Last night, Sherri Shepherd was a guest on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. Shepherd is an actress, comedian, author, and television personality. She told Noah that her goal was to make people happy. Unfortunately, she does so by lying to people about reality. She’s an Evangelical Christian, so she’s used to people lying to her about reality. She returned the favor on Noah’s show.
Shepherd wanted Noah and viewers to know that there is “a silver lining in everything.” As soon as Shepherd uttered this, I said “bullshit.” This worn-out trope suggests that no matter what you are going through in your life, good will come from it. This thinking is rooted in the Christian idea that God is intimately involved in our lives; that no matter what happens to us, he will make lemonade out of our lemons. Christians are told this over and over by their pastors, so much so that they believe it to be true. Instead of rationally examining their lives and the experiences of others and coming to the obvious conclusion that there’s not a silver lining in everything, they allow a cheap cliche to distort reality.
I see no silver lining in my mother’s suicide.
I see no silver lining in being sexually molested by my step-grandmother.
I see no silver lining in my sister-in-law’s tragic death in a motorcycle accident.
I see no silver lining in my suffering and pain.
I see no silver lining in diseased, starving children.
I see no silver lining in homelessness.
I see no silver lining in violence and war.
I see no silver lining for the families who lose children to school shootings.
I see no silver living for the families who lose their sons, daughters, and spouses to drug addiction.
I see no silver lining for 45,000 families this year who will lose a loved one to suicide.
I see no silver lining for the children who will be sexually molested by their pastors, teachers, and family members.
I see no silver lining for those who will writhe in excruciating pain before they die this year.
I see no silver lining for the former church member, one of whose sons is serving a life sentence for murder, another who committed suicide, and a daughter who died from cancer in her 20s. And the final indignity? Her husband died in his fifties.
I know scores of people who have greatly suffered. I see no silver linings for them outside of the fact they survived.
No, the “silver lining” is a myth. Life is cold, brutal, and hard. The Bible says that all things work together for good (for Christians anyway), but this is a lie. All things don’t necessarily work for good. That’s just not how life works. The best any of us can do is embrace and hold on to the few ropes life throws our way. I see no silver lining in my life. There’s no hope or promise for a better tomorrow. My pain and suffering are ever with me, and will be until I die. Yet, I don’t act on the impulse to end my life. Why? Those ropes I mentioned: Polly, my six children, my thirteen grandchildren, my siblings, and the work I do through this blog. I have tied knots on these ropes and I am holding on. Will these be enough for me in the future? I don’t know. I just know that for today they are enough.
Let me conclude this post with a quote from the late-great Barbara Ehrenreich:
We need to brace ourselves for a struggle against terrifying obstacles, both of our own making and imposed by the natural world. And the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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