Recovering from Religion: Toxic Theology, PTSD, and the Road to Healing

April 6-9, 2016

Minneapolis, MN

Religion plays a major role in the lives of millions, especially in our early formative years. Sometimes this formation is positive. But far too often it’s not. Toxic theology, any theological system that fosters trauma or abuse, is all too common in the Christian Church experience. Some of the hallmarks of toxic theology are:

  • A violent image of God
  • Threats of torture and punishment in Hell for all eternity mentioned in almost every lesson
  • Focus on the basic badness of humanity and our personhood: an example being that the majority of sexual feelings are considered sinful. Almost no skills given for dealing with sexual feelings, just threats of punishment.
  • Rejection of certain types of people by God with slogans, sarcasm and condemnation from the pulpit.
  • Black and white thinking: either you believe what we believe or you are an atheist, nothing in-between.
  • Hierarchical relationships: No questioning allowed. No thinking, exploring or coming to terms with your own faith.
  • Symptoms include: Avoiding people from one’s old church in the grocery store or the mall. Dreading family gatherings. Searching in vain for a bridge to relate to loved ones. Expecting people at work to relate the same harsh way people at church related. Feeling adrift and cynical. Endless searching for a better church.

Come join us as we explore the destructive role of toxic theology in our lives: its negative impact on our health, and the ways in which we can heal from this trauma.

Using a variety of learning styles, Recovering from Religion will engage our hearts, minds, and bodies allowing us to address what may well be the number one cause of PTSD in our country: repeated exposure to toxic theology as a child. Through lectures, panel discussions, artistic presentations, and contemplative practices, we will address this important issue and explore ways to recover and heal.

The conference is appropriate for healthcare professionals, clergy, and anyone whose life has been touched by a negative religious message, either personally or though the experience of a close relationship.

More information to come. Watch this page for more details and registration!

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About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
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6 Responses to Recovering from Religion: Toxic Theology, PTSD, and the Road to Healing

  1. vickie casteel says:

    That was my life growing up.I’m 57 and the last 2yrs haven’t been to church and its made me notice how brain washed the church I was raised in is.The people are so cold to you at church and outside the church .It’s sad they pretend to be Christians and only help the people the same as them.

    • Mark says:

      Hi Vickie,
      Are you needing connection? Was it difficult to make connections when you were going to church?
      One of the painful observations about church is that there is no more segregated an hour in the week as 10am Sunday morning. Everyone shuffles off to their church that is just like them: either there are all pickup trucks in the parking lot, or all Cadillacs. And the church is usually 98% white, 98% black or 98% Hispanic. Unmarried people often feel left out of churches. I remember a pastor telling me that all churches left unchecked will drift toward Country Club.

  2. garycummings says:

    Sounds good. Are you planning one for Nashville?

    • Mark says:

      Not yet. If this one goes well, we will plan one for Nashville. It’s three of us organizing this seminar/workshop. Two live in Minnesota, so only one has to travel. If we do it in Nashville we have to make sure we have enough money to cover three people’s travel and lodging. So if this one floats we will go on the road.

  3. james brady says:

    the best thing to do its sad to label god as tortuourous

  4. NicoleOakley says:

    Wow Mark! I’m glad I found your blog. I, too grew up in the very conservative Church of Christ and went to camp at FC as well as attended college there my sophomore year. I have never experienced such judgment in my life! More recently I discovered that indeed, I feel that it was all cult-like. My family are still very strict about their attendance, rules, etc. It makes for a very lonely feeling not to mention all of the other feelings I struggle with on a daily basis. For instance, I will always fear death. Gee, I wonder why? When it is all doom and gloom and that’s all you are taught and have hammered into your head for days upon days and years upon years, it is hard to reprogram.

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