“Feel you when I’m restless, feel you when I cannot cope
You’re my addiction, my prescription, my antidote
You kill the poison, ease the suffering
Calm the rage when I’m afraid to feel again
You’re better than drugs
Your love is like wine
Feel you comin’ on so fast, feel you comin’ to get me high
You’re better than drugs
Addicted for life”
“Better Than Drugs” by Skillet was one of the many songs that permeated my young life, as did its message. The concept of Jesus’, or more accurately the Holy Spirit, as this thing that can make one experience a “high” is not all uncommon to many denominations of Christianity. Go into any Pentacostal-esque church and you will witness speaking in tongues (that is, gibberish speaking where those inflicted believe they are speaking in an angelic language), falling on the floor where they proceed to either go catatonic or writhe, moan in a strangely sexual way, weep, or laugh, and all sorts of ecstatic behavior.
In the teenage life of many Christians, the use of Jesus as a drug is more exemplified by the first line: “feel you when I cannot cope.” Turning to Jesus becomes an escape. When the teenage angst gets too hard, the answer is to pray, read the bible, listen to Christian music, or anything at all relating to God. To completely saturate oneself with the Gospel in anyway possible. And only the Gospel: only Christian music, only Christian books fiction and non-fiction, only Christian games, movies with only Christian values (we skip through any sexy scenes, btw). If someone got sick, we’d hold prayer meetings and saturate ourselves in prayer, so we’d learn quick that it’s not medicine that heals, it’s God. We’d have youth groups for teens where we’d get to unleash our pain to each other, and instead of giving advice, we’d lay hands on each other and pray. We’d get to cry, sure, but ultimately “give the pain to God,” have a worship session, and go home happy and drugged up.
What happens when one goes without the drug? Does one go into Jesus’ withdrawal?
“I hate feelin’ like this
I’m so tired of tryin’ to fight this
I’m asleep and all I dream of is waking to you
Tell me that you will listen
Your touch is what I’m missin’
And the more I hide I realize I’m slowly losin’ you
I’ll never wake up without an overdose of you
I don’t wanna live
I don’t wanna breathe
‘less I feel you next to me
You take the pain I feel
(Wakin’ up to you never felt so real)
I don’t wanna sleep
I don’t wanna dream
Cause my dreams don’t comfort me
The way you make me feel
(Wakin’ up to you never felt so real)
I hate livin’ without you
Dead wrong to ever doubt you
But my demons lay in waitin’
Tempting me away”
Christians would often call this withdrawal, as seen above from, again, lyrics from Skillet, “doubt.” There was one night in particular I will never forget when I put this song on repeat, and knelt in tears, singing/praying the lyrics over and over again. Every word I meant. It was one of my last cries of desperation in a stage of very deep, tormented doubt. I wept for hours, and I would again for many nights. It physically, mentally, and emotionally hurt like nothing I’ve ever felt.
You see, I was born an intellectual person. I always had an unquenching desire to know. When I was very young, this showed itself best in my little 6, 7, 8 year old self sitting during the worship service reading the Bible instead of singing the songs (which weren’t boring hymns like most churches, but the jump up and down kind). Instead of watching Veggie Tales and playing games in the little kids Sunday school, I got put in the big kids’ class where we read the Bible, memorized verses, and asked questions.
I did Christianity hard. By my teens I’d been baptised, in water and the Holy Spirit with manifestation of gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongues and prophesy), gone on a healing crusade where I “healed” people, read the Bible front to cover in multiple versions more times than I could keep track of, and started a Bible club at my High school by petitioning the principal of the school. I read commentaries, took notes in the margins of every bible I read, highlighted, did devotions twice a day, read and listened to everything by Dr. Dan Brown and got certified in Healing Ministries and Gifts of the Spirit through Kenneth Copeland Ministries. I consumed everything I knew to consume. And I believed, damn it. I loved Jesus with everything I was, with every atom of my being. I talked to him every moment and believed he talked back. I lead hundreds in the Sinner’s Prayer, personally. Jesus was my everything.
And then I got the call to ministry.
And I went to a federally accredited Christian college.
And long story short- I read Richard Dawkins, Timothy Keller, The Dead Sea Scrolls, Socrates, Plato, Kierkegaard, Robert Wright, Christopher Hitchens, I read commentaries by Atheists, Jews, Agnostics, Muslims, and Christians of all types. I read the Bible in Hebrew. I read anything, and everything. I wrote my Pastor with questions, I wrote and spoke with my (very Christian) professors, I spoke with students, I typed on message boards and forums, I asked questions everywhere I possibly could. And one by one my doctrines came to be questioned by reason and logic until they all fell away.
And there I was at the end of it all, an Atheist with no Jesus drug to help me cope with the pain of my long untreated mental illness and dysfunctional upbringing, or to comfort me from the loss of friends and family who wanted very little to do with me now that I wasn’t a Christian. But that, not the doubt it self, was the withdrawal. All the pain, the loss, the “oh shit how do I cope now?”, was the coming down process.
I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but neither would I ever go back to the addiction. The addiction kept me blind from reason – from seeing two sides of the argument, not just one, and discerning for oneself, from seeing science and philosophy and logic and doubt and tasting it all -, from entirely healthy parts of life such as sexual exploration, love in all its forms, making mistakes, and living life to the fullest, and from proper self care, not faith [[ many sects have an irrational fear and/or outright contempt for psychology and all its medicinal help for people with mental illness]].
The Jesus’ drug culture is not healthy. When these two songs came on my playlist, because yeah I still listen to my old Christian stuff, I cringed. There is nothing ok with raising young people to seek a thing that does not exist to give it a placebo like high for all of life’s ills, and to drown their mind, senses, and psyche with nothing but that drug.
Just say no.