Is Self-Care a False Gospel?
Keith Simon: Are you tired of tribalism?
Speaker 2: I think a lot of what the left supports is Satanic.
Speaker 3: The only time religious freedom is invoked is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.
Patrick Miller: Are you exhausted by the culture war?
Speaker 5: If they don't like it here, they can leave.
Speaker 6: You could put half of Trump supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.
Keith Simon: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?
Speaker 7: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican party? And the answer is absolutely not.
Speaker 8: From certainly a biblical standpoint Christians could not vote democratic.
Patrick Miller: We trust The Lamb, not the donkey or the elephant.
Keith Simon: This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals.
Patrick Miller: I'm Patrick Miller.
Keith Simon: And I'm Keith Simon and we choose truth over tribe.
Patrick Miller: Do you.
Keith Simon: So Patrick, Christine and I just came back from a few days of a little getaway that we did with some friends. And it was kind of a friend of a friend of a friend kind of thing, where a small group of couples has gone on a trip the last couple years. And we picked the place in Arizona. I didn't pick it, but it wasn't so much chosen for what it was, as much as it was just because it was great weather and that kind of thing. But it turns out that I spent the last few days at a wellness center, at a wellness center.
Patrick Miller: Wow. So that's like the church of the New Age, right?
Keith Simon: Well, and that's what we're going to talk about today is wellness, but I got to describe this to you. Now it's kind of a really-
Patrick Miller: I'm so excited right now to hear about this.
Keith Simon: It's kind of a really nice resort, it's beautiful, it's in the desert and the mountains and all this. If you went on vacation somewhere, you'd be looking to go to a place like this, but there was a clairvoyant there, an astrologer.
Patrick Miller: Hold on. Hold on. Clairvoyant, that's the person who can speak to the dead, is that right?
Keith Simon: I was trying to figure out the difference between the clairvoyant and the psychic.
Patrick Miller: Oh.
Keith Simon: And I wasn't sure that I understood the difference.
Patrick Miller: This isn't a joke.
Keith Simon: No, some of the people there were really serious about it. Now there's-
Patrick Miller: And an astrologer.
Keith Simon: ...a dermatologist.
Patrick Miller: Okay. So it's a astrologer, clairvoyant, psychic.
Keith Simon: They had these massages where they would chant over you, flap their wings, bark like a dog. Now, okay I just want to be really clear that none of us on this trip signed up for this.
Patrick Miller: Did you do this? Be honest, you did it.
Keith Simon: We had no idea what we're getting-
Patrick Miller: You got a massage-
Keith Simon: I didn't do it.
Patrick Miller: ...and you had told the misuse," Start barking."
Keith Simon: No, I did not do any of that, but my eyes were open to this whole world of wellness on steroids. Now we see it play out in our life in a lot more common ways and just in our everyday life. But there is this group of people out there, this movement, maybe it affects everybody to some extent in which people are told that we need to take care of ourselves.
Patrick Miller: So a wellness center is an extreme example to start with.
Keith Simon: Very extreme.
Patrick Miller: I actually don't know many people who are looking to go to wellness centers as a part of their" self- care." I haven't talked to anyone who's doing something like that.
Keith Simon: Here's the best thing that came out of it for me, really the only thing that came out as far as the wellness deal is that I've stopped drinking Monsters and now I'm drinking water.
Patrick Miller: Wow.
Keith Simon: I wonder how long that'll last.
Patrick Miller: I want everybody who's listening to know there is a box of Monsters sitting on the floor at Keith's... a very large box of Monsters-
Keith Simon: I haven't opened it.
Patrick Miller: ..and he hasn't opened it.
Keith Simon: No.
Patrick Miller: To his credit he hasn't opened it, but he also hasn't gotten rid of it and it's been there for a while.
Keith Simon: So I am playing with fire, temptation, but I'm drinking water today.
Patrick Miller: You're like the person who kicks a cigarette habit, but leaves the box. You just don't know. Maybe I'll need it again. We'll see.
Keith Simon: Well, so I didn't bark like a dog, but I did kick Monsters for today.
Patrick Miller: So whenever I think about wellness and self care, I think about maybe more everyday normal things. When someone takes a mental health day," I'm just not feeling good, I can't come into work because I need to recoup take care of myself." Or I think about things like oils, beauty care products, makeup, there's a whole fitness aspect of wellness and self care. And it's something that has really grown in the last five years. In fact, there's a number of studies that have pointed out. I think it was back in 2015, there was something like maybe 15 wellness apps. In last year alone, there were thousands upon thousands that were released for the first time. So much so that Apple called wellness, the app theme of the year.
Keith Simon: Some of those are like Calm, Headspace.
Patrick Miller: Those are some of the early ones that became very popular.
Keith Simon: Big time people are invested in it are users of it. There's the whole Gwyneth Paltrow line goop, which we'll get to in a little bit.
Patrick Miller: Oh, I cannot wait to talk about goop.
Keith Simon: So wellness or self- care it kind of has a theology that lies behind it. And when you hear that you might get a little bit uncomfortable and say," A theology? I just thought I was taking care of myself. How did we get to a theology behind it?" But that's how everything works in our world is that behind everything we're doing is a set of principles, ideas, values, and beliefs. And even if we don't buy fully into those values and beliefs, even if we don't buy into the theology of wellness, we probably pick up bits and pieces of it and then incorporate it into our life. The people that were at the wellness center that I was at a few days ago, I'm sure that there were Christians there, who were taking bits and pieces from the smorgasbord of wellness and incorporating them into their life. There's a whole movement of people. And maybe this even describes you and they're known as SBNR, spiritual but not religious. And I think that captures some of the wellness theology, is that it is trying to be spiritual and meet a deep spiritual need inside of people. But it's not religious in the sense that it doesn't have much form or structure that is shared among its adherents. People pick and choose what they want and then they incorporate them into the other beliefs they have in life. So we become this hodgepodge of mixed beliefs, some Christian, some New Age, some Buddhist, some whatever else it is that we want to add.
Patrick Miller: You become what Tara Isabella Burton calls remixed. It's her way of describing a new form of spirituality, where we are mixing in maybe Orthodox Christianity with ideas and concepts that really have nothing to do with Christianity, and at times may even stand in direct opposition to the story that Christianity is telling. Now she has an entire chapter in a fabulous book, it's called Strange Rites.
Keith Simon: Oh, it's really good.
Patrick Miller: Oh my gosh. If you like being interested then read this book, because it is full of interesting stories and she has a chapter on wellness and self- care. And she offers a really helpful definition of the theology you might say behind wellness and self- care, it's a little long, but it's worth reading. She says," It's a theology fundamentally of division. There's the authentic intuitional self and the artificial malevolent forces of society, rules and expectations. We are born good, but we're tricked by big pharma, by processed food, by civilization itself into something that falls short of our best life. Our sins, if they exist at all, why an insufficient self attention or self care, fall modesty, undeserved humility, refusing to shine bright. We have not merely the inalienable right, but the moral responsibility to take care of ourselves first, before directing any attention to others. We have to listen to ourselves to behave authentically in tune with what our intuition dictates. Others after all are potential enemies, the people in our lives and the demands they make upon us might very well be the sources of toxic energy, if we're not careful to avoid them, the foods we eat are full of toxins as well." It's a long quote, but it's a helpful summary of the central ideas that you will see behind a lot of these wellness brands. Again, whether it's fitness, it's oils or healthcare and beauty products, you'll see the same kind of thinking come out behind the product itself.
Keith Simon: And of course there's nothing wrong with taking care of yourself. Taking care of yourself is smart, it's wise, but at some point it becomes a religion. So I think Burton says in this book, although it might be somewhere else where I remember hearing this. But this idea of taking care of yourself before you can take care of others, goes all the way back to Oprah Winfrey. And she had used the analogy of the oxygen mask coming down in an emergency in an airplane, and first you need to put on your own oxygen mask, and then you can help others around you put on their oxygen mask. And so what they've done is taking a good principle that we need to take care of ourselves so that we have something to give something, something to offer other people. And then they have made the self into an idol so that you take care of yourself, that becomes the be all, end all, and we don't really ever have time to take care of other people.
Patrick Miller: And we're seeing examples of wellness and self- care it's all over the place. So a fun example is Weight Watchers, they rebranded from Weight Watchers to WW. And then they said that the WW doesn't actually stand for Weight Watchers anymore, now it stands for Wellness that Works. Weight Watchers has somehow tuned into the fact that something as artificial as weight loss could be anti- self and they want to be for the self, they want to be for wellness that works. In fact, they've paired up on their Wellness that Works app with Headspace, which is a meditation app. Another example, and this is actually what first began to clue me into some of this stuff. My wife has the Peloton app it's on your phone and it will take you through workouts. And so she likes doing their treadmill workouts because it makes you go fast and slow.
Keith Simon: You have a treadmill at home?
Patrick Miller: We do have a treadmill at home. And so she was doing this treadmill workout on her Peloton and she stops in the middle of it because it becomes this sermon, this bizarro sermon where the Peloton instructor is saying," I want you to divide up everybody in your life and to people who give you energy and people who give you toxic energy. I want you to make a list in your head of anyone who takes from you, of anyone who doesn't make you feel good about you, of anyone who makes you feel negative things about anything. I want you to make a list." And she goes," Cut it off."
Keith Simon: Just cut those people out of your life.
Patrick Miller: Cut those people out of your life.
Keith Simon: What if they're your parents, your family, what if they're my two year old?
Patrick Miller: And Emily's listening, she's going," This is crazy." Seriously she goes," Patrick, you've got to do a podcast on this. I'm hearing this stuff everywhere, that you have to cut out toxic people." And it's true it's the wellness ideology. What's the problem? You are good in and of yourself, trust your own intuition, and there's things that are outside of you that are threatening you, and again it's happening all over the place.
Keith Simon: I really liked the way you said that because the sin in wellness theology is what exactly? It's the toxins. It's the bad food. It's the big pharma.
Patrick Miller: It's not trusting yourself.
Keith Simon: Not trusting yourself. Whereas in Christianity sin is defined as rebellion against God and it is something that we all struggle with. But in the wellness theology, it is that we are good people who need to get rid of the bad circumstances around us, that bring out the bad in us or cause us to be bad, completely different than a conception of sin of a biblical worldview.
Patrick Miller: And in fact, in the Bible, if you rebel against God, one of the major symptoms, in fact, a great way to tell that you've done it is that you become an incredibly selfish person.
Keith Simon: You turn inward, you turn in on yourself.
Patrick Miller: And so again, we're just trying to highlight that there's some differences here and that this stuff again, it's everywhere. I remember the first time I heard someone tell me that they were taking a mental health day, they said it as a joke. They weren't trying to be mean to anyone, but five years ago, taking a mental health day was kind of a joke. You're like," I'm having a hard day, I need a mental health day." But now it's become a very serious thing. There are people who are calling into work saying," I can't come into work today because I need to take care of myself, because I need to deal with my emotional life." Now again, why are we talking about this, it's not because we're curmudgeons. We're not saying," Get off our lawn crosstalk
Keith Simon: We might be.
Patrick Miller: We might be a little.
Keith Simon: We might be curmudgeonie, let's don't completely rule that out as a possibility.
Patrick Miller: Well, I would make you get off my lawn, so maybe we are curmudgeons, but I think there's something deeper. If your mom died, you might actually need a mental health day, it's called grief, it's part of a normal process in life. If your house burns down, you might need a mental health day. If your spouse gets diagnosed with cancer or your child, you might need some mental health days, so I'm not trying to minimize those things. But if you're just dealing with the normal anxieties of your life, if you're just saying," I just don't feel good today." Welcome to planet earth. I don't know what to tell you, that is part of normal life and you're not going to make yourself feel better by taking a" mental health day." In fact, I'm reading a book right now that's talking about Christians who were imprisoned for their faith, so you want to talk about needing a mental health day, how about that?
Keith Simon: Wow. You just went big honest there.
Patrick Miller: Well, what's fascinating-
Keith Simon: Going to make us all feel bad about our life.
Patrick Miller: So they were imprisoned by the Soviet government. And one of the things, it just struck me that one of these prisoners said was there would be days where he would say," I'm not going to go through my normal Bible reading and prayer. I just need to relax." He essentially said," I just need a mental health day." And he said," Things always got worse. They never got better. Those were the worst days and I tried to avoid them. I would convince myself I needed it and then I'd realize this is destroying me." So again, I'm trying to draw a contrast between two ways of seeing the world. So let's do this, I think it's helpful to keep trying to define what wellness is and to show examples, because my guess is, if you're listening to this, you haven't bought into it entirely, but there might be elements that you might say,"You know what, I need to resist that. I need to question that." And what makes wellness, at least to me really interesting, is that it is truly deeply American phenomenon in the sense that it appeals to the very things that we as Americans love. It sounds scientific. It is consumerist and it's intuitional. So let's see each one of those things and we can start with scientific.
Keith Simon: So wellness thinking can be traced all the way back into the mid 1800s, maybe even earlier than that. But in the mid 1800s there was an idea called animal magnetism. And the idea is that all animals, including human beings have magnetic fields within their body. Now we would call this pseudoscience or we might even call it just completely wrong today. But this idea is that you-
Patrick Miller: I would call it completely made up.
Keith Simon: But it was housed the-
Patrick Miller: Yes.
Keith Simon: ...inside the scientific community. And at least where they were the way I understand it, they believed it was true, it wasn't as if they were trying to make something up.
Patrick Miller: They have scientific diagrams that are showing animals and where magnetic waves are coming from. And the people who were practitioners of this often called themselves doctors. And again, if you read the books, it would sound very scientific. Back then magnetic waves were a brand new thing. People didn't know that they existed, so this is the pinnacle of science.
Keith Simon: Well, it kind of is a good little reminder here that science grows and develops. And that just because something is scientific theory of a particular day, doesn't mean a hundred years from now, people will still agree with it. So it might just want to remember that science is developed over the years and it's still developing.
Patrick Miller: And this is the movement that eventually grows into Christian science, which a lot of people don't even know what Christian science is. It's essentially the notion that if you think positive thoughts, you will magnetize positivity to yourself. And if you think negative thoughts, you'll magnetize negativity to yourself. This is why Christian scientists won't go to doctors because they believe that they can heal themselves through their thinking. Now, today we hear about that. And when we hear about parents doing that to children, we might even call it abuse because we realize it's entirely made up, but what we don't realize it's called Christian science because back when it started it sounded scientific.
Keith Simon: And the whole idea that you attract positive or negative energy to you, depending on how you're thinking about your life, it sounds like a book called The Secret, which came out years ago and was-
Patrick Miller: That's a big Oprah Winfrey thing too.
Keith Simon: ...I was going to say Oprah publicized it quite a bit. But if you listen to the way that someone like Oprah talks, she will draw upon a lot of this power of positive thinking.
Patrick Miller: So let's look at some modern examples of how wellness and self- care have began taking on this scientific language. And we're going to admittedly pick some extreme examples to make a point.
Keith Simon: They're the most fun.
Patrick Miller: Just because they're super fun. But I want to say this, when you start buying into a beauty product, a skincare product, a set of oils, or even a mental health regimen and it claims to be based on science. I think you should press pause. Why? Well, let's talk about Gwyneth Paltrow.
Keith Simon: Gwyneth Paltrow from Shakespeare in Love actress, right?
Patrick Miller: I know her as Chris Martin's ex- wife.
Keith Simon: They decoupled.
Patrick Miller: They decoupled.
Keith Simon: Decoupled wife.
Patrick Miller: Is that a new phrase for divorce?
Keith Simon: You know that she came up with that, right?
Patrick Miller: Oh yeah, I forgot about that.
Keith Simon: That they were going to have a conscious decoupling.
Patrick Miller: Yes.
Keith Simon: So anyway, she formed a business called goop, perhaps you've heard of it. If you go to it, what you'll find is it's one of these apps-
Patrick Miller: She should have fired the person who she hired to market the stuff, goop.
Keith Simon: Fired? She should know it's genius crosstalk.
Patrick Miller: Bonus though. Are you kidding me?
Keith Simon: She's killing it right now.
Patrick Miller: She is killing it.
Keith Simon: So if you go to the website, you'll see that it is an aspirational brand. But if you dig down a little bit deeper, you find some of the craziest products and you have to ask yourself," What are they selling here?" And it's trying to sound like Patrick said, trying to sound scientific, but it's not scientific at all.
Patrick Miller: I can read you an example of a product on there on goop for$ 27 you can get, I'm just quoting from the website right now. A sonically tuned water with rosewater, grain alcohol, sea salt, colloidal... I don't even know how to say thus stuff, colloidal silver, therapeutic grade oils of rosemary, juniper lavender, a unique complex blend of gem elixirs, including but no out limited to black tourmaline, lapis lazuli-
Keith Simon: You're doing a great job reading this.
Patrick Miller: ...ruby, labradorite, bloodstone, aqua aura, black onyx, garnet, pyrite and nuummite; reiki, sound waves, moonlight, love, reiki charged crystals. I shouldn't laugh out loud. People get angry at us when we laugh when we read quotes that are ridiculous, but you should stop getting angry, you should laugh at things that are funny.
Keith Simon: So that's an example, you can buy off the website and that's going to fix whatever problems you have. She also has moon juice, 2. 2 ounces-
Patrick Miller: No, that's a different person.
Keith Simon: Oh, it is.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. That's a different one, but it's still worth reading.
Keith Simon: Is that Jessica Alba?
Patrick Miller: Well, this is, her last is... I should have written it on here. It's a juicing lady. One of the first juicers out there actually.
Keith Simon: Moon juice, 2. 2 ounce smoothies for$ 55. And here's what it does according to-
Patrick Miller: That's not even, that's like a shot and a half.
Keith Simon: Some good Bourbon. It lights up your brain and increases mental flow, toning the brain waves that connect to creativity. And so the owner of this who we can't seem to remember her name.
Patrick Miller: I should have written down her name. It's a weird name, it ends with a B and anyways keep going.
Keith Simon: She became famous by publishing food diaries that were short on actual food, but really heavy on a bizarre ingredients. And so it might not have surprised you that when Condé Nast the big publishing house wanted do an article on goop and who wouldn't want that? You're goop, and you're going to have well known magazines writing about you, it's going to promote your products and of course you want that. But goop refused to participate with Condé Nast in the piece, because Condé Nast wanted to scientifically verify the claims that they make on their website. And they're like," Oh no, you can't do that." Because they know they're making it up.
Patrick Miller: All they wanted to do was fact check the scientific claims, that's all they wanted. Just let us fact check your scientific claims and Gwyneth Paltrow says," We're out."
Keith Simon: Yeah, because they know they're making it up. So what are they really selling? They're not really selling something that does what they claim. They're selling something to you as person who says," I want to buy these products. I want to be known as the kind of person who takes care of themselves. Or I'm just so lost, I don't know what to do, and so I'm looking to moon juice or some sort of product to help fix my soul." Why won't they let them check their scientific claims?
Patrick Miller: So another example from Gwyneth Paltrow's website, she has a blog on there. And again, what we're trying to show here is and in this particular example, the connection between pseudoscientific sounding thoughts about what you eat, consume, put on your body, and your own mental health and healthcare. So check this out, it's a little bit crazy, but I'll read along." After seeing thousands of patients," this is a person who's claiming to be a doctor." After seeing thousands of patients over my career and going through cancer myself, I can tell you that unresolved emotional pain and unexpressed desires are the core of what I call dis- ease," so they're playing on the word disease," or a body mind that's not at ease. Women who live only to serve and nourish the lives of others. Develop subconscious resentment because no nourishment is coming back to them." So you hear the self- care element there. You're taking so much time caring for others, but not caring for yourself that you're causing dis- ease inside of self. And he goes on, he says," Is it just a coincidence that these women often develop cancer in the most nourishing organ of the female body, the breast." Yep. Breast cancer is caused by caring for other people. You heard it here first.
Keith Simon: Well, second.
Patrick Miller: Second. Now again, we're laughing because it's so obviously ridiculous. And yet I hear people say this kind of thing, where they seem to think that their physical and mental health is being negatively affected by caring for others. Now again, you should set up healthy boundaries in your life, that's not what we're talking about. But being a self sacrificial person, no matter how much scientific language you put around it, that is not going to give you breast cancer. Now my point in saying this, because I can imagine someone who has their particular product that they really believe in and its particular claims, and maybe you're starting to feel offended by what we're saying. My point isn't that everything in the wellness world is entirely made up. You probably need a PhD to tease out what's true from what's false, it's a mix of things. What we're trying to say here is that the scientific language used by these brands, it's part of a new religion and the reason why they speak in the scientific register, why they use that kind of language is because in America science is the language of truth. And so if they're going to give you true claims about your body, about your soul, about what it means to be human, they have to couch it in scientific sounding language. And I'm not trying to offend you, that's called marketing. It's not real. It's marketing. They're trying to sell you something which leads to our next point, that wellness isn't just couched in scientific language, it is deeply consumeristic.
Keith Simon: They say if you to know the truth, always follow the money. And if you follow the money, what you find is that wellness is a huge, huge industry. In fact, in 2019, there was a$ 4. 2 trillion market, not billion, trillion dollar market. In 2015, it was only$ 3. 7 trillion market. So we spend half as much on wellness products as we do in actual verified medical healthcare. Wellness real estate$ 52. 5 billion in America.
Patrick Miller: Let me explain for those who don't know what this is. You can buy into these neighborhoods or communities that are entirely based around wellness because Keith your negative energy-
Keith Simon: Is really affecting you.
Patrick Miller: ...it really affects me, man. And I take that home and it affects my kids. And then if I'm around my neighbors and they're bringing more negativity into my life, well, that's going to make things worse. And people, again, this is insane,$ 52. 6 billion is being spent so that people can live in wellness communities.
Keith Simon: This must be like in California.
Patrick Miller: Oh, it has to be.
Keith Simon: It has to be.
Patrick Miller: It's not in Columbia, Missouri.
Keith Simon: Workplace wellness jobs$ 17. 6 billion, so follow the money trail. And what you find is what Patrick said is true. And that is that this is about marketing. People are trying to sell you certain kinds of drinks or there's supplement stores or whatever. They make all kinds of scientific claims, but what they really want is for you to part with your money. And they know that you're living in a world that says," Take care of yourself." And they know that you have a natural inclination to be healthy, to be smart, to be a person who is developing their life. And so they appeal to that instinct and say," Hey, we've got this magic elixir over here. If you drink this, if you use this ointment, if you go to this clairvoyant, if you-"
Patrick Miller: Do this exercise regiment.
Keith Simon: Even SoulCycle or CrossFit gets into this. It's not just that you'll lose weight, but that you'll become a better person. It's not that you'll just get in better physical shape, it's that you'll have more positive energy. Now look, there's a lot of great things about working out, there's a lot of great things about using good products, but you have to be wise and not just get sucked into a marketing scheme.
Patrick Miller: And not buy into the transcendent promises that some of these things are promising you.
Keith Simon: Yeah, really, that's the big thing because I don't really care if you waste your money, what do I care? Waste your money, do whatever, we all spend on money on all kinds of things some of them wiser, some of them unwiser.
Patrick Miller: I like to buy nice meat.
Keith Simon: We'll just keep going. Thanks Patrick. So if you want to spend your money on stuff, go for it, I don't care. But the point is that if you're thinking that this is going to be part of your soul care, if you think that this is going to heal you, if you think this is going to draw you closer to God, if you're looking for satisfaction and fulfillment and meaning and purpose, and to make sense out of your law life, all the things that are promised by many of these products, that's where I'm bothered, that's what I don't want you to get sucked into.
Patrick Miller: And as much as Keith says spend your money on whatever you want to spend your money on, he can say that, I don't know if that's what God says to us.
Keith Simon: Oh wow.
Patrick Miller: And I'll press further than that, these products can be extraordinarily expensive.
Keith Simon: Oh, crazy expensive.
Patrick Miller: Insanely expensive.
Keith Simon: Because people have money, they got to spend it on something and so they're attracting a specific kind of person. They have got a target market of people with a lot of disposable income who have empty lives, and they're trying to get you to spend your money and give it to them.
Patrick Miller: The target market is affluent or would be affluent, people who want to appear affluent young to middle aged white women. And what's so ironic about this is the person who actually coined the term self- care was a academic who was in the field of black studies. And she was making the point that if society doesn't care for you as a black person, then you're going to have to care for yourself and she calls it self- care. But this word has now been co- opted, again, largely by affluent white women, to talk about you who can afford to buy$ 70 beauty products and go to the gym and all these various things, you taking care of you yourself as though no one will take care of you.
Keith Simon: Are you sure this appeals women?
Patrick Miller: I think it appeals to men more and more.
Keith Simon: I'm going to say that there's a lot of guys buying in this too.
Patrick Miller: I agree. I think some of the fitness and the-
Keith Simon: Whole CrossFit thing.
Patrick Miller: I totally agree with that. The products I don't see as much, buying the beauty products, the oils, that kind of thing. But I see it in the exercise regimen. I see it in the what one of my friends calls hustle porn, which is this ideology that says work hard, hustle hard, be the best, max yourself out. But it's again, often couched in this wellness language about taking care of yourself and being the best that you can be. So we see similar things, broader point here. Wellness is deeply consumeristic. You have to have a certain income level to buy in. Why that's so appealing I think is that you can curate a bespoke wellness regimen for yourself, for me. In fact, there's this bizarre advertisement, it's totally grammatically incorrect, but this is what it said, it's said," Self- care you confidently say is mine."
Keith Simon: Is mine.
Patrick Miller: Is mine. It's weird. But you see the point they're saying because it's expensive there's kind of this sense of," I've bought in. I've invested. I've created this very particular regiment that's perfectly suited to me." Which goes to the next point in this whole idea of wellness and self care, it's intuitional, it's all based on your intuition and what you know about yourself.
Keith Simon: So when I was at this wellness center with this kind of vacation for friends, now I'll just keep emphasizing if nothing else out of insecurity that we were not there for that, we were there because it was warm and a nice place to hang out. But one of the things that people would ask you who worked there is are you intuitional? And to be intuitional, you picked up even in there just a couple days, you picked up was a really good thing. It meant you were in tune with yourself, it meant you were in tune with nature, in tune with energy, in tune with other people. And you really wanted to be able to say," Yes, I'm intuitional." Because I think it meant that you could read other people and see you what was going on in their life.
Patrick Miller: She said that was being others oriented, not knowing what's best for you, not seeing what's true of yourself, not being faithful to you.
Keith Simon: Well, remember I was only there a couple days, but I understood that intuitional meant that I could look at you and tell you what you're going through right now. I could look at you and say," Oh Patrick, you're stressed because you have a family problem." And I just met you, but I know this about you because I'm intuitional, I can read you. Now maybe it starts with reading themselves and knowing themselves that allows them to read you. I don't know. I just know that intuitional was a word that was used a lot at this place.
Patrick Miller: Hold on. I'm going to try to read between the lines here because I too am intuitional. Are you saying that someone came up to you at the pool and said," I can tell that you're stressed."
Keith Simon: I'm saying that there were-
Patrick Miller: Be honest.
Keith Simon: ...friends of mine who had something similar to that happen. They were supposed to put an object, okay, catch this.
Patrick Miller: I knew there's something here. I was like,"You got to pull it out."
Keith Simon: Well, there's plenty here. But so catch this, friend went to one of these little seminars and she had a person she was paired up with at the end. And they had to take an object from them for themselves, like a pair of sunglasses, something and put it at their feet. And then they supposed to be able to look at that object and read it, intuitionally I think, although I'm not exactly sure what that means, and read that object and tell them something about the person they had just met, that they didn't know anything about. But somehow that object, their object had power in it or was able to communicate their mood, their history, their background, their problems they went through.
Patrick Miller: What's so bizarre to me here in this.
Keith Simon: People pay a lot of money to go do this.
Patrick Miller: What's so bizarre to me hearing this is it really is a pseudo religion because I remember when I became a Christian, I was around some Christians who actually did very similar things of," Oh, we're going to read what's happening and pray over you and tell you what your future is and what God has for you." And they didn't know you.
Keith Simon: Kind of a word of faith movement, charismatic, Pentecostal.
Patrick Miller: And so it's just fascinating to see the exact same kind of idea, except in this more New- Agey self- care wellness thing. So let's go back to intuitional. You were talking about how intuitional can be others focused, which is probably better than what we're about to talk about. One of the things that has drawn people to an intuitional model of self- care, this notion that I know what's best for me and I can take care of myself best, it is honestly just the historical events for the last four years. You had all these news agencies saying that Hillary Clinton was going to win the election, it was going to be a landslide victory for her. And all of the trusted institutions, our news agencies, our polls, they all broke down, they were all incorrect. And this led a lot of people to begin to mistrust institutions, I mean they already mistrusted religious institutions like the church, but now they're mistrusting the media and other places. In fact, I find this really interesting on Headspace they've got an SOS button, it's basically when you are having a mental breakdown you press this button and it offers you help. That button was pressed 44% more after Donald Trump's election, the week afterwards, that's when people were... It gets even weirder. The New York Times it added it's self- care section about a month and a half after Donald Trump's election. When Donald Trump gets elected, there was a huge amount of articles talking about how to care for yourself in the face of it. I've got a few titles here, The Rise of Donald Trump Demands We Embrace a Harder Kind of Self- Care. You see the logic," The world's breaking down around us. We can't trust what's happening. And so the only person who can take care of you is you. You got to do a harder kind of self- care." How about this one? A Self- Care Guide of TV to Watch to Forget About Donald Trump's Rise." You need to go watch some TV and take care of yourself because there's a new president and if you don't do it, you're not going to be okay."
Keith Simon: So there's a lack of tr trust in these institutions. You already mentioned the church, government, media, people don't trust their neighbors. There's a lack of trust of others," So who do I trust? Well, I trust myself. I trust my own intuitions, only I can take care of me, only I am going to look out for me." And so that appeals to something, I think bad in us, I think that appeals to something the Bible would call sin. Everyone's own inclination is toward themselves. We all live in the kingdom of me. And what self-care does is say, "That's okay, that's good. Take care of yourself." But I think that runs completely opposite of what God really wants us to do. Love your neighbor as yourself. When Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself, he knows and takes as a starting point that we all love ourselves. The point isn't to do that first and foremost, the point is to love others with the same kind of intensity, with the same kind of sacrificial love, with the same kind of care that you already love yourself. So the Bible takes us from being inward focused and turns us outward. And what self-care does is it says it's good to be inward focused, take care of yourself. If you're like me and you leave each episode with a lot to think about and wishing you could go just a little bit deeper, you should subscribe to the Truth Over Tribe newsletter. Not only do we explore the topic further, but we also interact with people who disagree with us and tell you about upcoming episodes. Just go to choosetruthovertribe. com and sign up for the newsletter there.
Patrick Miller: Okay. Let's play a fun game here. I'm going to read you two quotes Keith, and I want you to guess which one is Jesus and which one is Headspace, the meditation app.
Keith Simon: Oh, this is going to look really bad, we're going to have to edit this out.
Patrick Miller: It's not going to look bad because it's so obvious.
Keith Simon: Okay. Here we go.
Patrick Miller: Are you ready? All right." If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, for whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul or what shall man give and return for his soul."
Keith Simon: Okay. I think I got that one, that one I'm pretty familiar with that's Jesus.
Patrick Miller: Okay. That's Jesus." If you want to find your life, lose it. If you want to follow me, take up a cross," which is a capital punishment instrument, that's what a cross is.
Keith Simon: Death to self.
Patrick Miller: Death to self.
Keith Simon: Die to self, live to God.
Patrick Miller: Yep. Okay. Here's a different one." People mistakenly assume that a meditation rooted in compassion begins with a deliberate focus on other people, not so. We must first cultivate a sense of loving kindness towards ourselves with the intention of being kinder and more forgiving toward others. For many people, it can feel strange and perhaps even indulgent to spend a meditation directing kindness inward. But the more we notice how it feels to take time out for ourselves and the more we enjoy how good that feels, the more easily we are able to share it outward. Compassion for others begins with self- compassion."
Keith Simon: Oh wow. I feel like I need some mood music in the background.
Patrick Miller: There's actually some devotional, I shouldn't say this, but there are some devotional podcasts out there where that's what it is. It's like this Zen music and this guy with a fluffy voice talking over the top of it. Obviously, if you're listening to this, that's not your style.
Keith Simon: So what do you think is good about this Patrick? In other words Jesus says love your neighbor as yourself. So there is a sense in which people have said we do need to love ourselves, that we can't love others if we don't love ourselves, do you buy any of that? Do you think it's all bunk or do you think there is a bit of truth in that?
Patrick Miller: I do not think that God calls us to self hatred. I don't think he calls us to live lives deeply motivated by shame. But when you read what Headspace just wrote, it's not talking about not hating yourself, it's talking about making a daily habit for 10, 20 minutes, directing love towards yourself every single day. And I think that kind of self obsession, that kind of self focus, this notion that I need to take care of me before I can take care of anyone else, I just don't know how you square that with take up a cross and die, if you want to find your life, lose your life. The Bible seems to say that we need to spend a lot less time focusing on ourselves, not spend more time doing it. That loving our neighbor as ourself is probably only possible if we spend less time thinking about ourselves.
Keith Simon: And of course the ironic thing or maybe you'd say it's the paradoxical thing, or maybe Jesus would just say," Yeah, this is how I created you." Is that when we serve others, when we think of others, when we put others needs above our own needs, that's when we end up finding our life. When we lose our life, we find it. It's where we find joy. Jesus says it's more blessed to give than receive, so we find joy, we find blessing, we find our life, we find meaning, we find purpose, when we think outside of ourselves, when we serve God, when we serve other people. When we are third, it turns out that we're the happiest. So if it's God, others, myself, self- care would say," No, you've got that all backwards. You need to put yourself first." But what they really promise of joy and peace and release from anxiety, that will come by putting yourself first. It turns out all their promises come only when you don't put yourself first, but when you put yourself behind God and others.
Patrick Miller: If there was ever anyone who could justifiably focus prayers of loving kindness towards himself, I think it would've been Jesus because he's God. And yet Jesus' prayer life seems to be focused towards his heavenly Father, worshiping God and focused towards others, praying for his disciples, praying for others around him. There's another quote from again Gwyn Paltrow's website, it says," Giving to yourself first is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give to those you love." I think Jesus would change one preposition and it makes all the difference, giving of yourself first is one of the greatest gifts you could give to those you love. And I know Jesus would say that because that's what he did for us. He didn't say," I'm going to give to myself first." The Bible's clear, he set down self- interest, he set it all aside so that he could die in our place for us, and that was the greatest gift he could ever give to us.
Keith Simon: Yeah. I love that. So instead of giving to yourself, give of yourself, that's exactly what Paul says Jesus did in Philippians two," He laid aside all of his rights. He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but set it aside so that he could come and die for us." One of the ways this manifests itself in Christian circles, and here I might step on a few people's toes and I kind of apologize, not really, but kind of. Are certain authors, speakers who baptize self- care in Christian language. And so one of the people I'm thinking of is Rachel Hollis and Rachel Hollis had the couple books, Girl, Wash your Face, Girl, Stop Apologizing. And a couple years ago I read those-
Patrick Miller: I followed the advice of the second book, I don't apologize to anyone anymore.
Keith Simon: Sounds like Donald Trump, doesn't he, he never asks for forgiveness.
Patrick Miller: I heard he read Girls, Stop Apologizing and it changed his life.
Keith Simon: Wow. So Rachel Hollis has these really popular books, she runs these conferences or at least did pre- pandemic, she has a bajillion social media followers. I read her books because a lot of people around me, a lot of the friends that my wife and I have were reading them and I just thought," I don't know, let's get into it and see." And when I stopped reading it, I was very impressed with Rachel Hollis and absolutely utterly exhausted myself. She's a very accomplished person. These are just a few of the things that she says in her books that she's done.
Patrick Miller: Are we about to get her CV?
Keith Simon: Well, she's overcome her dysfunctional family she grew up in, which included abuse an eating disorder and her brother's suicide. She's a biological mom of children, adopted mom of more children, foster mom of children. She has a fantastic marriage. She evidently has great sex or at least she says she does. She boxes, not boxes like collects boxes you might move in. But she boxes think gloves like Mike Tyson, she eats healthy. She's lost and kept off a bunch of weight. She runs marathons in her free time. She hydrates properly drinking half her body weight in water every day, no exceptions. She sleeps eight hours, but still wakes up at five o'clock in the morning to do her routine. She has a bajillion social media followers. She journals her daily goals. She practices gratitude by writing down specific things she's thankful for. She's involved in church and volunteering. She started her own business on a high school education. She now runs a multimillion dollar company. Again, all on a high school education, she's written books and ended up on the New York Times Bestseller list. She owns her own business. She has weekly date nights with her husband, well, more on that later. She owns a vacation house in Hawaii. She overcame the abuse of alcohol. She overcame being a people pleaser. When I got done reading this stuff about Rachel Hollis, I was under the pile. I thought," She's impressive. I suck." In my life. I didn't feel better about myself, I felt worse about myself. But really what it did is it put me under the pile. And I think all these people who are reading her books, walk away thinking," I could never be like her."
Patrick Miller: And one of the central messages that Rachel Hollis has is you have to focus on yourself. You have to put yourself first. You need to focus on your career, your interests, your mental health, your body. It's all about focusing on me first. And again, there's always the little footnote and then that's going to free you up to do great things for other people. But her main message is this self- care wellness," Start with you and then everything else in your life is going to be great."
Keith Simon: Yeah, you have the power to change your life. And that's one of the things about this kind of remix theology that Patrick referred to earlier, or the spiritual but not religious, this wellness culture is that you've got the power to fix you and therefore if you're not fixed, it's your fault. There's no grace. There's no forgiveness. There's no God. There's no bigger purpose that God is working in your life. It's all up to you now. Now get it done. But I can't live up to that. I can't get it done. The truth is that I can't fix myself that I need to be rescued, but that's not the gospel of the wellness culture, that's the gospel of grace, the gospel of Jesus who says you are sick beyond repairing and he has come to rescue you from yourself, not the gospel of the wellness culture that tells you to fix yourself.
Patrick Miller: And the fruit always shows the tree. If you look at what's happened in Rachel Hollis's life since she published these two books, apparently the sex wasn't good enough. The date nights weren't fun enough because she ends up getting a divorce. And I'm not trying to make fun of her, but if you read her description of why she did it, it all goes back to caring for herself, this is what's best for me. The most bizarre part for me was reading her husband's response. I want to assume the best about him and say maybe he's just trying to love his enemies and be gracious to her in a big public way. But he essentially said," Yes, she needed to do this for herself. This was what was best for her and so I'm supporting this. I'm in favor of this not because I'm happy-" he says that he is really sad, he doesn't want to get a divorce, but because he wants what's best for her. Now let's just pause and think about the irony here. Yes. Rachel Hollis has been able to extravagantly focus on me. Do you know who doesn't get to? Every other person around her. And that's going to be the cost of self care in anybody's life. If you want to make your life about you, you are free to do it, but I promise you, your spouse, your children, your friends they'll know what you're doing and it's not going to be healthy or good for them.
Keith Simon: So we're not saying that everybody who practices the gospel of wellness or who is into self- care, ends up getting divorced. And we're sure not saying that everybody who claims to follow Christ is going to end up with a great marriage. Instead what we're trying to do is say listen in to how they're describing their choices, how they make their choices and what the outcome of those choices are. And when you focus on yourself, you're going to find that you live a more isolated life, a lonelier life, a life that is disconnected from people because who wants to be around someone that is always demanding and never getting, you're going to live a more self- righteous life. Because when you're cutting out people who are toxic in your life, well, I thought we were supposed to give those kind of people grace. I thought that we were supposed to-
Patrick Miller: Aren't you glad Jesus didn't do that to you?
Keith Simon: There are so many people in my life that could cut me out of their life, thinking that I'm somehow bad for them. And there are probably were right on any given day, but I'm thankful for friends that love each other in the midst of that difficulty, who don't cut someone out because they aren't positive enough.
Patrick Miller: And just as critically it's worth pointing out that people like Rachel Hollis, Jen Hatmaker is another person who has a lot of this stuff inside of her thinking. Joel Ostein, which you might not want to associate all those people together, they all have a very similar theology. In fact, it's really interesting. If you go back, we mentioned this earlier to the 1800s, there's a movement called New thought. And the idea was think positive thoughts and positive things will come to you, that movement ends up influencing Christians in a significant way. And one of the leaders of that movement was actually the person who did one of Donald Trump's many weddings and Donald Trump has personally named as one of his biggest influences. And so we were joking earlier that Donald Trump and Rachel Holls have a lot in common, it's not a joke, it's a very serious thing, they actually have the same theology.
Keith Simon: Yeah. So I think you're referring to Norman Vincent Peale, who was the pastor who officiated at a wedding of Donald Trump and his wife Ivana, who if I remember correctly is his first wife, but of course I could be wrong. So Patrick was saying earlier that people think Donald Trump is some kind of megalomaniac, just some narcissist crazy person. Reality is that he has just done a great job of practicing the gospel of wellness, the gospel of putting yourself first. So is he narcissistic? Well, I don't know, that sounds like a medical diagnosis that I'm not qualified to make. But I will say this all of us to some extent are narcissist to the extent that we practice wellness theology, we're going to be encouraged down that road of narcissism, of putting ourself first. I think what we need to do is learn to set aside our goals and our agendas and our needs so that we can focus on others. So before we wrap up Patrick let's talk about maybe some good and bad. Should Christians buy into the self care movement? Are there any positives that we can take out of this?
Patrick Miller: I think that there's some positive things. Now these are things I think that have always been a part of a Christian worldview. You are embodied, you have a body, you should take care of that body. The sixth commandment is that you shouldn't murder and that includes self murder. Take taking care of your body is one of your responsibilities that God gives you. I also think that people pleasing is a sin. And so sometimes when people talk about boundaries and self- care what they're really talking about is people pleasing. They're saying," Hey, you've got a-" We've mentioned this before, you got a mother- in- law who every time she's with your kid she won't follow the rules that you've set out, or says bad things about you and undermines your parenting. Well, it's not self- care to set healthy boundaries with that mother- in- law, it's just wisdom in that particular situation. So it can feel like a fuzzy line between self- care and selfishness. What I do to think about that is, is just ask yourself what's your priorities? Is this coming out of love for God first, love for neighbor second and love for me third. If you can answer those questions yes, yes, yes then it's a good chance you haven't actually fallen into self- care and selfishness, you're just showing wisdom. Self- care inverts that, it flips it on it's head, it says start with self, then maybe think about others and probably God last.
Keith Simon: So here are some questions that might help you know if you have gone too far down the road of wellness theology. And it kind of starts with, do you spend more time thinking about yourself or more time thinking about Jesus? Do you find yourself focusing on problems according to self- care, of things like toxic people, mental health toxins, or do you think more of yourself as," I'm a sinner who's rebelled against God. I have put idols in my life of putting other things before God and my affections." Is your problem from outside of you or is it inside of you?
Patrick Miller: I think another question to ask yourself is does your self care routine justify ignoring important relationships? Does it justify spiritual responsibilities that God's put upon you? Because again, when you read some of this wellness stuff, it will tell you, you have to put your spouse's interest far below your own, even your children's interests far below your own. And it sounds holy like," Oh, you're taking care of yourself," and it's a good thing, but again, it's selfishness and it doesn't match the character that we are supposed to pattern our lives after. So a great example of this was the apostle Paul, did the apostle Paul put his interest above others? Did he use his own self- care as an excuse to ignore important relationships? Let me just read second Corinthians 11 verses 27 to 28," I have labored and toiled and have often God without sleep. I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food. I've been cold and naked, besides everything else I face the daily pressure of my concern for all the churches." Paul is not a self help wellness guru, he's saying," Because I love God's church and because he's called me to a purpose to plant these churches everywhere, I've undergone terrible things in my life." His physical body has been harmed. His sleep has been harmed. His mental health even has been harmed. And he's saying I did all this for Jesus. And it was worth it because this is what Jesus has called me to in my life.
Keith Simon: You can't help but notice that a lot of emphasis in self- care is on the physical, on the outward. Now there's a lot of talk about your inward issues as well, your emotional issues, your psychic issues. Yeah, I get that. But it always comes back to your appearance in some way or another, staying younger, staying more youthful. You see it everywhere. I want to read it first to you because I think what this verse shows is that we've got it exactly backwards, when we put our emphasis on the outward and not the inward, we have it exactly wrong according to the Bible. So Paul says this in 2nd Corinthians 4: 16," Therefore we do not lose heart though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." And I think one of the things that we fall into the trap of is turning that on it's head. So we would say it perhaps like this though," Outwardly we are being renewed outwardly we are trying to get younger, outwardly we look better than we ever have, yet inwardly we are wasting away." Our souls are wasting away because we're not feeding on the truth, feeding on Jesus, feeding on his word, prayer, community with other friends, small group Bible studies that we're a part of. Why? Because we emphasize the outward over the inner. And of course you don't want to separate those. It's just that the priority for Paul was the inward is what needed to be renewed, not his appearance.
Patrick Miller: So let me give one practical example, actually two, and I'm probably going to offend people, but-
Keith Simon: Oh, you for sure are.
Patrick Miller: ...if you've made it this far in the podcast, it's too late.
Keith Simon: Nobody's even listening.
Patrick Miller: Yeah. Do you put your spiritual health or your physical health first, that's part of what we're asking here. And what this used to mean is I know a lot of parents who wouldn't take their kids to church, because they were afraid that their kid would catch a cold. And I always kind of thought to myself, well, it stinks when your kid won't sleep because they've got a cold, believe me, I've been there. But on the scale of things, what is a greater threat to your child's eternal existence, getting a cold or never going to church because mom and dad are afraid of you getting a cold? And while they wouldn't say this, I think what we've begun to say is my physical health has priority over my spiritual health. And I just don't think that's a good place for a Christian to be. You might not even think of yourself as a wellness person, you might even think that you bought into this stuff, but you're going to see it start cropping up in ways that you never expected.
Keith Simon: There's a lot of ways to participate in church online. We have lots of opportunities here at The Crossing and all of those are good, so it's not a matter of whether you're showing up online or showing up in person, it's the thinking behind it. But the thing that puzzles me more than anything else is people who will go out to dinner, but won't go to church. People who will go to the grocery store, but not go to church, so that church somehow is down on the bottom list. All these other things are deemed essential, but going to church, that's an extra. So again, the point isn't whether you go to church in person or online, everybody's in a different situation, so everybody needs to make different choices. The issue is what's the reasoning that led you to make the choices that you made? Is it biblical reasoning? Is it sound Jesus honoring reasoning or have you prioritized things above Jesus in your life, including your own wellness.
Patrick Miller: One last thought on wellness, we've talked about how wellness and self- care is intuitional. Part of the notion is you can't really trust others, you can only trust yourself to know yourself, and you're going to know what's best to take care of yourself, so go out and collect your own little bespoke wellness program that fits you personally. And again, that kind of thinking that you know what's best for yourself and that you should trust yourself, that is a deeply American modern way of thinking, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the Bible. Let me read you to two Proverbs, Proverbs 28: 26," He who trust his own heart is a fool." Proverbs 3: 5," Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding." Those are hard verses for us to accept today. Here's how I say it to myself," Self Patrick, don't believe everything you think." It's a pretty good way for me to live because I think a lot of really stupid, foolish things that if I believe them and think that they're true are going to lead me astray. I can't trust myself. You cannot trust yourself. Your intuition is the worst compass or one of the worst compasses that you could ever find to guide you to truth.
Keith Simon: Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful, make sure to subscribe and leave a review.
Patrick Miller: And make sure it's at least five stars.
Keith Simon: Stop. No. Just be honest. Reviews help other people find us.
Patrick Miller: Okay. Okay. At the very least you can share today's episode, maybe put it on your social, your favorite text chain.
Keith Simon: And if you didn't like this episode, awesome. Tell us why you disagree on Twitter, @ truthovertribe_. We might even share your thoughts in an upcoming newsletter.
This week on Truth Over Tribe, Patrick and Keith go head-to-head with one of the loudest messages in our culture today: self-care and wellness. They discuss this phenomenon from a few different viewpoints and explain why self-care is so marketable and widely accepted in American culture. They look at the scientific, consumeristic, and intuitional approaches to how people today view self-care and personal wellness and how this concept has even infiltrated the church. But should Christians be buying into this movement? Or is self-care actually a false gospel? Listen now!
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