The Cancer Shame Connection: Church and Societal Influence.

I grew up in the church. My father was a pastor, and I spent more time in the classrooms and gymnasiums of religious affiliated schools, the church office, and in the sanctuary than I did at home. I am very proud of my upbringing. It gave me a wonderful foundation full of strong morals, love for community, humility, and compassion.

However, this experience also opened my eyes to church politics and the shortcomings of the human element of religion. I’ve encountered a large number of self-proclaimed Christians who feel compelled to judge and shame others. They profess a need to control the actions and thoughts of others and do so in the name of God. Although this is an unfortunate method practiced by Christians, it has absolutely no biblical basis. We are to “love thy neighbor as thou lovest thyself” and leave the final judgement to God.

As I sit in church, I listen to the pastor as he prays for the members. I observe the increasing list of members afflicted with cancer. I observe the coffee and sugar laden food and beverages that are served at most church functions. As a pre-teen, I fondly remember looking forward to eating a donut or two and drinking a cup of coffee during Bible class.

I also remember being told that only whores wear eyeliner and nail polish, unmarried couples who live together deserve the silent treatment until they change their sinful ways, a girl’s worth is determine by her sexual purity, and people who associate with other Christian denominations are going to hell. I won’t mention other twisted philosophies regarding homosexuality, divorce, recreational drugs, and other religions. It is very important to separate the biblical teachings from the flawed human interpretation.

In this moment, I am sitting at a coffee shop sporting eye liner and a crop top that exposes my midriff to the glorious warmth of the sunshine. I have learned to love and appreciate my body, including my sexuality. Last night, I befriended a man who used to strip and struggled with a drug addiction. A few weeks ago, I befriended a man who had just gone through a divorce, and his partner who used to be a powerful drug dealer in Boston. Through self-acceptance and love, I have discovered a universal love: one love that applies to all of humanity, the earth, and its inhabitants. I no longer feel bound by peer pressure and have no desire to conform to society for the sake of feeling accepted.

I feel compelled to write on the topic of shame, guilt, and controlling behaviors, because I have received a large amount of hatred, personal attacks, and emotional abuse from people I used to consider friends and family. The more I love and accept, the more hatred and ridicule I receive. This has been very difficult for me to understand and process as I am a sensitive soul with no room for hatred in my heart. I have been told that I am a rare form, one that is appreciated by those who embrace humility and threatening to those with an inflated ego. I’ve been reminded that the people of this earth crucified Jesus, shot Martin Luther King Junior, and poisoned Socrates. Why do people feel the need to silence those who preach peace, love, and acceptance?

Furthermore, what effect does this have on the health of individuals? What happens when someone succumbs to the fear tactics of church or society? They reject who they are and sacrifice their own needs and desires to conform. They do so in search of love and acceptance. Unfortunately, the church and society only offer conditional love and acceptance. As long as you abide by their man-made rules, then they will acknowledge you as a valuable member. If you stray from the common census, then they may subject you to isolation, condemnation, or dehumanization. The fear of suffering the consequences of living a life true to oneself may overwhelm an individual. If left unresolved overtime, these fears will physically manifest in the body as an illness.

If they (cancer patients) sacrifice and neglect their own wellbeing to avoid facing any shame, guilt, or unworthiness within themselves, they are actually cutting off the very limb they are hanging on to. They are “selflessly” devoted to please other so that, in return, they may be loved and appreciated for their contributions. This, however, serves as an unconscious acknowledgement of not loving oneself. This may lock up unresolved issues, fears, and feelings of unworthiness in cellular memory of the organs and tissues of the body.

—Dr. Andreas Moritz, Cancer is Not a Disease It’s a Survival Mechanism

Throughout his 30 years of treating cancer patients, Dr. Moritz found that all cancer patients had one thing in common: they all experienced feelings of unworthiness, lacking in self-love and self-acceptance. The mere act of a cancer patient verbally acknowledging self-love has turned off the fight-or-flight response and incited a healing response that has led to spontaneous remission of cancer. Often times, healing cancer is much more complicated, but the power of the mind should not be underestimated.

What can we do as church members and individuals contributing to society to decrease the suffering associated with cancer and other chronic illnesses? We can start by choosing to love and accept ourselves in the midst of our imperfection. This will allow us to freely love and accept others, eliminate judgment and shame, and provide a positive support system where others are encouraged to do the same. Eliminating sugar-laden processed foods and animal products at social gatherings would also help, but let’s take one step at a time.

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