Post Traumatic Church Disorder - PTCD

I think I have this. I think many probably do. Where something went wrong somewhere, or maybe several somethings went wrong, and we stopped attending church, reduced our engagement with church, or found ourselves in difficulty with it.

Our situation involved very poor support after a family trauma from the church we were attending. Basically it seemed they couldn't deal with it. Then the powers that be decided (at the wrong time for us) to close the church and arrange a marriage with another. We didn't manage the transition, and eventually selected another, where we find we can bring ourselves to attend only periodically.

What have people done about it? Do many just stop church altogether? Take a long break from it? Sleep in? What are some others' pathways and experiences with PTCD?
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Comments

  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    When it happened to me, I was fortunate to receive a job offer (as a church musician) for a very different denomination. In a few years, when I needed the comfort of my own church, things had changed enough that I was able to return.

  • A long break; ongoing spiritual direction; long walks; the discipline of Morning Prayer; time with a Centering prayer group.

    I'm still not ready to rejoin formal "church land."
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    Seconded ... esp the long walks (weather permitting ) and Morning Prayer (or similar Morning Discipline).
  • When I fell out of church I took almost three years with only the lightest of church connection. Talked to some trusted friends, attended communion at the chaplaincy and very sporadically went elsewhere. Long works and daily private devotions (morning and evening for me, but that is my pattern). I had difficulty setting up spiritual direction and my reconnection with a congregation happened almost immediately after I finally managed to set it up.

    Still, have zones I will not go to, including main Sunday worship and PCC. Fortunately, because the way things are with my church at present it is valued that I do not attend the main congregation and not seen as being standoffish.
  • MaryLouiseMaryLouise Shipmate
    edited October 25
    For those of us who choose to 'stay' within problematic churches, I've found that it helps

    to maintain strategic distance from conflict and authoritarian behaviours;
    say no pleasantly and repeatedly to all kinds of small favours and little extra tasks that will spiral into huge onerous nightmares;
    keep close to supportive and kindly church members;
    show solidarity with those hurt by the church and fight for meaningful change;
    take a break whenever your sense of humour erodes;
    read in depth about the troubled historical disasters the church has survived;
    resist the skilful guilt-tripping and judgmentalism that accompanies every church crisis;
    participate in the sacraments, keep praying and fasting, care for those in trouble as much as possible;
    forgive and forget where possible;
    never gossip, or listen to gossip, or pay any attention to gossip;
    tell bigots to fuck off in a clear, penetrating voice accompanied by a gimlet stare.
  • I'm trying to put together a response to this, without giving out too much personal, identifiable information, but in the meantime I want to say that I love the term "Post Traumatic Church Disorder."
  • We were part of a congregation that imploded, with no-one escaping some degree of hurt.

    We had moved flat, and joined a church within walking distance, which was, at the time, a poster church for growth and community involvement. Within a year of our joining the minister was arrested, and subsequently jailed, for taking indecent photographs of girls. In the time between his arrest and sentencing, two groups emerged - those who thought he was innocent, and those who wanted him locked up and the key thrown away. As we were relatively new members and not part of any group, we thought that we could continue unscathed, but eventually the atmosphere became so toxic that we felt forced out. The church went into a downward spiral of people leaving and consequently activities and income reducing, which led to more people leaving...

    We had a few months in which we mostly didn't go to church, or one of us attended the University chapel, where we could be unnoticed, whilst the other stayed at home with our son. However, we wanted to bring our children up within a church family. We were expecting our daughter, and knew we would want to be part of a church in order to have her baptised and so we started attending another local church. Everyone there knew of the clusterfuck that was our previous church, and our new minister was sensitive and concerned. We had several very good years there, before another house move took us to our current church.

    If my pregnancy hadn't pushed us to find another church, I think we might have drifted on for much longer, but as it was we ended up in a church which was a very good fit for us.

    The whole experience was bleak - the way in which a congregation can split, and the way in which deeply hurt people can lash out at other deeply hurt people shook us badly.

  • DiomedesDiomedes Shipmate
    I certainly have PTCD - and am reading with interest. I have no answers. On a good day I still have some hope for the future and nurture that when I can.
  • My father had PTCD for his entire life. He was a member of his church and attended with his mother for years until he was a grown man. He won attendance awards and played duets with his mother on the church organ (she was the organist).

    In his second year of university he missed three Sundays attendance due to studying for exams. When he returned, the minister didn't remember his name.

    While this was probably a case of creeping dementia on the part of the minister, the effect on my father was devastating. He walked out and never went back, and died an atheist.

    AFF
  • A long break; ongoing spiritual direction; long walks; the discipline of Morning Prayer; time with a Centering prayer group.

    I'm still not ready to rejoin formal "church land."
    Galilit wrote: »
    Seconded ... esp the long walks (weather permitting ) and Morning Prayer (or similar Morning Discipline).

    In the mornings I get up and go out with the dog shortly after 6 a.m. through a park and around, and do what I suppose is what is called personal centring using well known liturgy segments. Mostly the same each day, and then half the time some additional something. I've wondered at times, like today, when the dawn was just deciding to waken the world, and yet another rabbit stood with us to hear the several hundreds of geese overhead, that perhaps this is as good as it gets. Which is both a comfortingly thin place and melancholic to my soul.
  • The only thing I can say is if the Lord wants to lead you back, and I think there are signs of this in your post, then he will in his own time, in his own way. You need time to heal and during the early stages, even good people who mean well can cause more damage. I certainly found my sporadic tentative approaches sometimes sent me running for the hills and sometimes just fizzled out. It is hard to trust the process.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    MaryLouise wrote: »
    For those of us who choose to 'stay' within problematic churches, I've found that it helps...
    Thank you, MaryLouise.


  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Wise words @MaryLouise

    Thank you.
  • Tree BeeTree Bee Shipmate
    I found my local Quaker Meeting to be an acceptable alternative. I remain an attender, rather than a member. Although I do my bit I don’t over commit myself .
  • When I was a member of a Baptist congregation from the mid-90s to the end of the aughts, I came to the conclusion that a church congregation, like any large organism, tend to act like a large organism in the protection of itself. The continued life of the organism as a functioning whole is more important than the well-being of its constituent members individually.

    Institutional violence is just as prevalent in congregations as it is in corporations, and other institutions. When the organism perceives a threat to its functional integrity, it will move to neutralize or expel the irritant/threat/deviant.

    In all cases of institutional violence, the organism punishes the deviant.

    I was about eight years into my membership at Baptist Church X and I came in for some of this marginalizing treatment from the highest ranks of the administration. It was a fabricated claim against me, there was no forum within which I could face my accuser or answer the accusation, and so I simply walked away.

    A year later, the facts came to light and the administrator who fabricated the claim was shown to be a repeat offender - I had simply had the misfortune of being the first one on her hit list.

    The swiftness with which those in power closed ranks and sided with the administrator was breathtaking to experience. In my experience, there is very little difference between a congregation and a corporation. Power and privilege protects itself. Full stop.


    AFF

  • PigletPiglet All Saints Host
    From that description, AFF, I think you were very wise to get out. They were obviously going to take the administrator's part, no matter what, so staying would have only caused you more pain.
  • I agree with the pig.
  • I think I'm suffering from this.
    Long standing shipmates will remember that we have two small children who are now not quite so small but who are still hard work - our older one has some special needs.
    We left church P we'd been in for about 10 years when both of them were smaller because people were muttering about how they made too much noise and couldn't we take them out.
    We moved to another fairly similar church C but two years later we've been told we can no longer take our older one to Sunday School because of his behaviour (long story but characterised by broken promises and a complete unwillingness to budge. We are making a complaint to the Diocese).

    The upshot is that we're fairly actively looking for a new church but I'm finding this extremely upsetting - I've been scouting out new possibilities but I can't really focus on it as every time I try a new place I am just so upset about what has happened at our old churches.
    We do not want to leave a big gap because the children work best with routine and we want to present this as a positive move.
    But we want somewhere that will likely be our church home for 10 years (all other things being equal - obviously we can't predict if a church will have a major financial or legal scandal!) given that the children are quite small and we don't want to move yet again.
  • sabinesabine Shipmate
    edited October 30
    ((chukovsky))
  • TubbsTubbs Admin
    edited October 30
    I found it helpful to keep reminding myself …

    … how great God is. It's not his fault that some of his people aren’t so much. Because they’re sinful, fallen people. Just like me. Bummer this grace thing.

    … never attribute something to malice where it is even remotely possible to attribute it to incompetence, thoughtlessness, forgetfulness or misunderstanding. That isn't the same as being prepared to put up with any old crap though.

    … the only real difference between ministers and the rest of the congregation is procession of a theology degree. (See point one)

    Being bloody minded also helps. As God keeps saying how much he loves the church and wants people to be part of it, then I’ll keep it at. And he’ll help me with that. Or at least get me through Sunday or a church meeting without giving into the temptation to throw pew Bibles at someone’s head to knock some sense into them.
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    Thank you, Tubbs.
  • SipechSipech Shipmate
    I took a break from church for a couple of years. I'd left university, which had a large christian community in which I'd immersed myself, moved to a new town and gone looking for a church to be a part of.

    The first Sunday I went was the minister's last before a 3 month "sabbatical", so we had guest speaker after guest speaker. No continuity. It was also quite a large church (2 morning services back to back, each with about 200-250 people). So it was hard to settle.

    When the minister came back I found him to be entirely lacking in credibility. His sabbatical was little more than a holiday in the Middle East and we had a month of "sermons" which was little more than his holiday snaps, with the occasional anecdote thrown in. Once he'd exhausted that, his theme switched to what tie he was wearing when he met the queen.

    It was very easy to not turn up. I spent a couple of years just reading by myself, enjoying the extra half a day of the weekend I had back to myself.

    It took a nudge from my line manager at work (who I had no idea at the time was a christian) to get me to go back to a church. He invited me to his home church, part of the Harvest Community Network. I found myself making a home at an Elim Pentecostal Church, until they started to go off the loony end, albeit that some of the more extreme end split off from church to form their own...well, this. After moving home and starting as a mystery worshipper, touring a lot of churches in the local area, I eventually settled at Ichthus, which is the church network I was part of while at university. It's not perfect, but it's my family.
  • A congregation in which I had been a member for many years (synod delegate, parish council, etc) suffered from a new priest who had a very personal tangent on where he wanted to take the parish, and who was not always entirely professional in how he did this (administratively untidy, was the phase used by one of his friends). Over a period of several years, he drove out over half the congregation, some to other parishes, but more than a few decided that since the church appeared to connive at abusive behaviour, they were better off having nothing to do with churches.

    Eventually, with some unpleasantness, he participated in a schism, and after much legality, left an empty building. There has been a renewal of the place, but it was made clear by the new occupants that there was no space envisaged for the former loyal parishioners-- they got an apology from the bishop, but the new leadership did not bother to worry about the door hitting them as they left.

    As AFF noted, churches can be like corporations, and the fate of those who are not on message, and not part of the new strategic vision, is not one which concerns bold and innovative leadership figures.

    Most of us had nearby refuges available-- there are about two dozen other Anglican parishes around, although a few toddled off to the Ordinariate congregation and I think three to the OCA and two to the Constantinopolitan mission to the anglos, as well as one to the JWs (another married an Ethiopian and now happily sits through hours of chanting in Geez). Others, as I noted, just felt that they needed no more abuse or bullying and don't bother going to churches any more.

    For my own part, like Sitting Bull I have found a place where I can live out my days, but you will not find me on any committee, nor any diocesan body-- the experience was too exhausting that I am content in being pew fodder. Luckily, the rector is sensitive to the experience and sentiments of us who were part of that exodus, and does his best to lay on healing balm.
  • Lily PadLily Pad Shipmate
    An apt title for a condition that is terribly underestimated by those of the "in" crowd.
  • Not sure Lilypad. In some ways, the in-crowd are particularly susceptible to this type of illness. I am just about finishing Steve Aisthorpe book about The Invisible Church and a lot of what he writes describes people who were the in-crowd but developed PTCD.

    From personal experience, I suspect that at my former church to those not in the in-crowd I looked as if I was in the in-crowd and with my present church I suspect I am fast being seen as one of those in the in-crowd. That did not give immunity to toxic church politics nor three years without a worshipping community. Like Augustine the Aleut it will be a long time before I serve on any formal committee or participate in any election.
  • A Feminine ForceA Feminine Force Shipmate
    edited October 31
    I am left to wonder how did the first century Christians do it?

    How did they live in community with one another, in cooperation and harmony, in such a manner that their constituents would rather die as part of a bloody Saturday matinee triple feature in the Coliseum than exchange membership in their community for membership in the Body Politic of Rome?

    Because there sure as heck isn't a congregation I have seen or met that I would say "Yeah, I would rather die than give up my membership in this community."

    IMO something is "off" and I don't know what it is ...

    AFF

  • According to the letters of Paul, the first century Christians didn't do a terribly good job of it.
  • Perhaps they came for the food? Or saw the fish sign and thought it was a restaurant?
  • I'm rather the opposite with some churches - I'd die in the ring first.
  • North East QuineNorth East Quine Shipmate
    edited November 1
    I am left to wonder how did the first century Christians do it?

    How did they live in community with one another, in cooperation and harmony, in such a manner that their constituents would rather die as part of a bloody Saturday matinee triple feature in the Coliseum than exchange membership in their community for membership in the Body Politic of Rome?

    Because there sure as heck isn't a congregation I have seen or met that I would say "Yeah, I would rather die than give up my membership in this community."


    AFF

    I wouldn't face lions rather than give up my membership of the community, but I think (I hope) I would if the choice was between that and denying my faith.


  • Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Not sure Lilypad. In some ways, the in-crowd are particularly susceptible to this type of illness. I am just about finishing Steve Aisthorpe book about The Invisible Church and a lot of what he writes describes people who were the in-crowd but developed PTCD.
    It would be interesting to compare this with Alan Jamieson's book "A Churchless Faith".

  • The thing that I am finding is that while it is not too difficult to continue one's own journey outside a church congregation, it's a lot harder to create one for children, especially if your own faith is very much bound into tradition, liturgy, the church year etc.
  • Well, I have almost finished Steve Aisthorpe and have read A Churchless Faith a while ago. Let us deal with the differences first. Jamieson is based in Australia, Aisthorpe in Scotland, Jamieson deals with leavers from Evangelical churches (I get the impression independent Evangelical churches, Aisthorpe is broader covering all churches in Scotland and Jamieson relies on a relatively small number of in-depth interviews while Aisthorpe is dealing with several studies and I think has both surveys and interviews to build from. Finally and to my mind most importantly they come from different starting questions. Jamieson is asking "Why do people like me leave the church?" while Aisthorpe is asking "Why are some many former keen members no longer in the Church?"

    Both of them conclude it is not due to lack of faith. Equally both conclude that people who are in this group find ways of sharing fellowship with other Christians but outside the formal structures of the Church.

    Jamieson eventually arrives at the conclusion that is because of it being a mismatch between where the individuals are in Fowler's stages of Faith which was tending to the individuated-reflective (stage 4), whereas the leadership wanted people in the synthetic-conventional (stage 3). I am wary of Fowler's stages of faith and I see them rather as elements of rather than stages. A full faith contains elements of all stages but some tend to start growing earlier than others. While I have no doubt that conflict with a congregation due to the development of the individuated-reflective element of faith can occur, two things should be noted. The first is it is a highly complimentary account of the reason for the people interviewed. The second is try as I might it does not tally with my URC experience. Basically, the URC has always encouraged me and others I know to develop their individuated-reflective faith. They have at times pushed it onto people who are not ready. I should admit I went from the state of being enamoured with Jamieson to now being quite critical.

    Aisthorpe tells a much more complex story. He sets his book against the work of Francis and Richter "Gone but not forgotten". He readily admits that the presenting reasons, such as the fight over the colour of the church padlock, are not the real cause but that the issues lie deeper. He looks at the process of leaving and then at the problems the leavers mention with the Church such as lack of love, lack of mission, the dissonance between the individual's experience within the congregation and the surrounding community and the vision of faith as a journey.

    I equally am aware that 'Gone for Good?' the later Richter and Francis work seems to have vanished. Francis and Richter need to be viewed at the other extreme of the research spectrum from Jamieson largely using surveys.

    There is also research coming out on life trajectories of Generation Y who were committed when around university age. There is a difference drawn between those who have come to realist expectations of church and still stay with those who have ended up outside. With the second group, there is often a feeling that they were promised a ministry and then the church failed to deliver. This leads me to wonder if there are not two processes that lead towards leaving, the growing dissonance and the failure crisis.

    Does this help?
  • I know a fair amount about Steve Aisthorpe's book, having had conversation with him at the various stages of his research, which began in my area, where he lives. Thing is, each time I read it, I begin to hanker to be one of his invisible church, where it seems to me there is more chance of being the salt and light that Jesus calls us to. This, I know, is not the intent, because while he is not suggesting a way of getting the departed back, nor is he in any way advocating leaving. He just wants those within the church to have a good look at ourselves and see where we might not be making the connections people are looking for.
  • Very much so, and nuance/complexity in such studies is good - although I seem to remember Jamieson as NZ rather than Aussie (I may be wrong). I think I read the Francis and Richter book a long time ago but can't be sure now! What I do find telling is your contrast between Jamieson finding people who had left Evangelical churches because they had moved on to individuated-reflective faith and your own experience in URC churches. I wonder if this is one reason (not the only one of course!) why churches such as yours don't usually seem to be very successful in attracting less mature people as they, it appears, may want a more simplistic faith than what is being offered in them?
  • Yes, I think that may be the case. There is another problem in that quite a few of the older generation do not believe that younger people may be interested in their style of faith i.e. those who are exploring stage 4 elements of faith are disbelieved by the congregation because of the earlier dynamic. The "Young people do not want to be with old fogies like us" - syndrome.

    I am also starting to wonder if we are not good at retaining people who start developing stage 5 elements. There seems to be a steady trickle out from us to the Quakers.
  • If I ever get to talking about churches with people outside of any professional context, there's usually comments about large buildings, wasted money, description of strawman simple-minded versions of belief which are then taken down in the same breath. Some will then describe atheism or agnosticism, others a belief in a "something more" which they keep private. The "something more" people have been thought of "fresh meat" for the evangelicals, but I think the something more people think of the evangelicals as fresh meat for their 'more sophisticated' rendering. Meanwhile, the church building committee tries to recruit retired highschool shop teachers and canvases building supply stores to keep the buildings from falling down. And the other churches spend their time developing apps and the talents of their religious pop music collectives, which appeal to the kids' parents more than the young people. I'm think that the younger general truly aren't interested in the fogey versions and most haven't any churchy traditions to reference.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Jengie Jon wrote: »
    Well, I have almost finished Steve Aisthorpe and have read A Churchless Faith a while ago. Let us deal with the differences first. Jamieson is based in Australia, Aisthorpe in Scotland, Jamieson deals with leavers from Evangelical churches (I get the impression independent Evangelical churches, Aisthorpe is broader covering all churches in Scotland and Jamieson relies on a relatively small number of in-depth interviews while Aisthorpe is dealing with several studies and I think has both surveys and interviews to build from. Finally and to my mind most importantly they come from different starting questions. Jamieson is asking "Why do people like me leave the church?" while Aisthorpe is asking "Why are some many former keen members no longer in the Church?" vanished. Francis and Richter need to be viewed at the other extreme of the research spectrum from Jamieson largely using surveys.

    Confession first - I have not read either. From what you say, though, I would be very wary of relying much on Jamieson. Firstly, the proportion of the population here who go to any church at least once a month is small - around 16% on the 2016 census. Unfortunately I can't quickly find any figures showing any age pattern in that. What is interesting is that the attendance, at what are called in a Guardian report, Pentecostal churches buck that trend amongst young adults. Despite all the publicity, I would not be too surprised if by Pentecostal is meant something like independent Evangelical, Hillsong and so forth. I'd not be extrapolating general figues from such a limited base.

    A more important figure is that only just over 1% of the population identified as Pentecostal and the proportion identifying as any of the smaller denominations is around 0.5%.

    From these figures, it seems to non-mathematical me that his population is too small to have any real reliability. Have I missed something?
  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host, 8th Day Host
    I am going to repeat other here - sorry, but others do reflect my experience too.

    I remember reading A Churchless Faith when it came out - it was very interesting, and encouraged me in wanting to find and work wit hpeople who had left church but wanted to retain their faith (and I have even got a website with resources for this - boredwithchurch.info if anyone is interested. Becasue I saw the church losing its most dedicated people to be a real issue.

    I guess it is because I always felt on the edge of church, while being right in the centre as well - my concern has always been for those whose faith is more important than a church.

    Of course, when I finally fell out of church (must be some 7 years ago now), I just left. I pursued my exploration of faith here and other online places. But I gave up with church on Sundays an in the rest of the week. And I suddenly felt free. It was the most liberating thing I have ever done.

    Definately a PTCD sufferer here. I have come to realise or think that a lot of church as it is practiced is abusive. I know one of the churches I went to another person there wrote about her sense of spiritual abuse there - I probably experienced it in three consecutive churches.

    Eventually, I needed something so am attending the Quakers now. When I first went, some people asked me where I had come from, and I just said it was complex, and people just accepted this. I haven't been asked much since then. Just recently, I did write and explained some of my history, because I was ready to tell it. I am still not ready to throw myself into the group any more than attending on Sundays (about half the time) and doing drinks afterwards for a month. I may start to engage more and more in time, but it will be slow.

    The reason I have stuck with the Quakers is that ther eis no pressure. Nobody questions "How is your walk with Jsesus then?". There is no pressure to be more involved, because there is very little "more involved". And for me, that is brilliant. I am as accepted as a member of the group as any other.
  • @Jengie Jon thank you for your comparison of the 2 books. I read A Churchless Faith after I’d been out of church for a couple of years having experienced bullying behaviour from leaders and the perceived in-crowd, and was feeling grief and guilt. Reading that book gave me courage to attend a church on my own terms, until those at the top caught up with me (it seemed that they don’t like independent thinking) and reluctantly moved to another church where this repeated. So now I’m at a Methodist church where there is an in-crowd (I’m relieved that it’s not just me who sees this) but plenty of room for everyone else to get on with their Christian life both in church and (especially important for me) outside. But I still feel wary, as if I’m constantly watching my back - I guess it’s an echo of the PTCD.
  • Jengie JonJengie Jon Shipmate
    edited November 4
    Foot note

    Pentecostals churches are an overlapping circle with Independent Evangelical Churches. There are various flavours of Independent Evangelical churches one of which is Pentecostal but as I was reminded yesterday there are also Pentecostal Denominations who come out of the Holiness Movement at the end of the Nineteenth Century and really their congregations cannot be described as Independent Evangelical.

  • I am going to repeat other here - sorry, but others do reflect my experience too...The reason I have stuck with the Quakers is that ther eis no pressure. Nobody questions "How is your walk with Jsesus then?"...
    Just wondering - did the church culture allow you to say that it wasn't going well? Or even, what does that mean?

  • Schroedingers CatSchroedingers Cat Shipmate, Waving not Drowning Host, 8th Day Host
    I am going to repeat other here - sorry, but others do reflect my experience too...The reason I have stuck with the Quakers is that there is no pressure. Nobody questions "How is your walk with Jesus then?"...
    Just wondering - did the church culture allow you to say that it wasn't going well? Or even, what does that mean?

    The one I was asked that in expected the answer "really great". WHen i was asked it, I had been having a fuck-awful week. So I waffled.

    To be fair, anywhere that asks that question in that way is expecting a great answer. If I had to ask something of that nature, it would always be more along the lines of "how is your faith journey?" (although not quite so naff as that, of course).

    My current group are more likely to ask, simply, "how are you?" and accept an honest answer.
  • Thank you.

    As someone who has had depression on and off for 25 years, I make an attempt to be honest. And to be fair to my church, the answer 'Up and down' or 'Not good actually' is accepted. But I feel I need to be honest to help others to feel able to say how they are. The minister encourages honesty and vulnerability so good on him.
  • I just found this thread after quite a while away from the Ship, so forgive me for piling in with my own story before I engage with anyone else's.

    I stayed as a church minister way too long. I should have left years before I did. I didn't notice the slow attrition of my heart as I stayed within an institution that had often marginalised me and, I felt, on occasion abused me.

    The result was that when I did eventually step down, it all just collapsed. Three years on, I don't attend church any more, and I honestly don't even miss 99% of it. The bit of me that "did church" just sort of died. Do I still believe in God? If I do, it's not in any way I'd feel I could or should profess within a worshipping community. Is this PTCD? Well, the counsellor I saw for several months after I left the ministry suggested I may be suffering from undiagnosed PTSD caused by long-term constant stress, so maybe it is.

    What do I feel about it all? Sometimes I feel really bitter: I want something to be angry at that isn't just an amorphous "institution", I want to hurt the Church, I want those years of my life back that now I think I wasted. But most of the time I just get on with my life.
  • edited November 8
    @Adeodatus
    Thanks for that. I labelled the thing PTCD because I recognized I was dealing with a form of emotion about something, but it isn't trauma in the way it is when something life threatening has happened. And it is specific to church and organized religion.

    Wanting to hurt the church? This seems to me to be a different thing entirely. Though I say of PTSD, one of the worst things is that it can give a committed non-violent person ideas of violence, very bad ones. Which I think are quite reasonable: we instinctively want to hurt back when we are hurt (eye for an eye etc). The only unreasonable thing would be to actually do the violence we imagine. -- I have come to realize my capability for it, which is more than enough.**

    Belief in God? I suspect that most of us do, because most of humanity does, with church or without it. And yes it is different with PTCD.

    I wondered about starting this thread for a long time and then some how the PTCD idea emerged. The thread may eventually need to go off to a more supportive part of the Ship; I personally find just now that aside from my personal things related to faith, that it's basically pro forma to attend church and I do most of my religion elsewhere, including ship-board. On the ship we can say atrocious things like "hurt the church", and like I sometimes feel. I doubt I could say it to the Nice People in the pews without being a total donald.

    I am troubling myself just now about where to direct my December donation (we do 2 per year, lump sums). It would normally go to church for the most part.


    **Realizing that we imagine Jesus even as crucified and dying as the perennial Nice Man and All Round Good God-Person, I sure hope his humanity was angry as hell at what the fuckers were doing to him. And maybe the God part was doing some Joshua-kill-everything-including-the-goats thinking.
  • HuiaHuia Shipmate
    Adeodatus I remember you posting about some of the things that were happening to you in the church, and feeling angry. I'm glad you have left such a toxic place.
  • anoesisanoesis Shipmate
    Very much so, and nuance/complexity in such studies is good - although I seem to remember Jamieson as NZ rather than Aussie (I may be wrong).

    You are not wrong. Alan Jamieson was pastor of a church I attended for a few years, while at University. This was in Christchurch, NZ. He may, for all I know, be based in Australia now, but he certainly isn't an Australian.
  • I came to the conclusion that a church congregation, like any large organism, tend to act like a large organism in the protection of itself. The continued life of the organism as a functioning whole is more important than the well-being of its constituent members individually.

    I have come around to much the same kind of thinking, but would have struggled to express it as concisely, so thank you for your post.

    I've experienced this kind of thing twice, once in adolescence when my faith was changing quite radically, and once more a few years ago in circumstances that were more similar to the OP, family trauma, and I got the impression of being 'cauterized' by the PTB who couldn't deal with it.
    What have people done about it? Do many just stop church altogether? Take a long break from it? Sleep in? What are some others' pathways and experiences with PTCD?

    In both cases it there was a process of stripping back, followed by a very slow and gradual process of rebuilding. I feel the expressions of my faith changed quite a lot across both periods, IME it was a process that would have been hard if I was in a church situation that used guilty heavily to drive spiritual practices (and generally I've learnt to screen these kinds of things out).
  • I don't know if I had/have PTCD.
    I grew up in the Open Brethren and at 16 I was the editor of the assembly's young people's page. I wrote an article (though I can't remember the subject) but some of the oversight talked to me and said that although they agreed with what I wrote it couldn't be published as it would upset some people. I decided there was no point continuing and went up the road to the Baptist church.
    In my early twenties I came across the Christian counter-culture in Australia where a Professor of NT opened my eyes about how to read the Bible and on return to England I did a theology degree.
    On return to Australia in 1979 I never found a place that I was comfortable with, and it was online forums that were my faith support. In another board I was criticised for taking the moniker "Fool", and a search turned up ShipOfFools, and so I joined.
    30 years later a friend asked me to talk to someone who had a house church about my experience of being in Christian communities. I decided to join the house church and got on well, though our approaches to the Bible were a bit different. However, they were my support and encouragement for my chaplaincy studies (along with FD). When the House church moved on to a residential ministry and stopped worship services I looked up the local Uniting Church and the day I started was the day their new minister started, and she (and her co-pastor husband) and I had similar enough views, though not quite kindred spirits. So this is my third year with the UCA, and I have even become an elder, but I still wonder if I am fakin' it.

    I have followed Gordon Atkinson's (Real live Preacher) journey and this blog post speaks how I would like my journey to be
    Going Down With The Ship

    I don't always believe that God exists, But I always believe God is Love. That seems to be an unshakeable part of me. But perhaps I am clinging to a past that can never be the present.
    Perhaps I need to face the fact that I need a new story. Can I be brave and look for one like Gordon, or at 69 is it too late? This is metaphor of what he is doing

    A Story About Finding A New Story

    Apologies if I have strayed too far from the topic
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