Over the weekend I went looking for more books to read. Last week I found the History of Early Christianity and have been enjoying reading through that. This weekend I found the book Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome. This is not a mockery of PTSD, or other trauma-related issues, but seemingly a mirror into something I have witnessed over the past 16 months. That bad religion creates real, lasting traumatic injuries to the heart, mind, and soul of its victims.
People inside the systems mock these comments and dismiss them, which is a sad similitude to the early scandals of sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic church. Victims were mocked, blamed and discredited, yet, when the truth is revealed, it is a real and terrible thing to behold. The same is for the PTSD of bad religion, known as Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome.
The book, written by Reba (Rebecca) Riley is a glimpse into her recovery from the damage of bad religion. I hadn’t read ahead, and in truth, I’m writing this having only made it to page 21. I’m already in shock.
Reba starts this account in a bar, after having a bad stretch of luck with her car. She explains a chronic illness that wracks her body with pain, but through it, all her focus is on this internal struggle of faith, the loss of faith, the damage of the past opposing an internal desire to find faith again…
Her story is much like the hundreds of other stories I’ve read, listened to, spoken to and with directly, and experienced. Church hasn’t damaged Reba, Bad Religion has. And after nearly one and a half years focusing on this study, the most common reference, is Charismatic, Fundamental Pentecostals.
One of the Most Damaging Churches in Modern History
The miracle of the story is that the bartender who Reba opens up to about her bad luck just so happens to have attended the SAME church Reba did as children and were able to recount some of the painful memories and the lifelong trauma it had caused them.
My first clue was page 14, in Chapter 1 when Reba was collapsed in her closet sobbing for what her life had become and internally, she continued to hear this small voice telling her that she couldn’t fix her body, but she could fix her faith. And she goes on to say;
“But most of all, I cried because I wanted to fix my spirit but I didn’t know how. It’s not like I could return to the faith of my childhood: the speaking-in-tongues, falling-on-the-floor, believe-it-all-or-belive-it-none gospel with a firey hell for everyone who didn’t buy in to Christ.”
That’s a Pentecostal Sunday night service. The more you jabber in tongues, the sweatier you get, the more convulsing, twitching, rolling and shouting you do, the more holy ghost fire there was. If you had lost your voice Monday morning, you croaked out, “I’m not sick, it was GREAT church!”
It was what I have labeled Emotional Hyperventilation. Sunday night service looked more like a mosh pit than reverence, and its mirrored by nearly every cult, including Voodooism, Hindu cults (think Rajneeshperum of the 1980’s), Witchcraft and other more occult styled systems in the form of worship, loss of bodily control, incoherent speech, bodily spams, etc.
I’m not trying to be disrespectful (entirely) to peoples beliefs, but me included, this church system known as Pentecostalism (big word, we’re focused on the cult style, Oneness Pentecostal like systems) have damaged more people internally than I’ve witnessed in other church systems, but the others are likely just as damaging, and to be honest, I haven’t witnessed many others.
By page 20, Reba drops the bomb.
“The Pentecostals of my childhood would have called my reaction to church demonic posession.”
You see, just like the Vatican, when initially confronted with the damage done, they victim-blame and put up defenses, but I’ve now spoken to hundreds of said victims and they all tell the same story. Reba said that visiting churches caused her severe trauma and hives.
“From spousal telepathy, I knew Trent was thinking about a similar churchy announcement I’d made five years prior, back when we were still dating. After that church visit, he’d found me passed out on my couch, covered in Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome-induced hives, mumbling Benadryl-induced incoherencies about hating praise bands and preachers.”
Now, this book is known for taking a humorous look at the reality of the trauma Reba suffered. But it should be found ironic that the God who does NOT give us a Spirit of Fear, is supposedly worshipped by people who constantly use FEAR to control people and thus, damage them.
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” – 2 Timothy 1:7
I must highlight again that Spiritual Abuse is real, it has affected a lot of people, and the worst part about it, is that it is literally shutting the gates of heaven to people who need solid, loving faith.
That First United Pentecostal Church sign indicates something a lot of Christians believe, that you must accept Jesus. What the sign doesn’t tell you, is that accepting Jesus requires absolute obedience to the pastor, paying your tithes, adhering to their strict dress laws, not swimming in public with the opposite sex, women not cutting their hair or wearing makeup, or being in public in shorts, wearing pants, etc.
Further, it is a religion that cuts people off. As Reba said, it’s a “Believe-it-all-or-believe-it-none” system and they turn on those who don’t believe it.
This week I had a person tell me that they had lost half their family to this system. Recently, a mother confessed that her son threatened not to allow her to see her grandchildren for not attending this type of church.
It’s a system of hate, and it is truly traumatic to those who have suffered at the hands of it. Just as much as physical abuse traumatizes its victims for years, and a life to come, so does PTCS.
We need to be aware of it, talk about it and drag people out of the pits of it! Reba, in sharing her story, has done a part of just that and I hope people will take the time to read the book and be encouraged to share your own story.