Post-traumatic church syndrome? Yep, it’s a thing.


Fifty-nine percent of Millennials who grew up in a Christian church drop out of it permanently or for an extended period of time, according to research by Barna Group. Among the most common reasons for leaving are Millennials' beliefs that churches are shallow, anti-science, overprotective, and promote simplistic, judgmental views of sexuality. Some of these disaffected believers stay gone and others return later in life, but a large proportion of both end up bitter or jaded toward institutional religion. Now, thanks to Reba Riley, these Millennials have shorthand to describe what they are experiencing: PTCS. In her hilarious and raw memoir, "Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome," Riley describes her struggle to heal from wounds inflicted by institutional Christianity. Her spiritual quest will doubtlessly make some Christian readers uneasy--Riley, for example, samples 30 different religions and ends up affriming beliefs and practices of several non-Christian faiths--but it will surely resonate with many. Here we discuss what PTCS actually means and what Riley learned about faith from her recent religious journey.

RNS: What is 'post-traumatic church syndrome,' and what are its common symptoms?

RR: Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome (PTCS) is the term I made up to describe my spiritual injuries after I left my faith in my early 20s. I define PTCS as 1) A condition of spiritual injury that occurs as a result of religion, faith, and/or the losing, leaving or breaking thereof, 2) The vile, noxious and otherwise foul aftermath of said injury and 3) A serious term intended to aide serious spiritual healing, without taking itself too seriously in the process.