Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome (with Reba Riley) looks like is an inspiring and reassuring resource for anyone who has been damaged by a church that abuses. I’m speaking of psychological abuse, mental and emotional scarring that too often comes with a history of damaged families and relationships and even physical and economic ruin.
I’ve referred to my own story a few times but Reba Riley’s experience and exodus is fresher reading. Reba has authored a book, Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing in 30 Religions to share her experiences with others. The book that helped me much was psychologist Marlene Winell’s Leaving the Fold — a work I still find myself returning to from time to time. Reba’s book looks similar in some ways but less of a manual. From her page advertising it:
Written for everyone who crashes into religion when they go looking for peace, and for all those who value transformation of spirit and body, this poignant, funny and ultimately inspirational memoir reminds us healing is possible, brokenness can be beautiful, and that –sometimes– we have to get lost to get found.
A beautiful feature of Reba’s blog is the way her understanding and compassion for others shines through. She has learned a depth of self-understanding as a result of her experiences and is far more aware of the meaning of our shared humanity than some of us who haven’t suffered in the same sorts of ways. Anyone who says “once a fundamentalist always a fundamentalist” is pig-ignorant.
Compare her response to the recent public release of information about torture practices with another by a respected colleague of the biblical scholarly establishment, both posted on the same day. Give me an ex-fundamentalist any day. (At least one who was one of the laity, one of the fleeced flock. I am not so sure about some of those who were once in the higher echelons of the power pyramids. To date I have been disappointed when I have met any of our former “shepherds”.)
Reba’s first post will resonate with those anyone who has struggled to break free from such a past. It begins:
Three years ago today, I triumphed over Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome.
Oh, it didn’t look like triumph on my twenty-ninth birthday. It looked like a sopping-wet woman walking exactly three steps from the shower before crumpling into a shivering, crying, heap on the floor of the closet because she was too physically ill and spiritually injured to stand for one minute longer.
It didn’t feel like triumph, either. It felt like sickness and pain and despair. (It also felt freezing cold, since I was naked and the closet was drafty.) It felt exhausting, frightening and lonely. It felt like defeat. Hell, it probably even smelled like defeat, given my close proximity to dirty laundry.
But despite the look and feel (and smell!) of that moment, it was a moment of triumph.
And concludes with the purpose of her blog:
I hope this PTCS blog will be a resource to help you strip away some of the camouflage. We’ll explore topics like forgiveness, healing, spiritual injury and creative recovery with people of all faiths and no faith. We’ll laugh and cry (or at least I will because I’m emotional like that). I’ll share some of my stories, and you’ll share some of yours, too.
We will walk together where I had to go alone three years ago.
I hope one day in the future, you will look at this day of defeat and see it for what it really is, just as I am looking back at my twenty-ninth birthday today: ugly, painful, desolate… and triumphant.
Some posts discuss what, exactly, post traumatic church syndrome is:
- What is Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome? Part One
- What is Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome? Part Two
- It’s Called Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome and Yes, It’s Real
And the compassion comes laced with humour. I loved her 37 Shades of Jesus.
But at the same time don’t forget Marlene Winell who continues to do wonderful work assisting those who have come through this sort of experience.
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