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Darren H

Your current spiritual practice?

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On 1/21/2019 at 7:38 PM, J.A.A. Purves said:

Evangelicals are thoroughly unsuited to deal with the suffering of others just as all other sinful human beings are unsuited to deal with the suffering of others.  I do not mean this to be dismissive.  I have witnessed and experienced how difficult this can be.  Sanctifying empathy and the resources that can truly give healing to the suffering and to the needy comes from only one source - and His example is still the primary example we can turn to.  My faith has to be in Him.  And I am most interested in the means to His grace which I believe he made specific arrangements for sharing with us.

 

 

On 1/28/2019 at 3:51 PM, kenmorefield said:

But I worry that *sometimes* some people, especially Exvangelicals, speak as though it is always and only the church that has failed people, betrayed people, or disappointed people. 

I will hasten to add that, of course, such failures are more irksome if and when they come from people or communities who don't know they are inept--who speak and act like they are uniquely qualified or the only ones who are good at it. I think if you follow the logic of most American Evangelical teaching and preaching, you are certainly warranted in claiming that they/we *should* be better at it. 

Andrew also raised these points above. Evangelical churches tend to not be very good at pastoring people through trauma, and particularly trauma born out of violence or addiction. As Ken says, Evangelicals are not the only branches of Christendom of which this could be claimed, but I do wonder if there is something specific to Evangelicalism that triggers this experience.

I am puzzling this out myself at the moment, but I think Evangelical theology prizes certain human experiences as the centerpieces of God's design for humanity. These are marriage and procreation, vocation, and communal relationships (this latter piece becoming dominant over the past 20 years). So Evangelical churches have a radar sensitive to marriage issues, family issues, workplace and finance issues, and ensuring everyone is "in community" somehow. Therapy and pastoral counseling tend to address these issues as if fixing them resolves our core psychological disturbances.

In my experience, people with PTSD and serious addiction issues feel neglected because the Evangelical church has no real language for these experiences. So we rally around the fixed marriage, the rags to riches stories, the people who weather various recessions, the resolved family crises, etc... When the person finally having a good week after years of PTSD goes uncelebrated. The person with 6 months sobriety goes unnoticed. The person fighting sex addiction keeps everything private, etc... There are some very good contemporary theologies coordinating human experiences of violence with the person and work of Christ - but Evangelicalism does not have a lexicon for this yet.

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6 hours ago, M. Leary said:

I am puzzling this out myself at the moment, but I think Evangelical theology prizes certain human experiences as the centerpieces of God's design for humanity. These are marriage and procreation, vocation, and communal relationships (this latter piece becoming dominant over the past 20 years). So Evangelical churches have a radar sensitive to marriage issues, family issues, workplace and finance issues, and ensuring everyone is "in community" somehow. Therapy and pastoral counseling tend to address these issues as if fixing them resolves our core psychological disturbances.

In my experience, people with PTSD and serious addiction issues feel neglected because the Evangelical church has no real language for these experiences. So we rally around the fixed marriage, the rags to riches stories, the people who weather various recessions, the resolved family crises, etc... When the person finally having a good week after years of PTSD goes uncelebrated. The person with 6 months sobriety goes unnoticed. The person fighting sex addiction keeps everything private, etc... There are some very good contemporary theologies coordinating human experiences of violence with the person and work of Christ - but Evangelicalism does not have a lexicon for this yet.

At the risk of making my personal experience into a broad generalization, I can attest that this accurately describes my own pastoral ministry experience and training in the three evangelical churches where I served (not as much in the mainline Protestant church, which had different issues, but actually was fairly aware about mindfulness, mental health, and genuinely helping people). For the most part, the proposed "solution" to many of these issues and experiences is participation in a) Christian, Bible-based therapy and b) community (meaning, a small/cell/home/life group or a Bible-based course/program). Theologically and historically, I can see how relationships-and-Bible-via-programs became normative in North American evangelical culture during the past few decades. So I think M. is onto something about language as being a culprit for poor practices despite seemingly good intentions, but (and I think M. may agree) there's also something about the practices themselves, the images and actions and reactions and awareness. I'm trying to come up with a concrete example of what I mean, and I'm coming up blank at the moment, but something about more than just new definitions, like a new imagination for what is. And I'm hopeful that such a reimagining of both language and practices can occur, and perhaps the poetic and aesthetic is more critical than ever in recovering/discovering them.

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Thank you, all, for investing time and honesty in this.

I'm realizing how much I miss the substantial conversations I remember having with so many of you... what seems like many years ago.

I want to share some things myself, but every time I start to write something I feel overwhelmed. Part of that is work-related fatigue. Part of that is my inability to paraphrase the tangle of troubles and questions that currently make up my heart. 

Let me sum it up like this: I've been trying to write a simple 1,000-word review of 24 Frames for more than a month now. Just as Michael lost his capacity to focus on film for a while, I seem incapable of writing anything but scribbles and notes these days. It feels like America's sudden nosedive into flagrant depravity on the global stage has burned something out in me. In my better moments, I know it isn't a total burnout. But the simultaneity — in November 2016 — of Anne's medical crisis and the 2016 election, within a few months of the moment when I suddenly quit my job of thirteen years because of medical complications stemming from emotional abuse in the workplace... all of that left me wrestling with several kinds of trauma. And the insane busyness of my new career — as rewarding as the work is, and as grateful as I am for it — has kept me from the time, the silence, the prayers, and the counseling I know I need. I just keep working, the days keep passing, and I don't write or heal or grow.

So I don't know how to write about faith right now. But this conversation is rich, and I'm taking it as a challenge to make the time, come back, and get involved.

I do still love this community.

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Hi Jeff. 
I am sorry to hear that you have been laboring under personal and social traumas. Thanks for sharing what's been happening to you.

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It's good to hear from you, Jeff. I can't remember if I told you this at the time of Anne's crisis, but I once woke up to find Joanna on the floor, struggling for the first time in her life to get her heart back in rhythm during a tachycardia attack. I sped her to the emergency room, and a few weeks later we were in Michigan for heart surgery. On top of everything else we'd been through, I think it was that late-night experience that triggered my years of anxiety attacks. I'm so sorry you and Anne suffered through those times.

What you're describing rings so familiar to what I went through in 2004-2008. (The re-election of Bush after the catastrophe of the Iraq War is, to me, even more unforgivable than Trump.) That struggle you feel to sit still and concentrate? That constant craving for the adrenaline rush of political news and outrage? It wasn't until 2011 that I finally got treatment from a therapist, who told me, "Darren, this is a form of PTSD, and there are ways to address some of its effects."

Of course, as you probably know, I'm still addicted to moral outrage, although I feel like I've made some progress recently in weening myself from it. For what it's worth, I've been fascinated lately by a couple statistics: 28% of Americans think shutting down the government was worth it in order to build the wall, 28% say they will definitely vote to re-elect Trump, and 29% think he should not be impeached even if he's proven to have obstructed justice. So, just under a third of Americans really want Trump, and nothing I say to them -- including pointing out their hypocrisies -- will make the slightest difference.

I chased that political tangent for a minute because, for me at least, it's one of the core issues in this thread. I spent the first 32 years of my life developing a concept of god/truth within a culture that I now realize -- and have hard evidence to prove -- is the wellspring of American white nationalism. That realization in itself is f'ing traumatizing!

Edited by Darren H

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