Rebecca's Reviews > Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: One Woman's Desperate, Funny, and Healing Journey to Explore 30 Religions by Her 30th Birthday

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome by Reba Riley
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really liked it
bookshelves: laugh-out-loud, memoirs, read-via-edelweiss, theology-religions, year-challenges

It’s a common story: if you were raised in Evangelical Christianity, chances are that at some point you threw it all over as hokum, spent a while flailing around in doubt, and then started wondering whether there was some modified form of Christianity you could actually live with. I could relate to so much of Reba Riley’s story. She was a Pentecostal-leaning fundamentalist right through high school, but in college she turned her back on it all; even setting foot in a church made her feel nauseous. Yet she retained a strong spiritual compass that helped her tap into the energy of what she calls the “Godiverse.”

This is one of those yearlong projects that got turned into a book. At age 29, Riley concocted the idea of experiencing 30 different religious traditions before she turned 30. Despite debilitating sickness (later diagnosed as celiac disease), she spent 2011-12 visiting a Hindu temple, a Buddhist meditation center, a mosque, a synagogue, a gathering of witches, and a range of Christian churches (it seemed to me like a little bit of a cheat, using a bunch of these to make up the numbers, but maybe it was the best she could manage in suburban Ohio). Some of the highlights were spiritual training under the Urban Monk (an Orthodox guide), a Native American sweat lodge, and an epic peanut butter sandwich with the Amish.

As a guy she met in the synagogue said, “You can’t change the religion you were born with, so you might as well learn to celebrate it.” Determined not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, Riley decides to move forward in a “Christian-ish” direction – “Could Christianity be the bedrock of my transformation instead of something to overcome?” – with her two new totem objects as reminders of what she learned on her quest: a disco ball shows the myriad facets of the divine, while the peacock, her spirit animal, is a symbol of rebirth and healing.

Riley writes in a chatty, girlfriend-to-girlfriend style, as if you’ve joined her book club for a glass of pinot grigio. She readily acknowledges the influence of Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed and Anne Lamott, which gives you some idea of her demographic. I can imagine this book appealing especially to twenty- and thirtysomething women, but anyone who has stepped away from religion, reeling with disillusionment, will find this true to life.

Related reading:
When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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Reading Progress

February 20, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
February 20, 2015 – Shelved
May 28, 2015 – Started Reading
May 30, 2015 – Shelved as: memoirs
May 30, 2015 – Shelved as: laugh-out-loud
May 30, 2015 – Shelved as: read-via-edelweiss
May 30, 2015 – Shelved as: theology-religions
June 1, 2015 –
June 15, 2015 – Finished Reading
September 20, 2018 – Shelved as: year-challenges

Comments Showing 1-10 of 10 (10 new)

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message 1: by Cecily (new)

Cecily I'd have trouble listing 30 religions, let alone experiencing them - and in a year?!

Rebecca A lot of them fall under the broad umbrella of 'Christian': Scientology, Mormon, Amish, etc.

message 3: by Cecily (new)

Cecily Ah, that's a bit of a cheat, but it makes more sense.

Rebecca I agree it seemed a bit like cheating, giving priority to her own tradition. Wondered if her being in suburban Ohio had something to do with it; maybe the other religions just weren't there. She does make it to a mosque and a Hindu temple, though, which is impressive.

message 5: by Ashlyn (new)

Ashlyn Celiac isn't a debilitating disease... Is that how the author talked about it?

Rebecca Ashlyn wrote: "Celiac isn't a debilitating disease... Is that how the author talked about it?"

She does describe it that way, yes. (It's been 3.5 years since I read the book, so I can't give any details.)

message 7: by Cecily (last edited Jul 16, 2018 10:41PM) (new)

Cecily I guess it's debilitating before it's diagnosed, and less so after, when you can take steps to manage and limit the effects of the condition?

Rebecca Cecily wrote: "I guess it's debilitating before it's diagnosed, and less so after, when you can take steps to manage and limit the effects of the condition?"

That sounds accurate to me. It was worst when it was unexplained pain.

message 9: by Allie (new)

Allie Is it a Christian book?

Rebecca Allie wrote: "Is it a Christian book?"

In that it reflects on a Christian woman's experiences inside and outside the Church, yes. It's from Chalice Press, who publish books on Christianity and spirituality as well as self-help.

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