Why I Wept for the Victims of Organized Religion

Why I Wept for the Victims of Organized Religion December 19, 2021

About 3 years ago, I went through a dark night of the soul.  20 years of ministry and a lifetime of suppressing my feelings finally caught up with me.  I was beginning to address my trauma and work on internalized shame when everything I had ever suppressed seemed to be emerging all at the same time.  I described it in my book, Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authenticity. It is the part of the work that all of us avoid that doesn’t get better and only continues to cause us future problems.

Recently I started listening to the podcast series, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.  I started it a couple of times and couldn’t continue.  Then, an episode caught my interest and I found myself fully engaged and listening every chance I got.  At the end of the last episode, I stood in my kitchen and wailed.  I experienced this same weeping in the hermitage which is the experience I describe in the book.  But, this one came from way, way down somewhere.

In many ways the trauma I experienced in Christianity and Ministry, played on and attached itself to my childhood trauma.  It took advantage of my weaknesses and used those against me for it’s own purposes.  I don’t blame it on the people as much as I blame it on the organization.  It’s the system that is broken and it can’t be fixed from the inside.  I know this, because I’ve changed little things in churches and paid the price later.  You really can’t even move a piece of furniture without causing a stir.  The changes needed are too deep and too widespread to ever have a chance of changing.

Just like my personal life, organized religion needs to go through a dark night where it stops operating for more than just a couple of months.  When it does, I think it will realize that most of what it IS doing is unnecessary.  Taking some time off will at least help it stop wounding people so they can seek out the help they need.  These wounded people were who I was weeping for in my kitchen.

In the Mars Hill example, one pastor described the damage as a crater left in Seattle.  Most churches and faith communities might feel justified that they are not that bad, but there is woundedness scattered throughout faith communities, and as long as they keep functioning, there will never be the time or emphasis to fix the problem.  Some believe it is a 2000 year life cycle in Christianity and that the “church” needs to die in a sense.

When I thought of these people that have been wounded, I saw them almost as little children.  I don’t think they are naïve as much as they are stuck somehow in their lives and that is where organized religion wounded them and kept them stuck instead of healing them like it promised.  Most of them had good experiences in religion and that’s why they invested in the system initially.  But the system couldn’t heal them – the organization couldn’t love them — so the cycle continued.

In my book, Being, I talk about the three steps it took (in my life), to heal the trauma and start moving forward.

  1. Face the woundedness
  2. Go deeper and begin to connect the dots
  3. Learn to BE (presence and authenticity)

There really is light at the end of the tunnel, but we can’t find it by going back to the past.  In Christianity, the lure is to go back to the 1st century (or somewhere else in time) and re-create that experience.  But just like these people were adopting practices for their times, we must move forward in the ever-present now.  What we keep trying to re-create needs to die so that something else might live.  What was has to die — what is has to heal, so that what might be can come to pass!

I am personally looking forward to the future, but mostly that is because I have started healing.

Healing sometimes is painful, but it’s necessary and it’s worth it!

Be where you are, be who you are,

Karl Forehand

Leaning Forward Video Recordings 2021

Order Being: A Journey Toward Presence and Authentic

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