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forgiveness and redemption are not sought . As Rev . Dr . Harston states , the very leaders who offer belonging can remove it , “ crediting God as the author and instigator of the victim ’ s condemnation and banishment .” The exclusion from a community , given the deeply held significance of faith in individual and family structures , and the shame and guilt that come along with that exclusion , traumatizes the individual and the family . Exclusion from community can take many forms such as formal excommunication , loss of privilege or fellowship , or subtle forms of criticism and disdain . Yet , when conflicts of theology arise and faith wavers , the answers should lie in a “ deeper dive into the spiritual core of religious teachings ”, notably the concepts around compassion , said psychiatrist Harold G . Koenig , MD in a New York Times interview . Dr . Koenig and his team developed a religious cognitive therapy program with content across the world ’ s major religions , publishing data in 2015 showing the potential benefits of this brand of religious cognitive therapy .
As for the perpetrators , an antagonistic approach to the concept of theological trauma would be the assertion that , at least in the Christian tradition , there are clear rules , commandments , and standards by which God gives us to live our lives . In other words , the rules of the game are clear and there is punishment for breaking the rules . Religious texts , experienced and learned in contexts unique to each individual , will undoubtedly be interpreted variably and are at risk of misinterpretation in the hands of theologians . A given interpretation often is touted as correct , involving the dismissal of alternate interpretations , inserting rigidity into pastoral work . A rigid approach replete with protracted recitation of religious platitudes can simply amplify trauma or act as a means to induce trauma all together . The very language that should offer that redemption can be weaponized and used against the individual .
In medicine we have one overarching rule , Do no harm . This rule might well be applied to religion as well . Dr . Koenig reminds us of the simple commandments to “ love God and to love your neighbor as yourself .” He further surmises that “ If people remembered this and allowed it to guide their attitudes and actions , they might stop harming people in the name of religion .” Certainly , this timeless commandment can inspire a ceasefire of theological weapons that often fail to acknowledge “ that to err is human .” We in medicine can aid the cease fire , listening and acknowledging what our patients bring with them to our offices . Heaven only knows how divine understanding and forgiveness can be .
Jones , L . K ., Cureton , J . L . Trauma Redefined in the DSM-5 : Rationale and Implications for Counseling Practice . The Professional Counselor . https :// www . tpcjounral . nbcc . org .
Winell , M . ( 2011 ) Religious Trauma Syndrome ( Series of 3 articles ), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Today , Vol . 39 , Issue 2 , May 2011 , Vol . 39 , Issue 3 , September 2011 , Vol . 39 , Issue 4 , November 2011 .
Pai , A ., et al . ( 2017 ). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in the DSM-5 : Controversy , Change , and Conceptual Considerations . Behav Sci ( Basel ). 7 ( 1 ): 7 . Published online 2017 Feb 13 . doi : 10.3390 / bs7010007
Rambo , S . ( 2019 , November 1 ). How Christian theology and practice are being shaped by trauma studies . The Christian Century . https :// www . thechristiancentury . org
Schiffman , R . ( 2019 , February 5 ). When Religion Leads to Trauma . The New York Times . https :// www . nytimes . com .
Gungor , M , Science , M . ( 2017 , May 15 ). Spiritual Trauma [ Audio Podcast ]. https :// www . theliturgists . com .
Harston , C . C . ( 2019 ). Traumatizing Theology and the Healing Church [ D Min Thesis ]. Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary .
Russell-Kraft , S . ( 2021 , March 23 ). Can Religion Give You PTSD ?. The New Republic . https :// www . newrepublic . com .
Dr . Kolter is a practicing internist with Baptist Health .
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