An effective plan to help those suffering from wounds inflicted by the church find spiritual healing and a renewed sense of faith.
Raised as a conservative Christian, minister and author Carol Howard Merritt discovered that the traditional institutions she grew up in inflicted great pain and suffering on others. Though she loved the spirituality the church provided, she knew that, because of sexism, homophobia, and manipulative religious politics, established religious institutions weren’t always holy or safe. Instead of offering refuge, these institutions have betrayed people’s hearts and souls. “People have suffered religious abuse,” she writes, “which can be different from physical injury or psychological trauma.”
Though participation and affiliation in traditional religious institutions is waning, many people still believe in God. Merritt contends that many leave the church because they have lost trust in the institution, not in God. Healing Spiritual Wounds addresses the church’s dichotomous image—as a safe space and as a dangerous place—and provides a way to restore personal faith and connection to God for those who have been hurt or betrayed by established institutions of faith. Merritt lays out a multistage plan for moving from pain to spiritual rebirth, from recovering theological and emotional shards to recovering communal wholeness.
Merritt does not sugarcoat the wrongs institutions long seen as trustworthy have inflicted on many innocent victims. Sympathetic, understanding, and deeply positive, she offers hope and a way to help them heal and reclaim the spiritual joy that can make them whole again.
Merritt (Tribal Church) soothes the sin-sick soul with religious balm. Having grown up in a violent household and attended a fundamentalist church, she writes with startling honesty about the war that raged inside her childhood home with the full complicity of church elders. Eventually she escaped to college, only to learn that the Moody Bible Institute, a fundamentalist school in Chicago, was prepared to inflict the religious lash once again, its force multiplied by sexism. After putting up with misogynistic treatment for years, Merritt decided to join the Presbyterian Church, where she became a pastor. She now leads retreats for the religiously wounded that create safe places to discuss "all the bitterness caused by the church... while finding a way to hold on to the sweetness and wholeness and healing the spiritual life can bring." The first step in healing, she writes, is to separate God from the wounds inflicted in his name. The next step requires a process of repairing the results when people or communities violate the commandments to love God, self, and neighbor. Merritt's tender prose, interesting stories, and practical, workbook-based approach make this book invaluable for those working in what Pope Francis calls "the field hospital" of the church.