God of the Depressed: Stephen Webb, 1961-2016

stephen_webb_photo_0I was saddened to hear of Catholic theologian Stephen Webb’s passing this last week. Webb had in recent years engaged in fruitful dialogue with Mormonism, defending the Christ-centricity of Mormonism and producing one of the best books on Mormon metaphysics I’ve ever read: Mormon Christianity: What Other Christians Can Learn From the Latter-day Saints.1 Mormon scholars are mourning the loss of this great friend and thinker. In honor of his memory, I’d like to share from the last piece he wrote for First Things titled “God of the Depressed.” Webb states, “Theology is a form—arguably the original form—of therapy, and if the church is to compete with the pharmacy, it has to have some good news of its own concerning depression.” He describes the reason for this need:

Seminaries and graduate programs teach the God of the Oppressed, and rightly so. Poverty, war, and racism are so much more public in their debilitating consequences. But we should not forget the depressed, especially in this time of Lent. Jesus himself must have experienced depression while being famished for forty days and nights in the wilderness, praying while his disciples slept, and descending into hell. He also spent many years hidden from public view, his mission kept secret, his life so obscure that the Gospels tell us nothing about them. He had a long time of waiting, and he knew what awaited him. It is this time of hiddenness, I think, that most captures the depressant’s emotional state. The depressed wait for the long nights to end and the anguish to subside. The depressed, like Jesus during his so-called lost years, are hidden from sight, waiting for their lives to begin.

Condolences to Webb’s family. May we honor his memory by seeking out those “waiting for their lives to begin.”