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Religious Refugees: (De)Constructing Toward Spiritual and Emotional Healing

Hurt by the church. Healed by the journey.

Questioning our faith and spiritual beliefs, while leaving the familiarity of our religious homeland, can be excruciatingly painful. Loneliness, isolation, and fear of rejection–from God and others–can give rise to shame, guilt, anger, and sadness. Yet, paradoxically, this uncomfortable process can be a powerful catalyst that leads to tremendous emotional, mental, and spiritual growth.

Theologian, therapist, and ordained pastor, Mark Karris, is no stranger to the deconstruction/reconstruction process. In Religious Refugees, he explores this disorienting faith-shift through the lens of cutting-edge psychological research, theology, philosophy, and, most importantly, the real-world experiences of those who are going through–and have gone through–this arduous and confusing journey. You don’t have to walk this path alone. Join the legion of others on the road to healing and self-discovery and let this book be your guide!

“Mark Karris’s Religious Refugees is a compelling guidebook for religious refugees seeking the wisdom and tools to move beyond unhealthy views of God and walk this sacred path toward spiritual and emotional maturity.” Pete Enns, Professor of Biblical Studies at Eastern University and the author of How the Bible Actually Works, The Sin of Certainty, and The Bible Tells Me So.

“With refreshing honestly, unconventional insight and tender grace, Mark helps struggling and former Christians discern a path forward to a more wholistic, fulfilling, and compelling kind of faith in Christ.  How I wish I’d had a guide like Religious Refugees when I went through my painful faith crisis as a young person!  If you or someone you care about is facing a faith crisis, this is the book you’re looking for!”  Dr. Greg Boyd, Senior Pastor, Woodland Hills Church (Maplewood Minnesota), author of Inspired Imperfection: How The Bible’s Problems Enhance Its Divine Authority (Fortress).

“What I love about Religious Refugees is the balanced approached Mark Karris takes toward spiritual recovery by respecting both domains of theology and psychology. Well-studied in each field, Karris professionally and compassionately helps readers make peace with their faith without losing their minds or sacrificing dignity. Whether you’re nurturing your own religious journey or guiding someone who is, this book is a must-read!” –Jennifer Knapp, singer/songwriter, author of Facing the Music

“Austrian theologian Frederick von Hugel (1852-1925) compared the church as an organization to the bark on a tree. Bark is dead wood, but it protects the dynamic life surging within the tree from disease, dehydration, death. Mark Karris has gifted all of us with a valuable resource on how to deal with the crusty bark while tapping into the sap and living off the fruit of the tree.” –Leonard Sweet, best-selling author (“Rings of Fire”) and distinguished professor at Drew University, Tabor College, George Fox University, and Evangelical Seminary

“If you’re in the middle of what Mark Karris calls the D/R Process (deconstruction and reconstruction of your faith), you absolutely need Mark’s new book. With the wisdom of a philosopher, the skill of a counselor, the tenderness of a gentle parent, and the accessibility of an old friend, Mark meets you where you are, walks with you, and points to a beautiful way forward, what he (and Mother Teresa) call “the simple path.” This is a powerfully helpful book and needed now more than ever!”  Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration

“In my work as a spiritual director and friend to people experiencing a painful faith deconstruction, I am always grateful for material that helps give language and hope for the messy and beautiful road to greater freedom in our faith. Mark Karris is right–the numbers are legion–and so many are seeking tools and guides to not just survive but thrive. Religious Refugees will help readers not only find themselves in the story but also offers what so many are seeking–tangible and accessible ways forward.” – Kathy Escobar, co-pastor of The Refuge, and author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World and Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart

“Mark Karris writes with authority about a subject every person with “Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome” needs– the deconstruction and reconstruction of faith. Both personally and professionally informed, this book is sure to be a resource for individuals struggling with matters of spiritual health and healing.” – Rebecca Riley Moyer, author of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: One Woman’s Desperate, Funny, and Healing Journey to Explore 30 Religions by Her 30th Birthday

“A person could read five different books on the deconstruction and reconstruction process of leaving religion, or they could read, Religious Refugees: (De)Constructing Toward Spiritual and Emotional Healing by Mark Karris. I consider this book an invaluable and comprehensive resource for any person who is in the process of deconstruction and reconstruction.” Jim Palmer, author of Notes from (Over) the Edge, and Inner Anarchy

“The oft-misused term “deconstruction” has become popular among religious refugees to the point of overplay. It’s like a second conversion we may not even choose. It’s more like a disorientation we undergo–for some liberating and others traumatic (literally). And there’s not really a travel guide through the wilderness that follows. Until now. Mark Karris has traversed the D/R journey and in this book, traces an exceptional way forward that combines cutting-edge psychological research, sound theology, and wise practical lessons from his own life experience. Honestly, he had me at “self-compassion is the key.” From that point, I knew I could trust him. I will be recommending Karris’ incredible work broadly.” – Brad Jersak (PhD), author of A More Christlike Way

“Mark Karris has written a wise and powerful book. For all of us who grew up in the church and struggled to save it (and ourselves) from self-inflicted death by a thousand doctrinal cuts, this book washes over the reader like a balm in Gilead.  Take, read, study–and then talk about it in community. Something new is coming.  Mark Karris has seen it, and he wants us to see it to. As a charter member of heretics united, whose name is legion, I say, “Well done, good and faithful servant, well done.” – Rev. Robin R. Meyers,  PhD, is retired senior minister of Mayflower UCC in Oklahoma City, Distinguished Professor of Social Justice Emeritus from Oklahoma City University, and author of Saving God from Religion: A Minister’s Search for Faith in a Skeptical Age
About the Author
Mark Gregory Karris is a licensed marriage and family therapist, theologian, adjunct professor, ordained pastor, husband, writer, recording artist, and worship leader. He’s a voracious reader, researcher and all around biophilic. He has received a master’s degree in counseling through the Alliance Graduate School of Counseling in Nyack, N.Y., a master of divinity from Drew Theological School in N.J., and is currently working through his PsyD from Alliant International University in San Diego.

Mark has performed countless workshops on topics such as love, attachment theory, spirituality, and domestic violence. He has also traveled internationally through the Red Cross, facilitating workshops on stress, trauma, communication, and other relevant topics.

Mark’s pioneering research article on trauma and couple’s therapy has been published in a peer-reviewed journal [Karris, M., Caldwell, B. (2015) “Integrating Emotionally Focused Therapy, Self-Compassion & Compassion-Focused Therapy to Assist Shame-Prone Couples who have Experienced Trauma,” The Family Journal: Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families].

Review & Commentary