Some of us have been discussing fundamentalist Christian "faith-based treatments" for eating disorders which I won't go into here. But the general consensus of opinion seems to be that religion can be a great emotional support if you are a believer, but "faith-based treatments" can never - and indeed should never - be a substitute for modern evidence-based treatments for eating disorders. But all of this has brought my mind back onto the subject of religion - and my experiences with the Christian church during the dark days of my son's eating disorder.
As you will know if you've been following my blog, I met my most supportive non-eating-disorder-related friend ever on a chance visit to a local church. Sue supported me for more than two years though some of the worst patches of Ben's eating disorder until her cancer took her away.
But that was the only real support I received from the church. Sue was unique.
It was in November 2009 as Ben began to fall off a cliff during that terrifying early phase... You know, where your child has been developing the eating disorder, but it's been emerging so very gradually... Then all of a sudden - and every family I have talked to has said exactly the same thing - things speed up, so fast you can hardly catch your breath. It is like suddenly being swept away in a tidal wave after just paddling in the deceptively shallow waters for months.
Anyway it was during this period that I was desperate for emotional support. I hadn't yet discovered the ATDT forum and we were just beginning a three month wait for CAMHS treatment. Ben was getting worse almost by the minute. Life was hell. I didn't know where to turn. I was screaming out for help.
So, as I have said before in this blog, the church seemed the obvious place to get this emotional support.
I tried three churches in total, giving each a fair amount of time to offer me what I so desperately needed. And, whenever people introduced themselves, I always told them what was going in my life. I couldn't help it. At the time I couldn't talk or think about anything else. And often I'd break down in tears while telling them. They either prayed with me there and then... you know, arms around me in a little huddle, that kind of thing... or said they'd go away and pray for me.
And left it at that.
Now as I continue to wrestle with these experiences, having been brought up as a Christian yet having lapsed for a number of decades, it's got me thinking.
Offering to "pray for" people has to be the biggest cop-out there is. As if this is all they need to do to solve the problem. Forget about the practical help, just offer to pray for someone and that'll do the trick.
If it's "God's will".
But, you know, if God exists then I suspect he would far rather his followers got off their knees, got out of that cosy church, went out into the world and just got on with what needs doing. Like my friend Sue did, who was the shining exception to the rule.
If I was God then I wouldn't want to just sit there and listen to a shopping list of "wants" accompanied by praise for how wonderful I am while my worshippers waited for me to waive my celestial magic wand and provide a solution.
No. I'd want them to cut out the cr*p and get out there. I'd want them to open their eyes to what is staring them in the face. Forget about giving money to distant charities or raising money for the church roof, I'd want them to look around themselves and see where the need is in the world. Where it really is, not where they "think" it is.
And do God's real will. Not their interpretation of God's will.
If I believe in God at all, I believe he is already out there working through people that aren't necessarily your "conventional" religious believers. Also, not everyone is Christian by birth. Some people aren't religious at all. But they're all doing their bit to advocate change, do good and make the world a better place. Like the awesome parents I've met in the world of eating disorders.
I could quite easily and willingly believe in, and follow, a God like that.
A God whose way of doing things isn't a million miles away from the way Jesus Christ would do things (says she adding an Easter dimension to the blog). Okay, Jesus Christ shut himself away for 40 days and 40 nights praying towards the end of his life, but apart from that he got out there and just got on with whatever needed doing.
But praying is so much less hassle, isn't it?