Posted in Mental Health

When suicide is a way of life

At around this time last year, I attempted suicide. I was facing too much pressure at work, my anxiety attacks had kicked up a notch,  nothing was making sense in this life and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Objectively speaking, it probably wasn’t all that much pressure. But there is nothing objective about anxiety — especially for someone already on medication and therapy for clinical depression. What matters in the moment is the feeling that the weight of the world is bearing down on you and you can do nothing to stop it from crushing you.

So I attempted suicide.

No, I didn’t take any pills, or rat poison. Neither did I tie a noose on a rope that could bear my weight. It never even occurred to me to jump off a building or onto a busy highway. My suicide was less typical than the episodes that make headlines online.

I quit my job.

Suicide is not a moment

With no plan B, no savings to fall back on, no side-gig to bring on the occasional bacon. When I tendered my resignation, the only thought on my mind was not “how will I make a living?” but “I have to leave this place or I will die.” To me, leaving the workplace was a matter of life and death.

So why do I characterize as suicide, my decision to torpedo my career? Because for all practical purposes, it was. In fact, I believe that by the time people carry out the physical act of ending their life, they have committed a thousand suicides leading up to that moment. Suicide is not a moment, or even the last moment in the life of people dealing with mental health challenges, it is usually a way of life.

Today, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day and I figured I should bring to our awareness a type of suicide that many of us dealing with and campaigning about mental health rarely think about.

According to WHO, nearly 3000 people on average commit suicide daily. For every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives. About one million people die by suicide each year. But these numbers are only a shadow of the real tragedy.

Invisible suicides

What I did when I left my job may easily be considered “career suicide”. This is especially if it was done in a way that would make sure you never get a reference for future jobs. You see, many people who leave their jobs due to mental health issues rarely leave it on good terms. They are often not sober enough to give notice, let alone serve it.

Many departures are explosive, with the leaver sometimes creating a ruckus on their way out. They may shout about the toxic work environment and, for those dealing with ( for instance) bipolar disorder, some may even be physically violent and hurl insults at bosses and colleagues on their way out. Their future work prospects therefore largely depend on how much awareness they and the people around them had about mental health issues.

But there are also the other invisible, more subtle suicides. For instance, there is the communication suicide. Many people dealing with depression often stop picking calls and replying to text messages. They ignore and shun all attempts by others to be there for them. They just want to be left alone.

Ironically, when people give up on them and stop calling or texting, they end up worse. Some may see and dismiss this behavior as attention seeking, but it is often more complicated and deeper than that.

Relational suicide

There is also the general relational suicide. People dealing with depression start cancelling appointments and stop showing up for social events. They prefer staying by themselves, locking themselves in the house and shunning all social interactions. In doing this, they deprive themselves of the human contact that is critical to the psychological health of all human beings.

Relational suicide also manifests itself in broken friendships and divorce, severed family ties and social club no-shows. All these are suicides. What makes us human is not just the fact that we have a beating heart or air flowing through our lungs; animals have that; what makes us human is the meaning we find in relationships, in being part of a community, doing and making sense of life in relation to others.

So, as we reflect on the statistics of physical suicides on this day of awareness, I hope that we will also make an equally concerted (if not more so) effort to be aware of the suicides that lead to the final one.

More than a metaphor

I also hope that we will not make the mistake of dismissing things like “career suicide” or “relational suicides” as mere figures of speech. We should not make the mistake of thinking that the physical taking of one’s life is the real tragedy while the other suicides above are mere metaphors.

Everything that makes life worth living can easily be reduced down to a metaphor: God, religion, purpose, vision, meaning… all these can easily be dismissed as mere metaphors. But these are the very things that make flesh and blood worth more than that of animals.

People end their lives because they have already ended all other aspects of life that make physical life worth living. We cannot simply focus on the edge of the cliff and ignore the road the led us up to that cliff. We cannot just secure the window ledge, fence the bridge, or keep ropes out of reach, and think we have solved the problem.

For many of us dealing with mental health challenges, suicide is a way of life as much as it is a way out life.

 

Posted in Commentary, culture, Faith, Religion

Celebrating the Bigger Picture in Benny Hinn’s Shift on Prosperity Gospel

When I first came across a YouTube clip circulating on social media that Benny Hinn had renounced the prosperity gospel and that he will no longer “ask people for money”, I was reluctant to celebrate.

First, being the skeptic that I am, I thought the clip was had been edited to fit a certain narrative, so I wanted to watch the entire message before forming an opinion. So I looked for the original message. I found it tucked inside a 3-hour long Facebook Live video on Benny Hinn’s page. I even posted the full, unedited transcript on this blog.

The more I listened to his original words, the more I felt my reservations fade.

More questions than answers

However, many questions quickly followed this initial excitement. Does this mean that Benny Hinn is on the path to affirming and preaching the true gospel? What about Benny Hinn’s views on other teachings of the Bible?

Wait, it sounds like he renounced the prosperity gospel, but did he say what the true gospel is? Was he always preaching the true gospel and then adding the prosperity stuff on top or is he now changing his entire understanding of what the gospel is?

Come to think of it, Benny Hinn doesn’t use the phrase “Prosperity Gospel” anywhere in his message. He uses the word “prosperity” a lot, and rebukes those who try to peddle the gospel as a means to prosperity. Is this the same thing we mean when we speak about the prosperity gospel? Are we putting words in Benny Hinn’s mouth?

As far as I know, prosperity gospel is the teaching that Jesus died to make us healthy, wealthy and happy. But the true gospel is about Jesus dying to save us from our sins and restore our broken fellowship with God. Did Benny Hinn make this distinction? Is he even aware of the nuance? What exactly is the gospel according to Benny Hinn?

These are just a few questions that led me back to my previous reluctance to celebrate what many have lauded as a significant shift in Benny Hinn’s theology.

But I am a communications specialist, and I like to think I understand the power of context and environment in determining the effect someone’s words have on another. It is why echo-chambers continue to thrive on the internet and why confirmation bias tends to rule our convictions.

When you’ve already decided that a person is against you and doesn’t want you to succeed in life, you develop filters for whatever positive thing they say. You never associate with them or give them a willing audience, and when you are forced to listen to them, you always expect them to speak against you and you grow suspicious when they say anything positive about you.

This is why, no matter how good your arguments and how compelling your evidence, you will never convince a Jubilee party die-hard to vote for the opposition party.

Bigger picture

This brings me to the point I refer to as the “bigger picture” in Benny Hinn’s latest words. I am celebrating Benny Hinn’s words, not because it says anything about the overall change in his theology (or even a change in the trajectory of his theology), I am celebrating his words because of the people who got to hear them and, for the first time, consider the truth of those words and possibly believe them.

The “bigger picture” is not the man who claimed to renounce the prosperity gospel, the bigger picture is the masses who heard, listened, and believed him.

There are those who have faithfully followed Benny Hinn Ministries who will struggle with this question. Probably for the first time in their life, they will feel the instinct to disagree with their teacher and like the Bereans, they will go back to their Bibles to confirm the truth of these new and strange claims.

Some of these people will share the clip with their friends in the same prosperity and Word of Faith circles. Hopefully, the anouncement will be subject of discussion in Bible Study groups and Whatsapp groups and after-church conversations in those circles.

“Did you hear what Benny Hinn said? What do you think it means? Do you agree? What do we do with this new shift?”

Listening again, for the first time

And in the process, many will Google their questions and they will encounter other people speaking about the same topic. Probably for the first time in their lives, they will dare to examine the words of those “enemies of the church” who have always spoken ill of their pastor and movements.

They will wonder how what these people knew that their pastor did not; what they said that caused their pastor to change his mind and announce it so publicly and so brazenly. Then they will listen to these enemies again, for the first time.

The more I consider all these possibilities, the more I realize that Benny Hinn’s public renouncing of “prosperity” is not about Benny Hinn. It is not about expecting Benny Hinn to go out and sell all he has and give to the poor. It is not about expecting Benny Hinn to now change his circle of friends and denomination and join the “true-gospel” movement.

It is not even about whether Benny Hinn should now apologize and make amends for all the people he ostracized for calling him out when he preached the prosperity gospel; or whether he should now begin a ministry of calling out those he once walked alongside.

For all we know, this may be the last time we hear about it. He will probably do an interview or two about it and then quickly fade back into the movement that he has led and been a part of for decades.

For all we know, he was probably using even this supposed recanting as another opportunity to make himself look good and honorable before human beings. Only God knows what is in Benny Hinn’s heart — It is possible to confess that you used to be a people-pleaser and still do it as another act of people-pleasing.

Of course I want and pray that Benny Hinn will fully embrace and preach and live out the true Gospel. As far as I know, what he has said is worth celebrating. But it is simply to early and we know too little to tell whether this is indeed what it happening. We celebrate the teaser, even as we await the rest of the story.

Yet despite this, I see a bigger and a more immediate cause for celebration. In just 5 minutes Benny Hinn has planted a seed of (or at least a curiosity for) the true gospel in millions of hearts that may never have considered listening to someone who wasn’t Benny Hinn.

Whatever we think of Benny Hinn in this season and afterwards, we cannot deny the fact that God has, in this moment, used him as His instrument. And this is definitely worth celebrating.

For the fame of His name.

Posted in Faith, Religion

FULL TRANSCRIPT: Benny Hinn Rejects the Prosperity Gospel

“I am sorry to say that prosperity has gone a little crazy. And I am correcting my own theology, and you need to all know it. Because when I read the Bible now, I don’t see the Bible in the same eyes I saw the Bible 20 years ago.

Steve Strang from Charisma, whom we go back years, actually he was in my wedding, people don’t even know that Charisma magazine began with my father-in-law. Charisma magazine started with Roy Harthern, and I married his daughter.

So Steve Strang was in my wedding. We go way back. And he’s already asked me “Are you ready to make it public?” and I said “Well, not totally, because I don’t want to hurt my friends, whom I love, who believe things I don’t believe anymore.”

And I will tell you now something that is gonna shock you.

I think it is an offense to the Lord to say ‘give a thousand dollars’. I think it is an offense to the Holy Spirit to place a price on the gospel. I am done with it. I will never again ask you to give a thousand or whatever amount because I think the Holy Ghost is just fed up with it.

Did you hear me? I think that hurts the gospel. So I am making this statement for the first time in my life, and frankly I don’t care what people think about me anymore.

So I had a guy.. well I’ll tell you who, it was Dan Willis and I love Dan with all my heart. I said to him ‘don’t you dare preach that message again.. I don’t wanna hear it, I don’t even want to be a part of it’.

So when they invite me to telethons I think they will not like me anymore. Because when you look at the word of God, I don’t wanna get into it now. Am I shocking you? Good, let’s have a high five on this one.

If I hear one more time ‘break the back of death with a thousand dollars’ I’m gonna rebuke them. I think that’s buying the gospel, that’s buying the blessing. That’s grieving the Holy Spirit. That’s about all I will say.

If you are not giving because you love the Lord Jesus, don’t bother giving. I think giving has become such a gimmick it’s making me to my stomach.

And I’ve been sick for awhile too, I just couldn’t say it. But now the lid is off. I’ve had it. You know why? I don’t wanna get to heaven and be rebuked. I think it’s time we said it like it is: The gospel is not for sale, and the blessings of God are not for sale, and miracles are not for sale, and prosperity is not for sale.

I still believe in prosperity but let’s look at what the Bible says. I’m not supposed to say it now but it looks like I’m saying it anyways. You have to read… And I just sent a letter to my people with what I really believe, so I’m kinda jumping ahead of myself, because I am really ticked, in a Holy Ghost way.

Anybody ever been upset in a Holy Ghost way? Maybe ticked is the wrong word, I don’t know why I even said it, there’s some guy years ago said ticked and I just stuck with it. But it’s like holy anger, it’s like, ‘ why do they have to do that?’

If it’s not about adoring, loving Jesus, have nothing to do with it. If it is about self and mullah.. You know what mullah is? Money. If it’s about how to get rich, it is not the gospel. It’s about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Why do we give? Because we adore Him, we love Him.  Why do we give? Because His gospel changed my life, and I want to see all the lives changed just like how my life was changed. Now, enough about that.

The message of prosperity is in the Bible, we cannot deny that if we give we’ll receive. We cannot deny God will bless us, that’s in the Bible. You can’t erase it, no way.

God wants to bless His people way more than you want to receive His blessing. But when you put a price on it, never. Because it gets corrupted. That’s all there is to it.”

Excerpted from Benny Hinn Ministries Facebook Live Video: Benny Hinn LIVE Monday Night Service – September 2, 2019 (Timestamp 1:21:00)