Thursday, April 17, 2014
Surviving Easter Pt 1: Humanity's Biggest Guilt Trip And Religious Trauma Syndrome
There is no real joy in Easter. What you may feel - that springy, warm, pastel-ly glow - may just be ... relief. Ecstatic relief. God sacrificed Himself to absolve you from sin, something literally everyone is born with. You've been absolved from sin - for the time being. You've thought long and hard about your birth defect. You've repented and mea-culpaed until you felt like a worthless piece of dust (to which you will return, of course) so that you will see Easter morning as being born again.
But when you come down to it, Easter is just temporary relief, like aspirin. The story of the Passion and Resurrection will melt like a chocolate bunny as soon as the first frustration of Monday arrives and guilt sets in again.
Guilt: it's always the guilt. All three Abrahamic religions were founded on guilt. Two thirds of the world's population is subjected to guilt, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with extra heavy doses on some "Holy" days. The Bible is strewn with guilt trips: Adam and Eve, The Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah - punishment and guilt, followed by the greatest guilt trip of all, the Crucifixion. No wonder relief is so welcome!
Religious Trauma Syndrome
Dr. Marlene Winell (Journeyfree.org) has dealt with guilt over 20 years - first hers, then many others' - and she came up with the term Religious Trauma Syndrome after she witnessed recurring symptoms from abuse caused mostly by Fundamentalism. Guilt is a central issue in Fundamentalism:
"The doctrines of original sin and eternal damnation cause the most psychological distress by creating the ultimate double bind. You are guilty and responsible, and face eternal punishment. Yet you have no ability to do anything about it."
Winell helps people deal with their guilt, especially when they wind up "leaving the fold." It's more difficult to be an apostate than people may think: the guilt stays with you for a long, long time. And without panaceas like Easter, it may be nearly impossible to survive emotionally.
This short piece is a diary simply because it's more personal than a regular article - writing about guilt always is - and I want to see if, as a Christian, Easter actually does bring me any relief. I doubt it will, but miracles do happen.
PT II: Did it work?