Book Review written by Dick Donnenwirth

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing
By Reba Riley 

This is a recently published intriguing book with a very catchy title. The author was raised in a very religiously conservative Cincinnati family, educated at an evangelical school (Where her mother taught) and studied at Focus on the Family Institute. On her 29th birthday she finds herself adrift on the spiritual sea, rudderless and anchorless. The 30 X 30 project was born -participating in 30 different worship services or practices by her 30th birthday. Everything was fair game: main-line to cult, Christian or non-Christian, Western or Eastern. Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome is the report of her year long journey and her powerful reactions: mental, emotional, physical and deeply spiritual.

For me a personal connection was that one of her first visits was to my own home United Methodist Church in Columbus which, by her depiction, has changed considerably since I was baptized and religiously formed there six decades ago. Even without this personal interest, Reba had me captivated from page 1 by her writing style which is light and almost glib at some points and deeply poignant at others. While she is very respectfully protective of others identity, she is painfully transparent about herself.

I came away from reading Reba’s “journal” with some interesting reactions. (1) Since she became physically sick several times during the year and was ready to give up her project – I was reminded how inner-connected the human person is: how we treat our immortal souls can have powerful physical effects as well as psychological. (2) So many of her experiences left her with the impression that each “community” believed they have a “corner” on the “truth.” (3) Some groups’ (notably Scientology) practices bordered on practicing psychology and doing psychotherapy without a license or accountability.

Where does she end up? You will have to read the book yourself!


December 2015


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