survival.

We must refuse to use it as a crutch and instead tap into the strength it can and should provide which will allow us to take on personal and communal challenges.

During the Civil Rights era, people prayed then marched.

We are not in a position to choose one over the other.

We must have both: a strong spiritual base and an ability to take powerful, determined well thought out action when needed.

When depression hits, a warm batch of cookies and bowl of ice cream won’t eliminate it. I know; I’ve tried.

What you will need is an ally whose purpose is to remind you of dormant skills and any source of unused personal power.

Religion and therapy should encourage everyone to become self reliant.

It is time we stopped hiding behind Jesus and the pulpit and instead used these entities along with a great therapist to face our personal and collective crap.

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