Post Traumatic Church Syndrome…hmmm, this sounds vaguely familiar to be honest.
I took the book out of the box, read the reviews and cringed. Eat, Pray, Love was not my cup of tea and this was probably going to be the same thing. Harsh judgments tend to lead us into our own blind spots and my judgments are little different. By page seven, though, I was hooked as she mentioned one little item that jumped out of my religiously fervent childhood: “The smurfs were considered demonic.”
I actually stopped reading, looked up and mouthed to myself, “no f@#ing way.”
I had never met another person who had shared this experience. Not only did she state this gem, but mentioned how Papa Smurf’s red cap was symbolic of him being the antichrist. I couldn’t believe it. I put the book down and reeled under the weight of years of wacky religious anecdotes about how anything and everything was somehow satanic.
For the next hour I suffered through ridiculous flashbacks of faith healings, revivals, end times prophecies, people being slain in the spirit and even their attempt to get me to speak in tongues at the ripe old age of seven. It didn’t work and when it didn’t work I was of course somehow, in rebellion toward God.
As author Reba Riley continues her story, we follow with her along her journey of experiencing world religions in an attempt to rekindle her own type of faith that is pertinent to her path, experiences and world view, and again—it was much like my own path. Soon after leaving home I would find myself drawn toward Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and all things Asian.
A fallout with a teacher left me reeling and stumbling down the road of ancestral religions like Paganism rooted in Celtic, Teutonic and Norse myths. I felt a great pull for them yet my heart seemed intrinsically linked to the east, but years of bitterness and anger wouldn’t allow me to make my way back. Instead, I turned to militant atheism and eventually open hedonism. This path would eventually lead me to a near death experience that opened me up once again to my own path.
While Reba did not face her own near death, she did have a struggle with a chronic health condition that again deepened my sense of connection with her. After my eventual release from the hospital, I would spend years dealing with an on going sickness and anxiety which like her, was also tied to my emotional well being.
Reba’s story takes us on a hilarious and jarring ride through the mind and life of the ultra right wing and dare I say, not a small and fringe portion of Christianity. The fountainheads she mentions, like Focus on the Family, Campus Crusade, YWAM and on and on (which I was sadly also involved with) have numbers in the multi-millions. Their reach is wide and far, influencing education, political policy and even the higher offices of the presidency.
Reba’s book is a healing, touching, and amazing must read for anyone who has lived through the life of Christianity’s nutty movements. I had moments of hysterical laughter, sad commiserating and even fought back tears of my own post traumatic church syndrome.
She has a deft touch on the paper and a deep touch on the soul. I will read this book again for the laughs and the healing.