Post-Traumatic Stress

Some who read my last post might be tempted to think, “Dude, what’s up with the raw emotion there? You obviously had some crappy experiences.” And anyone who thinks that would be right.

All of us are going through life reacting to early experiences; in school, with our parents, with friends, (Freud would say with potty training), and with church. Of course I am reacting to early experiences. And to later ones, for that matter. Unless you grew up in the church, you cannot understand exactly what’s happening here.

The church embraces and espouses some of the most noble messages on earth. Love, refusal to judge, dignity for every person — those are great universal themes that appear in the Bible and in many other religious books. Every Christian church will feature sermons on these themes. But when it comes to actual practice, many churches carry on as if they have never even read the Bible at all. Others are strict literalists about things like getting tattoos, but seem to be unfamiliar with passages about love. Some can break their understanding of sin down into minute detail, but have such a narrow understanding of grace that it can no longer even serve as the “cure” for sin that the New Testament suggests.

To grow up in this environment, where these great themes are taught, but so often not practiced, creates massive dissonance for many people. So many of the people who come to Wildwind report incredible cases of abuse — pastors and teachers who said unconscionable things to them when they were at vulnerable places in their spiritual journeys. Where in God’s name have churches and spiritual leaders gotten off in treating people (the people Christ loved and – we believe – gave his life for) with such irreverance?

So yes, this experience does create a kind of post-traumatic stress for some people. It certainly has for me. Some decide the whole enterprise is bogus and just walk out. Others remain but become cynics. Still others work desperately to be honest about where the church has gone wrong and lovingly (although firmly) get it back on track. That is what we are trying to do at Wildwind. We are not perfect, but we are trying to keep ‘the main thing the main thing.”

Trust me — this only appears simple. But if it were, all churches would be doing it. And those of us trying to do it would be doing it better.