The Babylon Bee is one of my guilty pleasures. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Bee is a wickedly funny satire site written by Christians, for Christians – like the Onion, but better – that lampoons politicians of both parties, televangelists, Christian celebrities, denominations, Hollywood and pop culture. More so than anything else, the Bee makes fun of church culture. If I have a couple of minutes between patients in the middle of the afternoon, I’ll go check out their daily updates. I’ll find my wife staring at me in the evening when I have my computer in my lap and appear to be laughing for no apparent reason.
The secret of the Babylon Bee’s success is that their satire is almost always rooted in an element of truth.
Adam Ford is the founder and editor of the Bee. My guess is the vast majority of readers are unaware that the Bee was launched as a consequence of Adam’s struggles with mental illness. Here’s an excerpt of an interview Adam did three years ago following the launch of the site with Daniel Darling of the ERLC for Christianity Today:
I’ve always been inclined toward art and humor, but never thought it would be my “thing,” really. After God saved me about 11 years ago, I was pretty sure I would be a preacher. That’s what I saw myself doing. But then about 6 years ago, I was blindsided by a serious generalized anxiety disorder/panic disorder/social anxiety that changed my whole life. I went from an extrovert to an extreme introvert, and things like speaking in front of people now terrify me. But I still had the strong desire to speak the truth to people. The webcomic and news satire site were born out of that.
Adam goes on in the interview to share his thoughts on the importance of satire in the church:
It’s important to look at what we’re doing, to “examine ourselves.” Satire acts like an overhead projector, taking something that people usually ignore and projecting it up on the wall for everyone to see. It forces us to look at things we wouldn’t normally look at and makes us ask if we’re okay with them. And sometimes it just makes us laugh.
As a daily follower of the site, an aspect of church culture Adam has been “projecting up on the wall for everyone to see” involves church customs and practices that cause discomfort for persons with mental illness – especially attendees with symptoms of social anxiety.
Just this past week, the Bee highlighted the ongoing propensity of too many Christians to assume mental health struggles are a direct consequence of personal sin, and that prayer and Scripture reading are sufficient to address all mental health concerns.
One of the most biting posts I’ve come across on the Bee challenged common attitudes in the church regarding mental illness.
The most prominent mental health-related theme regularly highlighted by the Bee involves customs and practices that are challenging for adults uncomfortable with social interaction – no big surprise in light of Adam’s personal experiences. Check out this litany of posts that describe a church-based minefield for someone with social anxiety disorder:
- Under Pressure to Join Small Group, Church Introvert Insists He’s Already in The Smallest Group of All
- Terrifying New Escape Room Just Locks You in a Church Meet-And-Greet Time
- Church Introduces Coin-Operated Side Door to Bypass Greeters, Lines, Everybody
- I Will Shake Your Hand Whether You Like it or Not, So Help Me God
- Church Introvert Dons ‘Do Not Greet’ Medical Bracelet
- TGC Announces New Introverts’ Conference Where Everyone Just Stays Home
Or, my favorite… Churchgoer Leaps Through Window to Escape Holding Hands in Prayer Circle
Adam helps us to find the humor and absurdities in our church customs and traditions. But he also expects us to “ask if we’re okay with them.” He regularly provides a lighthearted, first-person perspective as a prominent individual in Christian culture whose ministry has been shaped by his mental health condition. The Bee shines a spotlight on the challenges many people with anxiety experience in trying to be part of church.
For that we should be grateful. Not everyone is in on the joke.
In Mental Health and the Church: A Ministry Handbook for Including Children and Adults with ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorders, and Other Common Mental Health Conditions, Dr. Stephen Grcevich presents a simple and flexible model for mental health inclusion ministry for implementation by churches of all sizes, denominations, and organizational styles. The book is also designed to be a useful resource for parents, grandparents and spouses seeking to promote the spiritual growth of loved ones with mental illness. Available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ChristianBook and other fine retailers everywhere.