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.
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