From Atheism to Faith: Discovering the Hidden Story of Humanity


About my journey from atheism to faith, and how our historical impulse for religion points to the hidden story of humanity. I also engage with Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens and his take on religious metafictions.

For my seminar and Q&A “Jesus for Atheists,” click here.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/jsparkblog

Love y’all, friends!
— J.S.

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How Hard It Really Is: A Short, Honest Book About Depression


Hello lovely friends! After a year and a half of painstaking work, my book on fighting depression is here. It’s called: How How Hard It Really Is: A Short, Honest Book About Depression.

The book covers:
• The science behind depression
• The helpful (and unhelpful) dialogue around mental illness
• The debate between seeing it as a choice or disease
• Stories of survivors
• A secret culture of suicide worship
• An interview with a depressed doctor
• The problem with finding a “cure”
• My own attempt at suicide
• A myriad of voices from nearly two-hundred surveys conducted over a year

The paperback is here. The ebook is here.

For my video on depression, check here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xggg6xFObIE

Be blessed and love y’all, friends. A reminder that if you’re in a dark place, I hope you’ll reach out. You are truly more loved than you know. 
— J.S.


The Scary Horrible Thing About Depression


The scary horrible thing about clinical depression is that it can hit you any time, for no reason, from zero to freight train in a second.

At the grocery store I’m thinking about how to grill this salmon, and the next moment my chest caves inward like a curled up canvas of wax paper in a cruel gnarled fist. It’s the familiar feeling of drowning in slowly frothing grief, like disappearing in acid. It’s almost too familiar. I’m trying not to weep. I tell myself, Everything’s fine, everything’s fine, a cognitive trick to pull you out of the falling, but nothing is fine, nothing is fine. There’s nothing I can do. My basket full of trinkets is weightless and too heavy at the same time. I see people rushing to somewhere, but the illusion of significance slips away from me in a long, defeated sigh. I hate this part. My shoulders crumple because I’ve stopped holding them up. I can barely look at the cashier and I don’t remember paying when he hands me the receipt. I can’t turn on music in the car; it’s unbearable to turn the wheel. I’m someone else’s ghost in someone else’s body.

I wish I could tell you I snapped out of it. I wish I could say it gets easier each time. But I never know how long it’s going to be. I never know when the colors will come back. I never know if this will be the one that wins.

The worst thing about clinical depression is that it can do whatever it wants with you. It has no rules or code or fairness or dignity. I have every reason to be happy, but I’m completely debilitated and naked. It’s a cheater. It’s a liar that sells truth.

I know I have to fight for air. I know I have to crawl for every inch of territory that’s stolen. I know I cannot make decisions unless I talk with someone first. I know there’s so much worse going on in the world, and the war inside doesn’t even compare. I know. It doesn’t make the fog lift any faster.

I can only claw for breath. I reach for every scrap of surface to escape this tunnel. I can’t let it win. By the tiniest shred of sight, I crawl.

– J.S.


When Should Politics End a Friendship?


Different political opinions can end a friendship—but should they?

How politics, faith, and friendship can fit together.

My post on politics, which was published on the front page of WordPress:
https://jsparkblog.com/2017/03/06/when-do-politics-decide-friendship/

This is part of a series called “Where Faith Meets Life,” covering topics like politics, abuse, marriage, and mental illness.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/jsparkblog

Be blessed and love y’all, friends!
— J.S.

Dealing with Depression: What to Say (and What Not to Say)


There’s a lot of unhelpful dialogue when it comes to depression and the way we talk about it matters. As a lifelong fighter of depression, here are some things I’ve learned to say (and not to say), and how presence matters more than advice.

My book on depression is here: https://www.amazon.com/How-Hard-It-Really-Is/dp/B073TX15LB/

This is the first in a series of videos called “Where Faith Meets Life,” covering topics like politics, abuse, marriage, and mental illness.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/jsparkblog

Be blessed and love y’all, friends!
J.S.

When Depression Looks Like an Excuse



I think one of the hardest parts about living with mental illness is trying to explain it without sounding like it’s an excuse. The difference is that everyone wants a good excuse, but sufferers of mental illness aren’t looking to suffer. We would “snap out of it” if we could.

Depression isn’t “antisocial” or “moody” or “flaky,” but a completely debilitating fog that suffocates rational thinking. When I’m sad, it’s manageable. When I’m depressed, it’s downright crippling. I’ll force myself to work through it, but I hope you’ll understand that I can’t fight myself every time. Some days it’s easier not to pretend.
J.S.


Photo by Image Catalog, CC0 1.0

Real Joy Actually Hurts



It can be easy to romanticize a passion or a social cause or a marriage or raising kids with tons of posed pictures and flowery words—but all such things are gritty, raw, rough, and painstakingly sculpted from our fully invested hearts. There is a lot of standing around and sweating through our shirts and seasons of self-doubt and all the frustrated parts that no one else can see. We fall in love with highlights but these were formed in the valley. Please don’t be seduced by soundbites and filtered photos and bowtie daydreams. Real joy actually hurts, but that’s why it’s real. It was carved from the best of us.
J.S.


[Photo by The Ganeys Photography.]

The Deal with North Korea



Here’s the deal: If you share any misinformed hype about North Korea, I’m blocking you here and I’m done with you in real life, for good.

North Korean citizens are scared, exhausted, and threatened daily into falling in line. They’re in constant fear of death or worse. They’re imprisoned and tortured for the smallest infractions, and about 3500 die every month from starvation. The very few in power in NK are the monsters, not the people. The entire nation is not some one-dimensional evil entity: it’s comprised of families, and they want peace as much as you or I do.

If your only idea of North Koreans is a ridiculous caricature from action movies or ratings-driven media, then don’t speculate. Either learn or seriously shut your mouth.

Those of you hyping up North Korean panic are exactly the reason why there’s a panic. And yes, you know who “you” are. I’m especially appalled and ashamed at the evangelical American church for fear-mongering and flag-waving about North Korea. I’m shaking as I write this and absolutely disgusted at your antics.

I pray for North Korean citizens. Their liberty is one of the very few times I’ve marched in front of the White House in raising peaceful awareness of their awful conditions. Please pray with me and help however you can. Start with clamping down on misinformation.
J.S.


Photo by Stephan, CC BY-SA 2.0

Love Covers.


Part of my hospital chaplaincy duties is to write a reflection on how it’s going. Identities may be altered for privacy. All the writings are here.

I’ve seen love. I mean, pure love. The kind that builds you, that bursts wide open and free, the kind they tell you about, but you were afraid to believe.

A nine-year-old boy comes into the trauma bay with deep, jagged lacerations all over his back. Car accident, roll-over; dad and children nearly ejected, going fifty. His shirt is shredded. His back is really torn up, almost ribbons in several places, blood filling his shorts. He’s fidgeting, squirming, but not from his wounds. He’s trying to sit up, eyes darting, looking for someone. He’s trying to tell something to the paramedics, to the nurses and doctors, to me.

Medicine, he says in a choked whisper, medicine for my sister. She has a new kidney. Medicine.

A second later, his four year old sister is wheeled in—they had been in the same car accident. She’s in shock. Her brother keeps saying, Medicine, for my sister. She needs her kidney medicine.

A nurse replies, “On it. I’m on it, little man.”

I go to the nine year old, pull up a seat, and tell him, “You’re a good brother.”

“Thanks,” he says, finally resting his head. The nurses move around us, not missing a beat, and there’s just me and the kid, eyes locked, his eyes on fire.

“What happened?” I ask him.

Continue reading “Love Covers.”

Road Trips


We drove up for a wedding over the weekend. You learn a lot about another person on long road trips, and a lot about yourself. I learned that I’m not as laid back as I like to think I am, that I’m an upside-down turtle at multi-tasking, that my bladder has shrunk to hobbit-like levels, and that when both the GPS and my wife tell me to take a left turn in five-hundred feet, the surface of my brain instantly breaks out into hives. I also learned my wife is infinitely patient, knows when I need a hit of coffee, graciously endures all my u-turns, sings and dances in an untinted car with zero shame, and will listen to me talk about one single subject for hours. She can also sleep immediately in the car on command, in the middle of a sentence. Here’s to my wife and road trip partner: to many more u-turns together, both figurative and literal, and to dancing among strangers.
— J.S.

“3 Non-Obvious Reasons That We Get Addicted to Porn”


Here’s an article I wrote that’s been published on X3Church, called:

“3 Non-Obvious Reasons That We Get Addicted to Porn.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Not every porn addict uses porn because of trauma or frustration or personal demons.

Sometimes, we’re just bored. There’s nothing else to do. And hours are wasted on late-night binging and mindless clicking through the internet abyss. 

We crave story, adventure, and purpose: we are meaning-making creatures. Without a story, we fill the void with something else. And the only way to extinguish a “lesser desire” is to expulse it with a greater one, a bigger picture, a higher calling, or the “expulsive power of a new affection.“

Read the full post here. My book on quitting porn is here.

J.S.

I Need Your Help: Test Readers


**Edit – June 17th**

Dear friends: The draft of my upcoming book on depression has been sent to your email. Test reading has begun! If you’d still like to join, please email me. Love y’all friends, and thank you again for making this possible. — J.S.

pastorjspark@gmail.com



Hey friends, I’m giving away a draft of my book on depression before it’s released. All I ask for in return are feedback and a review on Amazon.

If you want to be a test reader, please send me your email to
pastorjspark@gmail.com

and I’ll send it as soon as it’s ready. The final book will be out this summer. Love y’all, friends. — J.S.

Hiatus.

Hey dear friends: I’ll be taking an extended break from social media, for at least a couple weeks. I’ve been so extremely fatigued and sometimes unbearably cranky. I kindly and somewhat selfishly ask for your prayers, amidst all that’s happening in the world.

I’m still working on my book on depression. I’m hoping to have it ready by the summer. If you’d like a free digital draft when it’s finished, please email me your email address and I’ll send it to you. The only thing I ask in return is you’d write a review on Amazon when the book is out.

pastorjspark@gmail.com

Be blessed and love you, dear friends. God and grace be with you.

— J.S.

https://www.amazon.com/J.S.-Park/e/B00NZ70FDW

Whose Interpretation Is It, Anyway?



“Because the Bible says so.” Okay, but whose interpretation? Yours? Mine? From the era of the Crusades? When they were burning people at the stake? When it was used to support slavery? What if we have different conclusions? What if we’re both wrong?
J.S.
#discussion #discuss


Photo by ThoroughlyReviewed, CC BY 2.0

“I Demand Your Platform.”



I’ve seen plenty of posts demanding that “public voices” speak up on relevant social issues, condemning the silence of celebrities, clergy, authors, and your average everyday “inspirational blogger”—as if that silence was tantamount to the injustice itself.

I absolutely agree that we must speak up. Silence and passivity only perpetuate the status quo. I believe in the right—the gritty necessity—of protest and picket signs, that we cannot sit idly within the isolated concerns of our own four walls. Yes, silence is the abetting accomplice to injustice, and I do expect more from bigger platforms, from those who have the golden reach of influence.

On the other hand, I wonder about the overly hasty speed in which we comment on issues which are still unfolding. I wonder how many half-informed people are writing too quickly to get clicks and views and attention and to catch the heat of the moment. I wonder if there’s a way we can both raise our voices while learning more from every side of our widening divide. I wonder how we can slow down in crisis to be with the hurting rather than continually superimpose a think-piece for yet another grand, eloquent, self-promoting manifesto. (The irony is not lost on me that I’m probably doing the same thing here.)

And I have to wonder why we demand so much from public voices to speak on these things, as if we are waiting to be told what to think, or to validate an already preprogrammed opinion. Maybe those voices indeed have the power to change things—but so do we, regardless of the size of our stage, starting with ourselves and the people in the room. Maybe those voices are more informed than us—but so we, too, can invest and saturate in the stories of others, and then think for ourselves on how to build bridges and dialogue.

It may be physically impossible to care about everything all the time, much less expect others to care about all the same things you do. We have room to be passionate for just a few crucial things in our short little time on earth, and to each their own, passionately, not with a flashy, trashy headline that’ll be forgotten in a week, but by the accumulative power of a trained marathon, learning as we go, listening to other voices as we find our own. I cannot speak for you, but with you. And if you and I are to be a voice for the voiceless, maybe this means stepping off the stage and passing the microphone to those who are not heard.
J.S.


Photo from Rob, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

My Friend Won’t Forgive Me for My Depression


Anonymous asked a question:

My roommate used to be my best friend. However, I became incredibly depressed from last year until about a month ago, and that severely strained our relationship. Even though I don’t believe I should apologize for everything that happened (because I was depressed), I have a bunch of times and asked her for forgiveness. She has yet to say to me “I forgive you” and hasn’t ever apologized for the things she did to me. I don’t understand how a “Christian” friend could treat me like this.

Hey dear friend, I’m sorry this happened, and I’m with you: I’ve wrestled with depression for a lifetime, and I know how it can take us over and make us irrational and out of our minds. The harm we do is not intentional and not our fault. And I know how awfully insensitive the general culture can be towards your depression, from ignoring it to mocking it to offering all sorts of wrong theories on how to get “cured.”

Now, I have to say the very difficult truth, and I’m saying it entirely with grace and empathy and love for your situation as well as my own. I say this attempting to balance my heart for you as well as for your friend.

Unfortunately, the bad news is that your friend is not obligated to forgive you. As much as she tried to stay, she also has every right to leave. She’s not obligated to apologize, and if you’re holding her apology to a “Christian standard,“ that’s rather gaudy and even malicious. This sounds cold and unfair, but to expect every single person to stay through our mental hardships is to ask them to be God, and is almost just as burdensome as enduring depression itself.

Both pop culture and church culture might teach you a romanticized, whimsical way to “always be there for someone,” but it’s never that easy. Dealing with a depressed person (like me) is exhausting and draining, and it requires a help far greater than many of us can give. Not everyone is built to endure these sort of things. I don’t blame them: my depression is so severe, I cannot imagine who’d be left in its wake.

I’m sure you never meant to hurt your friend while you were depressed, but she was indeed hurt, and she is not required to still be your friend, your confidant, or your companion through your journey. Your friend is not your therapist. Your depression and mine are not some “quirks” to be glossed over. Most likely, our depression will ruin many, many more friendships. I wish friends would stay, but so often they don’t, and I’ve come to make peace with when they won’t.

Consider the words of famed journalist and professor Andrew Solomon, who has written the definitive work on depression called The Noonday Demon, and who himself suffered a depression so severe that he tried to contract HIV from male prostitutes to kill himself:

“Depression is hard on friends. You make what by the standards of the world are unreasonable demands on them, and often they don’t have the resilience or the flexibility or the knowledge or the inclination to cope. If you’re lucky some people will surprise you with their adaptability. You communicate what you can and hope. Slowly, I’ve learned to take people for who they are. Some friends can process a severe depression right up front, and some can’t. Most people don’t like one another’s unhappiness very much.”

Our depression certainly takes us hostage and hijacks our brains into doing things we normally wouldn’t do, but please allow me to dispel you of the romantic notion that everyone must stick through “thick and thin.” Movies and TV shows can make mental illness look quirky and appealing, but in real life, it’s nearly impossible for my friends to endure with me when I fall into depression. It’s intolerable and insufferable. While it’s true that we are not ourselves when we’re depressed, the injuries we have caused are still very real, and it is our friends’ choice to draw boundaries when they feel unsafe around us.

Continue reading “My Friend Won’t Forgive Me for My Depression”

Ugly Asian Male: On Being the Least Attractive Guy in the Room

Statistically, I’m the least attractive person in the dating scene. Alongside black women, the Asian-American male is considered the most ugly and undesirable person in the room.

Take it from Steve Harvey, who won’t eat what he can’t pronounce:

“‘Excuse me, do you like Asian men?’ No thank you. I don’t even like Chinese food. It don’t stay with you no time. I don’t eat what I can’t pronounce.’”

Eddie Huang, creator of the groundbreaking Asian-American sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, responded to Steve Harvey in The New York Times:

“[Every] Asian-American man knows what the dominant culture has to say about us. We count good, we bow well, we are technologically proficient, we’re naturally subordinate, our male anatomy is the size of a thumb drive and we could never in a thousand millenniums be a threat to steal your girl.”

Asian-American men, like me, know the score. That is, we don’t count at all.

Hollywood won’t bank on me. Think: When was the last time you saw an Asian male kiss a non-Asian female in a movie or TV show? Or when was the last time an Asian-American male was the desired person in a romantic comedy? And more specifically, when where they not Kung Fu practitioners or computer geniuses? I can only think of two examples: Steven Yeun as Glenn from The Walking Dead and John Cho as Harold from Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. So it takes either a zombie apocalypse or the munchies to see a fully breathing Asian male lead, or a Photoshop campaign #StarringJohnCho for an Asian protagonist with actual thoughts in his head.

It’s so rare to see a three-dimensional Asian male character, with actual hopes and dreams, that Steven Yeun remarks in GQ Magazine:

GQ Magazine: When you look back on your long tenure on The Walking Dead, what makes you proudest?

Steven Yeun: Honestly, the privilege that I had to play an Asian-American character that didn’t have to apologize at all for being Asian, or even acknowledge that he was Asian. Obviously, you’re going to address it. It’s real. It’s a thing. I am Asian, and Glenn is Asian. But I was very honored to be able to play somebody that showed multiple sides, and showed depth, and showed a way to relate to everyone. It was quite an honor, in that regard. This didn’t exist when I was a kid. I didn’t get to see Glenn. I didn’t get to see a fully formed Asian-American person on my television, where you could say, “That dude just belongs here.” Kids, growing up now, can see this show and see a face that they recognize. And go, “Oh my god. That’s my face too.”

Growing up, I never had that, either. I can’t help but think of this scene from the biopic, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, in which Bruce Lee watches the controversial Asian stereotype played by Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to a theater filled with derisive laughter. This moment with Bruce Lee is most likely fictional, but the weight of it is not lost on us:

This was a powerful moment for me as a kid, because I grew up with the same sort of mocking laughter, whether it was watching Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with my white neighbors, or being assailed by the Bruce Lee wail in the local grocery store. I knew they were laughing at me, and not with.

Continue reading “Ugly Asian Male: On Being the Least Attractive Guy in the Room”