I just finished listening to a book called Post Traumatic Church Syndrome by Reba Riley. It was one of those books where you think, hmm, that sounds like me. I didn't really know what to expect, except for stories of how being raised in a church going household had caused trauma, or resulted in a lack of faith. It was something that I could relate to.
Reba had grown up in a family that were strong believers and she was the kind of kid who wore Christian t-shirts, prayed every night, a materialized in her mind. She was going to experience 30 religions before her 30th birthday.
Many thought she was crazy, her mom didn't understand, and she didn't always know what she was doing either. But it was a beautiful story of how she found herself and came to terms with the hurt she had suffered because of religion, giving her the ability to move forward.
I found Reba very easy to relate to. She has a chronic illness, church was life growing up, and she had to step away and find her own answers. I felt that if we sat down and chatted, we would have a lot of common ground. I enjoyed listening to her adventures and mishaps as she visited Mormon churches, synagogues, temples, met with monks, rabbis, atheists, mystics, Native Americans, and so on. Reba has kind of a twisted sense of humor that I could really relate to.
She took a deep dive into her beliefs, exploring how her past experiences had influenced her and how she had been consumed by anger. I was amazed and a bit jealous how things seemed to fall in place to bring her to a place of healing.
I have been curios about other religions for a long time, but have not had the energy to really learn about them, so my curiosity was piqued. I found myself also wanting to experience different religions and get to the heart of them, feeling certain that followers of all (well, ok at least the majority) are after the same thing.
But something else happened. And it scared me.
I found myself wanting to seek out God and seek out the way that I can connect to him. But as soon as I realized this, I quickly clamped the stone around my heart back down. Yes, at the moment I want to be angry at God. Though I'm no longer convinced that I am angry at God. I think I am angry at Christianity.
My mother found Jesus when I was young and we started to go to church with her. Our first church was a Methodist. There were some really lovely people, but there were quite a few old, set in their ways, judgmental people who were confined to a microscopic world view. As a teen we went to another church, the Wesleyan Church, and things were going well. I was part of a close knit youth group and kind of felt like I belonged somewhere.
But then, on youth Sunday as we were waiting for the service to start, we got word that our pastor had been arrested for prostitution and we were all shattered. We sat there in disbelief and sobbed. Soon after we got a new pastor, but we just couldn't really recover from that and the small church didn't last.
Weekly World News Jul 13, 1993, pg 37
Somehow we ended up at an Evangelical Free church where we stayed until I was out of college. Church was my whole world. I was part of the worship team, I was involved on the missions committee, I was part of youth group, even helping after I was out of school. I did mission trips, I prayed, I read the Bible, I stayed out of trouble, but I was empty.
I had a great conversation with a friend yesterday and we talked about the book and some of our histories and she told me about her current practices. She gave me a set of oracle cards and I was amazed today when I drew three cards.