Spirituality after Fundamentalist Upbringing

Archived Q&A and Reviews


 Need help creating a spiritual life different from upbringing

January 2003

I'm what I laughingly call an ''adult survivor'' of a Pentecostal upbringing. But, honestly, I need a counselor who is familiar with the Assemblies of God (or similar charismatic evangelical Protestant) subculture to figure out ways back to a more moderate religious or spiritual life. My husband is a non-practicing Jew, and we would both like to agree on ways to incorporate religion or spirituality into weekly life with our toddler. The counselor could be anyone from clergy to psychotherapist. Any suggestions? Sarah in Oakland

I believe you will find many good counseling resources around here because of Berkeley's Graduate Theological Union, a group of theological schools in which there are many counseling professionals with expertise in theology/church life. I was a student at Pacific School of Religion, and two professors come to mind as people you might call: Archie Smith (who teaches at Pacific School of Religion) and Rosemary Chinicci (not sure I spelled that right; she used to teach at the Franciscan School, but now I think she's on the faculty at Starr King, the Unitarian School.) In particular, I have seen Rosemary address surviving fundamentalism in one class I was in, and she did it with humor and kindness. I took classes with both and would feel comfortable doing therapy with either. You could contact them by calling their schools. If they are not taking on new clients, I am certain that they would have good referrals for you. Best wishes. Elizabeth

While psychological therapy might be useful for the emotional issues related to your childhood religious experiences, you seem to be looking for someone to help you find your way to a more moderate spiritual life. I suggest you look for a spiritual director, who is someone who can help you find different perspectives on religion and guide your spiritual journey. There are a few places where you can start your search. Try the Lloyd Center, 258-6652; Durant House, 848-7024; or any church that you feel comfortable calling. If these groups don't do spiritual advising on-site, they should be able to refer you to someone who does this. Good luck. Anon

Marlene Winell has written an excellent book called ''Leaving the Fold: a guide for fundamentalists and others leaving their religion.'' which is one of the few self-help resources on this issue. She's a psychologist and does individual and group counselling. You can reach her at (831) 479-0139. She also has a site at www.marlenewinell.com fiona

My fundamentalist background is affecting my enjoyment of life


Marlene Winell, author of ''Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion'', has moved her psychotherapy practice to Berkeley. She has individual sessions as well as group ones, 510-649-1256. I am proudly in ''religious recovery''; you might check her website (www.marlenewinell.com) to see if her background and approach seem right for you. Sarah

I know Lor Fjerkenstad, who is the former director of Center for Psychological and Spirtual Health, does specialize in spiritual and religious issues. She works out of Holos Institute in the Rockridge area of Oakland. She can be reached at 510-273-9388. Anon

After leaving a fundamentalist church, it was several years before I was comfortable in a church setting -- even a religiously liberal church. But thanks to a boyfriend (now husband) who is also a former fundamentalist, I ventured into a Unitarian Universalist church. There I found many like-minded spiritual people and teaching/preaching that has helped me develop my own non-fundamentalist non-hellfire/damnation faith. I would recommend visiting one of the local UU churches, or perhaps a Quaker church, or some other established religiously liberal group. I stress the term ''established'' because there are many cults who will prey on people seeking support and help. (If you are wondering about what makes a group a cult, try googling Robert J. Lifton's 8 criteria for mind control or the International Cultic Studies Association.) - immigrant to the religious left