As the current economic system collapses, oppression based on religious belief or heritage is on the rise. Religious fundamentalism is appealing to many worldwide, because of the scars of oppression as well as people’s fears about the collapsing society. Absent a widely accepted alternative pro-human ideology, religious belief and practice are filling an ideological void.

Protestant churches and other institutions have played significant roles in people’s lives. Many have offered profound connection, hope, and movement toward liberation. Others have functioned largely as oppressive installers of societal distress. All this needs to be counseled on and thought about, so we can have attention for the present situation and play a good role with respect to these institutions.


Protestantism emerged in Western Europe in response to the collapse of feudalism. In part it gave theological and ideological support to the newly developing system of capitalism. Because humans did not yet understand distress patterns and the role of discharge in healing emotional hurts, the body of thought introduced with Protestantism was greatly affected by residual distresses from previous oppressive economic systems.

Ruling-class leaders exploited the new Protestant religious movements and used them to establish religious institutions supportive of their own power and economic interests. In many parts of the world, this was reinforced by genocide, colonization, and enslavement. As Protestants we have been trained to accept a distorted worldview in which some degree of domination and exploitation is considered normal.


Protestantism began with a sectarian split, and its history ever since has been marked by factionalism. Apart from the religious precepts that characterize Christianity in general, there is no single ideology, institution, or leader around which a majority of Protestants are unified. Some Protestant groups have organized primarily around rational, pro-human ideas; others around distressed perspectives. Strong disagreements have often led to separation into splinter groups. It has often been more important to be “right” than to stay together.


We now have an opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the past. We can finally begin to eliminate the oppressed and oppressor roles resulting from many generations of systematic exploitation.

Our challenge in RC is to reach every Protestant with the opportunity to challenge distress and unify the constituency around rational goals for the society. This will not be easy. White Protestant chronic patterns dominate and are considered normal in many countries. This makes it difficult to perceive them and to struggle effectively against them. Protestant workshops and support groups can play an important role in offering perspective and discharge.


The intense separation of Protestants into different churches and denominations means that no one kind of Protestant background is typical. In particular, “Protestant” and “white Protestant” should not be used interchangeably. They do not describe the same experiences, strengths, or distresses.

Many Protestants had church lives that were segregated by both race and class. Thus distresses about race, class, and religious and cultural Protestantism are not easily untangled. Until white Protestants have discharged more of their white Protestant distresses, racially mixed Protestant workshops will be extremely challenging for Protestants who were not raised white. In May 2017, Barbara Love, the International Liberation Reference Person for African Heritage People, led a workshop in New England, USA, for Protestant People of the Global Majority. I led a parallel workshop for white Protestants.

Overt anti-Muslim oppression, anti-Semitism, and anti-immigrant oppression are on the rise in many developed countries. Among white Protestants these often include oppressive religious and racist elements. In a number of countries, especially the United States, factionalism and polarization between “conservative” and “liberal” Protestants is intensifying. Any distresses that impede our ability to stand up publicly and decisively against oppression and reach with respect for every other Protestant must be challenged and discharged.


To date, Protestant liberation work in RC has been sustained only in isolated pockets. Only a few Areas and Regions regularly offer Protestant workshops or support groups. In the coming period we Protestants aim to expand the depth and breadth of our work. This April we launched a Protestant RC e-mail discussion list to facilitate communication among RC Protestants worldwide.

Barbara Boring

Seattle, Washington, USA

(Present Time 188, July 2017)

Last modified: 2017-07-19 01:05:52+00