Blame it on the Smurfs – Post-Tramatic Church Syndrome

Blame it on the Smurfs – Post-Tramatic Church Syndrome August 18, 2015

posttramaticchurchsyndromeby Suzanne Titkemeyer

When I first cracked open my copy of Reba Riley’s book, Post-Tramatic Church Syndrome I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I figured it might be much like many of the series we feature here on No Longer Quivering: Girl/boy is immersed in a Quiverfull/Fundamentalist/Evangelical church and leaves for a long laundry list of reasons with a heavy burden of spiritual abuse and a heaping helping of depression only to be heckled/harassed/hounded by those well-meaning ‘Good Christians’ left behind. Usually the woman/man has a long road of healing with lots of twists, turns and tears before coming to a place that works on all levels for them. A sadder but wiser person.

Religious trauma syndrome or spiritual abuse is a weighty matter, difficult to recover from. Recovery is usually spread over years. It’s a problem that the church in general cannot admit happens, much less effectively help people recovery from it.

But from the first chapter I was pulled in by the author’s journey, able to relate as she told a tale of being forbidden to watch the children’s television show “The Smurfs” because her parents thought the Smurfs were ‘demonic’! One of the first bits of cultural parenting advice I was given upon joining my old fundamentalist church was the importance of controlling all entertainment content my children viewed. Ironically the first thing mentioned was that the “The Smurfs”, a silly sappy upbeat children’s cartoon. I was told it was an example of ‘group homosexual living’ Yeah, Reba, been there, done that and gotten the tee shirt.

Reba Riley has crafted a gutsy and honest account of her spiritual journey, struggle to heal from religious trauma syndrome, with humor and grace. Early in the book she decides to go to thirty different faith services before she reaches her thirty birthday, not realizing that this was one of the things that would bring about her emotional and spiritual healing. She recounts her visits to the Amish, Buddhists, Mormons, Kabbalah and other faiths in ways that will make you laugh hard.

I loved the fact that the book was imbued with humor and lightness.

One of the things that struck me the most about this book is that the author also has struggled with the same thing many of us experience post-traumatic church and religion, a mysterious ailment that makes is so hard to function day to day, hold down a job or even do the simplest of tasks around the house. It’s as if everything we’re all been through is still held fast in the muscles and sinews of our body. Reba found her answer to health by the end of the book, a good reminder to everyone struggling with undiagnosed illness after leaving a poisonous faith tradition to hang in there and believe there is an answer somewhere.

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome is a delightful book that is a must-read for anyone dealing with religious trauma syndrome. It lets us know that we’re not alone on this journey of healing, that others have walked this path and emerged victorious at the end. One of the best books I’ve read on spiritual healing.

Reba Riley is a Patheos blogger and has her own website RebaRiley.com. Reba says it is her hope that this book will spark a national conversation on the subject of spiritual hurt. I believe it will.

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  • Mel

    I watched the Smurfs when I was a kid. Apparently, my only problem with them was the fact that there was only one girl Smurf. (I had a lot of questions about how the Smurfs as a group over time survived with only one female of reproductive age but since I was 3 or 4 I didn’t have the vocabulary to express that. As an adult, the answer seems so clear; their weird hats were covering the budding Smurf baby – is that a Smurfie? – until it was old enough to pop free and live on its own.)

    The book sounds good.

  • BondGurl7

    OMG I thought I was the only “weird kid” whose parents would not allow me to watch the Smurfs…because Gargamel was a WIZARD (duh duh duuuuuh!)! I’m so glad to know I’m not alone.
    I also remember, in the 80’s, the big scare over heavy metal and backmasking, where you could hear the satanic messages the bands were sending when their songs were played backwards. I always thought it seemed like an awful lot of extra work to make sure they created the words to send messages both forward and backward. Now that I’m an adult, I freaking LOVE 80’s music.
    Oh, and candy cigarettes were also banned. Because apparently they could lead to the real thing.

  • paganheart

    The Smurfs were an example of “group homosexual living?” *facepalm* *head/desk* I was taught some batshit crazy things as a kid, but that one might take the cake….

    Definitely adding Reba’s book to my reading list.

  • paganheart

    Ah yes, the days of the “Satanic Panic,” I remember them well…the whole “backward masking” thing actually got it’s start the 60s, when the Beatles supposedly recorded the words “Paul is dead” backwards on one of their songs, but it reached a point of near-hysteria in the 70s and 80s with the advent of heavy metal.

    The reality is that for most metal bands, writing “satanic” lyrics and using occult themes are just tropes of the heavy metal genre and culture. They started, basically, as rebellion; a way for bands to draw attention to themselves by pissing off parents and scaring authority, all the better to get kids to buy their albums. There were and are a few exceptions; King Diamond, Glenn Benton of the band Deicide, Negral of the band Behemoth, and some of the early Norwegian “Black Metal” bands, all of whom make no secret of their hatred of Christianity and the church (often for reasons that most spiritual abuse survivors would recognize.) But for most “satanic” metal bands, putting a “demon” on your album cover or writing songs in praise of the occult is the equivalent of a country singer wearing a cowboy hat and boots, or hip-hop stars draping themselves in gold jewelry. It’s a symbol of the scene, nothing more.

    (Yes I am a metal fan, and I make no apologies for it.)