church nightmare

church nightmare cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

I know some people don’t understand this. They’ve had a positive church experience and can’t imagine this.

But I talk with so many people every day who know what this cartoon means. They are either so terrified of the church or so absolutely turned off of it that it has become a nightmare.

If this is you, join us over at and meet others like you who are not just survivors but thrivers.

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About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • Sabio Lantz

    That nightmarish aspect of churches is a huge part of your writings and “ministry”. I was involved in several churches (and temples) and never had such horrible experiences but that is because I left quickly when I saw suppressive patterns.

    Those who don’t leave, stay for several reasons: obligations, temperament, fear … I am glad I grateful that I did not have those limiting my self-preservation. And I think those who finally leave are very brave.

  • Steve Martin

    I understand that cartoon.

    I can see why many are afraid of the church. I visit many Christian blog sites each day where fear and law rule the day.

    I’m thrilled to have found a church where the Word of honesty and love and freedom are the rule.

    When you find it, there’s no going back to those other, self-improvement type churches.

  • Pat

    What I see are puppets on a string and the church I left last year, I knew that the new pastor they were hiring was going to be just that — a puppet on the string of the ruling elite of the church.

  • Ang

    I did experience nightmares after leaving the church and was diagnosed with PTSD. The nightmares are real.

  • Philly Mom

    Churches are like families. Sometimes they’re loving and supportive. Sometimes they can be dysfunctional and emotionally manipulative or even abusive.

    Mean people suck. Walk away from them and look for people who are nice. Nice people are much more fun.

  • sarahmorgan

    I too had nightmares a year after I left the church I had been invited to, then scapegoated and spiritually abused — had to take medication for many months to quell them. Years later, I still fight anxiety attacks when sitting in certain church sanctuaries. I’ll consider taking church seriously again when the church takes those leaders who abuse their flock seriously enough to get rid of them.

  • Trevor

    I think the kindness of God draws people. Obviously, the kindness of God’s people is attractive. On the flip side, the unkindness of any people, even church people, will not be attractive.

  • Sabio Lantz

    Kindness draws people.
    Manipulation draws people.
    Needs draw people.
    Deception draws people.
    All those are done by people, no need to mention gods, spirits or spooks — people are enough to deal with.

  • Tell

    Funny Philly Mom, I have bumper stickers on my truck saying… “mean people really suck,” and my favorite… “Jesus, Save Me From Your Followers.” Most people are angered by them and don’t have a clue the meaning or reasoning why behind them.

  • Ang

    Tell, “Jesus, Save Me From Your Followers” is truth. David did a cartoon
    I shared it with many of my friends and it got an angered response.

  • Moriah

    I won’t enter a church. The last time I tried I went catatonic. It was terrifying. I have a theory that people the church thinks “have demons” are actually seriously spiritually abused and haven’t begun to process or heal from that yet. It causes them to respond emotionally and “act out” in ways that look “demonic” to other church people. The people who are afflicted can come to believe they are demonized and it creates a vicious cycle of seeking “deliverance” and “falling back into” their “previous” state, because the reconnection with the source of the abuse triggers more memories of the abuse as well as new abusive experiences that just add fuel to the fire. I think this may have been what happened to me.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Steve Martin: you’ve got me a bit curious. (1) What church do you attend, may I ask? Are you speaking of only your local church or the denomination?

    (2) Will they celebrate my marriage of 37 years… after all, I am a male-to-female transsexual and still married to my wife… or will they politely insist I live as if ‘male’?

    (3) Will they welcome my re-married friend, or politely insist that he undo his second marriage, and live alone? (after all, some believe that he lives in adultery, per Jesus’ words)

    (4) Will they welcome another friend, that had gastric bypass surgery (medical intervention for an issue that the vast majority of us have minor problems with)?

    You wrote of ‘honesty, love and freedom’… please reply, so that I understand how those terms would play out in reality. Your reply can be your opinion, of course. Or, if you wish, you can quote their position(s) from a Book of Doctrine or similar.

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Barry House

    I too have experienced both sides of this. so Question; when the going was good in church What made it so good, so special?

  • Barry House

    Caryn, you mentioned “honesty” from steve’s comment. How would you want them to convey honesty? In Luke 6 sent a lot of folks packing. They liked the ‘magic’ show but when Jesus challenged them to apply His way to their lives most of them hit the road, gone….We all have dispositions. The churches business as a body of Christ is to set the table scripturally speaking for the whosoever will to come and dine, to taste and see that the Lord (not us) is good. Once experiencing Him, pure and unadulterated or watered down, what happens next is usually very predictable, very freeing indeed. The tough for you may be getting to the table if you feel you have doubts about those who’ve set the table in Jesus name. But I assure if you sit to that table and partake (spiritually speaking) you will indeed be affected and profoundly so. Going onward into freedom you be not be detered by anyone.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Barry: not quite sure what you are talking about…. and that is ok, after all, this is about dialog. And, I am a follower of Christ, by all means, and quite enjoy walking with Him.

    So, do you wish to answer my three questions, then?

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Barry House

    “will they celebrate my marriage of 37 years”….Will they celebrate mine? f Christ celebrayes, His church will celebrate. Can I ask what definition of walking with Christ looks like? Just honestly curious. I get many different responses when I ask so I honestly don’t know specifically what you mean.
    Last two questions….Jesus died for the whosoever will….thats them and you….All are welcome… now another question….For them and you. When we see our shortcomings, our inability to ‘fix’ ourselves, make ourselves over anew, when we look to Him and decide to accept His invitation, what happens at that point? What happens over time?

    No trap to try “getcha” here. I’m just asking and with much concern.

  • Caryn LeMur

    Barry: hmmmmm… you offer an interesting premise: “If Christ celebrates, then His church will celebrate”. But first, to answer your questions.

    OK. I actually do believe that Christ celebrates second-marriages. Even though they new couple are living-in-adultery (per Jesus’ teaching), and even though they have no plan to repent and change/undo their second marriage.

    The scripture says He will present us without fault and with great joy (Jude), so I lean towards Jesus’ celebration being based on His incredible covering of mercy on those that believe.

    To walk with Christ is to hear His teachings of truth, and to live His priorities of mercy, being faithful towards Him, and giving social justice (Matt 23:23). So, over time, we learn to rejoice in His mercy, and to not live a life of constant ‘struggle’, but a life in the peace that passes understanding. We grow in our ability to actively give mercy, encourage faithfulness to Him, and to live Matt 25, parable of the sheep and goats.

    Your thoughts?

    Much love in Christ always and unconditionally; Caryn

  • Pat

    Barry, re: your question about when things were good is an interesting one from my perspective. The last church I was in, I would say things were a facsimile of good when the long-serving pastor was there. He was very dogmatic and he ran the show. So “good” in that context meant things ran smoothly, attendance and giving were up, but, people were in effect little tin soldiers. It really showed up when he left and those who chose to stay that had been in leadership under him, often showed how moor-less they were without that domineering personality running things. I had a lay leader say to me once, “We don’t know how to think for ourselves.”

    On the other hand, a better vision of “good”, in my opinion, would be where there is healthy dialogue and disagreement without people coming to blows and demonizing one another and not resorting to politics to get their way.

  • Barry House

    I believe most know God’s view. Often because of the things we see and experience, because at times we have had a bad experience with those who purport to be from God or because we cannot reconcile what we know to be God’s view and its contrarity to our strong will and desire we get ‘stuck’ and unable to proceed. When trust is established between any individual and God the individual’s eyes and heart are open and the ability to proceed effectively becomes for once obvious if not much easier.

    Remember the verse “Take my yolk upon you and learn from me”. Jesus sympathizes and even empathizes to a degree if not entirely. “Tempted likewise as we were” scripture says, but often we want Jesus but not his “yolk” and direction. We often come to Him with somewhat of a hidden agenda. We want Him and his acceptance but also his approval to continue in that which he has convicted us in our hearts is contrary to his will and desire for us. In a manner of speaking, we are not letting go of that which he in part died so we could be free from and with that our uncompromising mindset to hold on to our personal prerogative and agenda and old ways. That is the world’s problem and it is a problem within the church as well.

    Whether a veteran Christian or someone who’s looking to come into Christ’s freedom, the spirit of the publican from Luke 18:13-14 who came to Jesus beating his chest crying “Be merciful to me a sinner” is the only attitude and spirit God can work with. Anyone who does not know or understand or humbly accept this continues to move about in life having moments of brief happiness here and there but are generally tossed to and fro, often confused, battling in their hearts and minds until the true of such things of God become real to them in their hearts.