Escaping the Emotional Damage of Our Fundamentalist Christian Past

Escaping the Emotional Damage of Our Fundamentalist Christian Past September 6, 2013

by Bruce Gerencser cross posted from his blog The Way Forward


If a person is a relative newcomer to Christian Fundamentalism, and they decide to leave it for a non-Fundamentalist Christian religion, another religion, or atheism, I think it is likely quite easy to view their Fundamentalist past as nothing more than a blip in their life.  However, for those of us who were raised up in Christian Fundamentalism and spent years attending Fundamentalist churches, it is much harder for us to escape.

Many of us spent decades being immersed in Fundamentalist Christian thinking. Our minds were filled with Fundamentalist Christian sermons that told us how to think and how to live our lives. It is no small task to walk away from Christian Fundamentalism after spending a lifetime in it.  When we do walk away, we walk away with a lot of baggage and emotional and mental scars. How could it be any different?  Years of being told you are a vile sinner that deserves hell or being told that certain desires you have are an abomination to God, are bound to emotionally and mentally do damage. When every area of your life is scrutinized by the church, pastor, and God, it is bound to have a lasting negative effect.

Many long time Christian Fundamentalists end up in therapy. In my case, the psychologist I have seen for the past three years, has worked diligently to peel away my Fundamentalist past one layer at a time. Just when I think I am free from it all, out of the dark recesses of my mind, comes the ugly specter of Fundamentalism.  Try as I might to run, it still catches up with me.

I live with guilt, knowing that I hurt my wife, children, and the people I pastored. Yes, they have forgiven me…but I can not forgive myself. As I told my friend Zoe on her blog today, I view this blog as my penance. I hope through my writing to expose Christian Fundamentalism for what it is; a destructive religion that corrupts and ruins most everything it touches.

I also hope to give former Christian Fundamentalists hope. No, I am not free from the bondage of my past, and I suspect I will always bear mental and emotional scars from the five decades I spent in Christian Fundamentalism. But, I can let fellow travelers know that it does get better the longer you are away from it.  I can let them know that better days are yet ahead and there is an uneasy peace that can be had.

How about you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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Read everything by Bruce Gerencser!

Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Bruce Gerencser blogs at The Way Forward.

Bruce Gerencser spent 25 years pastoring Independent Fundamental Baptist, Southern Baptist, and Christian Union churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. Bruce attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. He is a writer and operates The Way Forward blog. Bruce lives in NW Ohio with his wife of 35 years. They have 6 children, and nine grandchildren.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce


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