As a disability practitioner, and after spending years in toxic traddery and religious fundamentalism, I have come to the conclusion that good mental health is consistent with a healthy and vibrant faith. In short, a person can only associate with traddery/religious fundamentalism for a certain period of time before involuntary questioning and deconstruction unravels its lies and dangerous elements.
The more I learn about mental health and expand my career in this direction which expands my faith, the more I understand that science, faith, and pastoral ministry must all be in alignment with each other. It’s not a matter of forcing science to align with faith because forcing science yields death and destruction. The Church must revitalize its historic social tenets to align with current science because the lives and human dignity of people are at stake. For a Catholic who really knows the faith, Catholic Social Teaching is front and center of who a Catholic is, with the Sanctity of Life and the Dignity of the Human Person being the top two tenets next to Jesus’ first and second greatest commandment to love God and Love our Neighbor as ourselves. Ultra-conservative fundie parts of the Catholic Church are trying to pull the Church back to The Council of Trent against the will of the Catholic majority, against the reality of modern society, and against science which is dangerous to buck.
The consensus of medical associations and professionals are in direct conflict with how fundamentalist faith communities operate, to the point of many times killing and endangering the lives of others. The core of fundie environments are rooted in patriarchy mixed with toxic misogyny (not Jesus-like servanthood), racism, science-denial, historical-denial, exclusion, pro-fascism, and all sorts of false and dangerous practices which have been widely discredited by the medical community collectively. Some examples of these dangerous practices are these but not limited to: gay conversion therapy, reparative therapy, and behavioral and conditional-based healing and deliverance ministries.
A healthy faith has radical unconditional love at the core of its center, not rules and regulations. When love is the center, science and good mental health can and do coincide with a vibrant and healthy faith. Then I am asked, “What about being Catholic and all of Catholic Teachings?” Well, look at all of the gifts the Catholic Church has to offer: Eucharistic Adoration, Anointing of the Sick, The Eucharist itself, Reconciliation, Intercessory prayer from our Lady and Other Saints, communion with the Body of Christ, Catholic Social Teaching (Social Justice Teachings), Catholic Charities, the 2000 Bible verses which speak of justice, and most of all, Jesus’ First and Second Greatest Commandments to Love God and Love our Neighbor. This doesn’t mean throw out all other Catholic Teachings. This means make informed decisions based on a well-formed conscience as to what the Church teaches collectively, not cherry-picking doctrine to align with a favored ideology.
As I sat in silence this morning and just listened, I realized that God was telling me to lean into the healthy components of the faith, just do my personal best within the guardrail of my faith, and leave the rest up to Him. If I spend a good bulk of my time with Parkinson’s Disease worrying about the next life instead of communing with the Lord and loving others unconditionally in my life now, I will miss some important opportunities to do something greater for marginalized people, which for me, brings the greatest joy and communion with God.
For those of you who are recovering from toxic fundamentalism like I am, find a good therapist for one, one who understands religious trauma recovery yet still respects faith in general. Two, surround yourself with friends who lift you up and help you see good in your own worth for just being you. Three, rediscover your talents and gifts and then apply them for the good of others if you are up to serving them. Four, run fast and hard away from those individuals who are trying to control and manipulate you. And most of all, run, run, run from fundie faith communities who are trying to rob you of life and joy. As my local Bishop, Archbishop Gustavo and Pope Francis say, “God created us for life and joy.”