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(PERSONAL NOTE: I want to thank you guys for your support during our son Jesse’s illness. He still has a pericarditis and pneumonia. But now he’s home, getting rest, taking drugs and hopefully getting better. He’s 25, active, and very frustrated right now. All our energy is spent encouraging and taking care of him, and trying to help him respect this critical process of his healing. The money you guys sent did and still is going to good use. I will be forever grateful for your help and continued support.)

I want to talk today about how to let the mutual grip you and the church, or religion, have on one another.

Your Grip on Religion

It’s one thing to let go of the grip you have on religion. Many of you have done it, and have done it well. You’ve released some beliefs and some practices. I’m not saying this should be done and that these beliefs or practices are wrong. I’m just talking about how we may loosen our grip on them.

Some of the beliefs that you’ve released your grip on could be things like the belief in hell, the atonement, the divinity of Jesus, miraculous healing, the infallibility of scripture, the necessity of the church, the existence of God, etcetera.

Some of the practices you’ve released your grip on are things like reading your bible every day, going to church, paying offerings or tithes, being accountable to a pastor, prayer, special services, serving in some voluntary capacity, restricting your reading and the arts to the religious genre, etcetera.

Even though this can be difficult, it can be done. Sometimes it’s just a matter of time. Sometimes it happens through concentration and courageous thinking. But it’s not all that difficult a process if we want to do it.

Religion’s Grip on You

Now, this is the hard part. It’s easy to let go of something. It’s another thing to get that something to let go of you. Many of you are struggling with this. It is so difficult to get free of religion’s grip on you. Perhaps, specifically, it seems impossible to get free from the church’s grip on you. I’m talking about things like fear, guilt and shame.

So, even though you’ve let go of the concept of hell, why do you still fear going there? If you’ve given up on going to church, why do you still feel guilty for not attending? If you’ve failed in a relationship, why do you still feel shame for being single? These are just examples.

I’ve thought about this a lot, because I’m fascinated by the fact that even though we can, for example, leave the church, we can still allow it to have control over our lives. Even though you’ve said “No more!” to the church you left, you still feel it’s terrifying grip on your heart and mind.

  • It’s like a friend who dropped too much acid and sometimes slips into a trip.
  • Or the vet who still crumbles at the sound of a gun.
  • Or a child who cringes when an adult moves his hand swiftly.

I’ve found there are ways to get free from the this death grip:

  1. Talk about it with someone, hopefully a pro, and process it.
  2. Dissect and empty the fear, shame and guilt of its guts until it no longer lives.
  3. Hang out with other survivors to let the healing rub off on one another.
  4. Be patient until a different and better reality dominates.
  5. Trust yourself and trust what is. This is good. Trust this.

I’ll share a personal example:

My theology and practice has radically changed from five years ago. I am very much at peace with where I am. In fact, I’ve never felt this much theological peace my entire life. I relish it. However, every once in a while, usually at night, a silent, dark tide of fear rises over me and attempts to drown me. It used to take a little while to loose its hoary fingers from my mind. But now when it happens I recognize it for what it is…
an irrational fear…
an ancient residue…
a delicate scar…
a distant memory…
a phantom echo…
and this helps to let it go just as quickly as it came.

I can’t tell you guys how much I admire your courage, your determination, and your success in achieving a healthy spiritual independence. Look how far you’ve come in just a week, a month, a year, two years!

Bravo! Keep going. We’ve just scratched the surface.

Peace, out!

Your friend and brother,