Or, If Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam, That’s My Business, Now Back Off
[Me, Aged 14, hospital bed in mental health unit]
Nurse: I will read to you from the Bible. I can pray with you. You know, Jesus loves you. He loves you. He doesn’t want you to harm yourself.
[14 year old self feels unable to refuse the “offer” of prayers, despite (a) being a Catholic and (b) struggling with faith/ not having any.]
[Me, Aged 26, hospital bed in mental health unit]
Nurse: – Says prayers, loudly, and reads from Bible outside my bedroom.
– Informs me of the same love of Jesus that should stop me from feeling the way that I do.
Now. These have not been isolated incidents. And the rage does not diminish with each one. For a start, in a position of care you are dealing with vulnerable people. Talking about Jesus can:
a) Make the person you are talking to aware once again of the guilt that accompanies depression or other illnesses.
b) Make a convert out of someone- yet do you really feel content with having upped your numbers by having preyed upon the vulnerable?
c) Alienate. Because you don’t know what religion, if any, the person you are talking to might come from. You don’t know whether their own faith has hurt, or helped, them. Whether they were beaten by evangelical parents. Whether they were saved by Jesus, by Buddhism, by Islam. Whether they are already struggling with faith and whether this is tangled up with their illness, their suffering.
Or becausem as in my case, the girl listening to your prayers is a lesbian, and well aware that certain groups of overzealous Christians like yourself are not accepting and impartial as it is your duty to be. Now, I am not saying that you are not an accepting person- I am simply saying that your Bible reading sets off alarm bells with certain people.
(d) The person you are talking to cannot get away. You are abusing a situation in which you are someone’s carer, and they cannot simply get up and walk away. If you come to my door to preach, I have the option to turn you away, I have the option to shut you out or the option to let you in. In a hospital bed, these are not options I have. I cannot close the door, I cannot turn you away, I can only let you in, or leave you there, at the the threshold of my door, praying as I try to rest.
In general, in life, I actually think that some kind of faith can be a good thing. I appreciate both its community-based and its personal nature. But I do believe that outwith its community, it is a purely personal matter and not to be imposed on others- particularly not on the vulnerable. I understand that perhaps these people thought they were trying to help- I am also well aware that what they did was probably (hopefully) against some kind of regulation, for all the reasons I have stated above, and more.