Thursday, December 13, 2018

Inheritance A Legacy of Hatred and the Journey to Change It


Inheritance
A Legacy of Hatred and the
Journey to Change It

By James Moll, Director

This 2006 documentary tells the story of two women with very different “inheritances” from Amon Goeth, the Nazi commandant of the Plaszow Concentration Camp in Poland. Goeth was known for his brutal murders of thousands of Jews.

Monika Hertwig is the daughter of Amon Goeth and Ruth Kalder. She gradually learned bits and pieces about her father’s horrific treatment of the Jews. It would be a mistake to overlook the role of her mother who had an affair with Goeth and a troubled relationship with Monika. The Spielberg film, Schindler’s List (1993), appears at a pivotal moment in Monika’s efforts to come to grips with her family history and her own identity.

Monika learns of a Jew, Helen Jonas-Rosenweig, who was a kitchen slave in her father’s manor house. Helen survived the holocaust with assistance from Oskar Schindler, whom she describes as a different kind of Nazi. Helen is in the United States and responds to Monika’s request to meet. A powerful emotional meeting makes the documentary a memorable experience unlike other holocaust stories.

The focus of the film is on Monika. However, we also learn the now familiar story of so many lost lives during the holocaust. In addition to the death of family members, Goeth shot Helen’s boyfriend. She eventually married a survivor but tragically lost him to suicide.

I recommend this film for its portrayal of real people trying to live in the present and achieve some sort of reconciliation with their past. The impact of one man’s evil on just these two people after some 60 years is incredible without considering the thousands of other lives he destroyed.

I watched the film streamed from Amazon prime.

The film is 75 minutes and was released on DVD 6 January 2009



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Friday, November 23, 2018

Fear: Trump in the White House - Review











Fear: Trump in the White House

By

  Bob Woodward

Reviewed by

   Geoffrey W. Sutton


After reading Woodward’s Fear, I am wondering about the contribution of this book to its cover-stated category, Political Science. Like behavioral scientists who analyze interviews, the anonymity of the participants is protected. Like readers of behavioral science interviews, we are dependent on the author and his team for accuracy. Unfortunately, like readers of scientific journals, we do not know the accuracy of the memories of those who provided the interview content to Woodward. Neither do we know how well Woodward was able to detect lies and biases in those who provided the content on which this book was based.

Woodward’s purpose is summarized at the end of the prologue.

The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial, and unpredictable leader. Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses. It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.

What follows is that story.

                        Bob Woodward, Prologue

For the most part, Woodward takes us on a chronological tour of the interactions among members of Trump’s White House team­—sometimes with, and sometimes without Trump present. It’s no surprise to learn that strongly opinionated people—mostly men—would fight amongst themselves to persuade a president to do their bidding or form alliances to defeat opponents. What is surprising is the extent to which Trump’s team members go to interfere with his decisions or control his unscripted public speeches and prolific tweets. Woodward makes a repeated point that Trump demands loyalty. The demand for loyalty is nothing new in leaders. The ways team members undermine Trump’s authority and display conflicting loyalties makes for an interesting read. Accurate descriptions of human behavior in political arenas certainly fall in the realm of political science. But we are not treated to comparisons with other teams or a guiding theory that might explain what’s unique about this team.

What is different about the Trump White House is Trump himself. Trump's made a point. He’s not like Obama, either Bush, or either Clinton. Woodward’s words in the prologue describe Trump’s personality traits as “emotionally overwrought, mercurial, and unpredictable.” We do get various scenarios revealing intense emotional displays and changes in mood; however, it seems staff close to Trump have learned to predict his behavior to a degree that they act to distract him, influence his language, control his schedule, and team with others to prevent predictable actions. My point is, after hearing Trump’s repeated rhetoric, seeing his tweets, and reading this book, Trump’s actions seem to take on a degree of predictability. Criticize Trump and you will get a torrent of personalized criticism in return, display disloyalty and you will be fired. Take a position opposed to Trump and your intelligence or strength will be challenged in the language coarse men use everywhere.

On the final page, Woodward tells the story of Dowd’s (Trump’s lawyer) resignation. We learn Dowd’s view of Trump’s tragic flaw. And we are left to wonder what the storyteller believes about his president.

But in the man and his presidency Dowd had seen the tragic flaw. In the political back-and-forth, the evasions, the denials, the tweeting, the obscuring, crying “Fake news,” the indignation, Trump had one overriding problem that Dowd knew but could not bring himself to say to the president: “You’re a fucking liar.” (page 357)

As with any careful analysis, the author has provided copious notes with the noteworthy absence of anonymity for some primary sources. In the end, we are left with an experienced reporter’s view of a president fighting battles on many fronts—his advisors, Congress, the mainstream media, attorneys, and foreign leaders. We don't know who will win. We can be sure that along the way, different opponents will declare themselves the winner. Meanwhile, American voters are left to battle for semi-control over who gets in the White House in 2020. Perhaps fear is the best lead title word for the book. But other emotions come to mind.

Reference

Woodward, B. (2018). Fear: Trump in the White House. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Moral Teaching of Paul --A Book Review

THE MORAL TEACHING 

OF PAUL

SELECTED ISSUES

3RD EDITION

     BY

VICTOR PAUL FURNISH

Reviewed by

Geoffrey W. Sutton


The Moral Teaching of Paul is one of the books I cited in A House Divided. This third edition comes some 30 years after the first edition and aims to expand our understanding of the sociocultural context of Paul's Ministry related to contemporary moral issues.

Before discussing the moral topics, Furnish reminds readers in Chapter 1 about Paul's authorship, which at this point appears firm for Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galations, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Disputed works include Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy. The disputed works have been variusly dated in a range from the 70s to the early second century. The importance of identifying Paul's works is a matter of emphasis thus, Furnish focuses attention on the undisputed texts to understand Paul's moral theology.

Furnish advises readers of the problem with a Sacred Cow view of the biblical texts. Such a view leaves readers bound to Paul's words because they are really the words of God given to all people for all time. Furnish argues that the biblical authors addressed situations in their sociohistorical context. Furnish realizes he must deal with those who quote 2 Timothy 3: 16-17. He makes the point, as others have, that the verse about inspired scripture probably referred to the Jewish texts since there was no New Testament at the time Paul wrote. The other point rests on an understanding of the concept, inspiration. As is commonly known, some view inspiration as the very words of God but others interpret the term in various ways (see Chapter 1 for more details).

Following the groundwork in Chapter 1, Furnish begins to address the moral topics that capture our attention. Chapter 2 deals with Sex, Marriage, and Divorce. There is no surprise to see Paul's view of sex as limited to the marriage relationship. Furnish offers background points about marriage during the Roman period. The purpose of marriage was to establish a housefhold where children could be raised and elderly parents receive care. Approved marriages were important to the transfer of property to future generations. Girls married in the age range of 12 to 15 and men married by age 25. Furnish notes Paul's reason for marriage as "good" to meet sexual needs. Paul avoids the reason others have given of marrying to procreate (Gen 1:28).

Divorce was easy to obtain during Roman times, according to Furnish. Adultery was the usual cause of a divorce. Furnish notes Jesus' restrictive stance on divorce and guides readers into a consideration of other reasons beyond infidelity by considering circumstances as does Paul in some of his reasoning.

Chapter 3 is titled, "Homosexuality?" Furnish makes the point early on that there were no ancient words for homosexuality in the biblical languages. Furnish departs from a discussion of Paul's works to provide context from the Jewish laws about same-sex sex. He then proceeds to a discussion of Jewish and Roman cultures in the first century. For Jews, same-sex sex was unnatural and unlawful. He refers to Greek culture and the presence of same-sex relationships. Some practices by people of the time involving sex with boys were condemned by other writers and Furnish thinks these condemned practices may be what Paul had in mind. He offers quotes from ancient extrabiblical texts to make his point about the condemnaiton of exploitation. Furnish closes the chapter by addressing current concerns about same-sex unions. He reminds readers of the limits of what the biblical texts say and do not say when it comes to contemporary notions of sexual orientation and relationships.

In Chapter 4, Furnish addresses Paul's view of "Women in the Church." As in previous chapters, Furnish provides the sociohistorical context applicable to the texts that appear to limit the role of women in ministry. He includes quotes depicting the inferiority of a woman's human nature e.g., seeing women as easily deceived and having poor reasoning powers. Next, Furnish examines the sometimes confusing array of teachings from Paul's letters. On the one hand, there are texts restricting what women can do but on the other hand, there are texts documenting the important role of women in early church ministries--including Paul's work.

The final chapter (5) addresses the moral challenge of "The Church in the World." We see that Paul expects Christians to live as citizens, which suggests an active role in social life. We also see guidance on how to behave; that is, Paul refers to such virtues as love, gentleness, kindness, and so on. Furnish makes a point that Christians are called to honorable conduct without connecting good works to the conversion of unbelievers to Christianity.

Furnish's analysis of Paul's teachings in the context of Jewish and Roman cultures provides a useful backdrop to consider contemporary interpretations of several hot-button issues that continue to divide contemporary Christians. Thus, Furnish's book remains relevant as Christians sincerely seek to appreciate what the Apostle Paul wrote, the traditions of the church, and how one ought to think about contemporary moral issues. The book will likely not be helpful to those who adhere to an interpretation of Pauline texts that does not permit a nuanced view based on cultural contexts and understanding old words and phrases in the ancient languages of scripture. The Moral Teaching of Paul will likely be useful for those in a variety of Christian ministries and students in Christian colleges and seminaries.

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References

Furnish, V. P. (2009). The Moral Teaching of Paul: Selected Issues, 3rd Ed. Nashville: Abingdon.

Sutton, G. W. (2016). A House Divided: Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures. Eugene, OR: Pickwick.





Thursday, May 10, 2018

Psychopaths and Leadership - Wisdom of Psychopaths


The Wisdom of
Psychopaths

By Kevin Dutton

Review by

Geoffrey W. Sutton




My mother was sixty-five when she retired. Each month she faithfully wrote a check for $20.00 to Rev. Televangelist whom she loved to watch on her aging blond console TV. She had his special version red leather, red letter edition, of the Holy Bible beside her favorite 1970s orangey fabric chair. Each month she received his newsletter, which she read to learn of God’s blessing on his ministries. She and many others were sending those showers of blessing on him and all who dwelt beneath the roof of his fabulous mansion. After moving to Rev. Televangelist’s community of followers, the scandalous news brought the house down. And she was manifestly depressed.

My encounters with psychopaths began during the early years of my clinical practice. I learned the most during supervision by clinical forensic psychologist, Julianne Lockwood, professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. Since then I read a lot of books, attended many seminars, and met a lot of folks with psychopathic traits. And I empathized with many victims—of all ages. Psychopathic traits enable leaders to suceed when they harness select characteristics useful in various professions such as law and medicine as well as careers in business, the military, and religion.

Kevin Dutton is a psychological scientist. He provides readers with an insider’s look at the personality traits that enable those we call psychopaths to wreak such havoc in other people’s lives. Sometimes we may be confused when we attempt to size-up a leader who seems a bit too ruthless. Dutton gives us examples of the variation between valued leadership traits and those of the psychopath:

Leader                                    Psychopath
Charismatic                             Superficial charm
Self-confident                         grandiosity
Action oriented                       thrill-seeking

As psychologists, we examine behavioral models that often describe patterns of behavior in a range of values. Sometimes a modest range of select behavior patterns can be of high value in certain circumstances. For example, when under threat, we need leaders who are able to manage a great deal of stress without the interference of emotions that would prevent them from making life and death decisions. Those same leaders might look quite calloused and insensitive in another situation.

 As a society, we can only tolerate such leaders when we are convinced they accept authority and demonstrate loyalty and a strong inclination to avoid harming those in the group they lead. Leaders can lead us astray. Dutton identifies seven core traits, which he artfully calls the Seven Deadly Wins—here’s the list:

Ruthlessness
Charm
Focus
Mental toughness
Fearlessness
Mindfulness
Action

If you have any interest in the psychology of psychopathy, I recommend the book as a good introduction. Dutton is a good writer and he makes sense of several interesting studies. You can find my academic review as a free download.

Sutton, G. W. (2014). [Review of the book The Wisdom of psychopaths: What saints, spies, and serial killers can teach us about success by Kevin Dutton]. Journal of Christianity and Psychology, 35, 281-282. Also published in Vol 33, 265-266. Accepted June 2013 ResearchGate Link  Academia Link



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Monday, February 12, 2018

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Christians Book Review



Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
 for Christian Clients
 with Depression:
A Practical, Tool-Based Primer



By Michelle Pearce, Ph.D.

Reviewed By

Geoffrey W. Sutton

I received Pearce’s book from the Templeton Press for the purposes of review. I submitted the review manuscript in 2016 to the Journal of Psychology and Theology, which was then reviewed and subsequently accepted for publication, March 1, 2017. I will provide links to the academic review below.

Michelle Pearce, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Maryland. Her book provides a useful summary of cognitive-behavioral therapy and shows how it may be adapted to help Christian clients draw upon Bible practices and teachings to cope with depression.

I graduated from a school (University of Missouri-Columbia) where cognitive behavioral psychotherapy was the mainstay of treatment. But, like others from my era, we found our own way when it came to helping religious and spiritual clients with mental health concerns, including depression. Experienced clinicians will not find much that is new in the book, but they will find an organized set of strategies and links to recent research that can help ensure a best practices approach.


The book will be most useful to students in counseling programs as a supplement to various courses and supervised experiences focused on treating people with depression. I think the book can be helpful to pastors as well as they will no doubt encounter many people in their congregations who struggle with some form of depression.


I note a few suggestions for an improvement in my review. These are not concerns that would limit the value of the book, but rather ideas for a future edition. Here’s a quote from my published review:

One, Pearce acknowledges the forgiveness work of Christian scholars like Worthington and Enright but does not offer specific guidance as do Enright and Fitzgibbons (2015) in their chapter devoted to forgiveness therapy for depressed clients. Two, Pearce identifies the term spiritual struggles in the chapter about suffering (6) but does not include the extensive research by Exline and her colleagues (e.g., Exline & Rose, 2013), which has helped clarify many of the distressing beliefs held by Christians when they experience such struggles. And three, although she briefly mentions hope in the conclusion, the topic deserves a greater role in the treatment of depression especially given its critical role in psychotherapy and its prominence in Christian theology (e.g., Edwards & Jovanovski, 2016).


Review reference and document links


Sutton, G. W. (2017). Seven strategies for treating Christians with depression. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 45, 69-70. https://doi.org/10.1177/009164711704500106  Accepted 11/19/2016, Published March 1, 2017. 

DOWNLOAD REVIEW     ResearchGate Link    Academia Link   Kudos Link


Read more about Christian Cultures  AMAZON


A HOUSE DIVIDED FREE EXAM COPIES  TO PROFESSORS from PICKWICK




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Sunday, January 21, 2018

God's Bestseller: William Tyndale... Book Review

GOD’S BESTSELLER

William Tyndale, Thomas More,
and the Writing of the English Bible—
A Story of Martyrdom and Betrayal


By

Brian Moynahan

Reviewed By

Geoffrey W. Sutton




God’s Bestseller is a plot-driven biography of William Tyndale (1494-1536) and his ruthless antagonist, Thomas More. Character development is lacking due to the limited reliable information about Tyndale’s interactions with others. This is no fault of Moynahan because once Tyndale became known as an evangelical, aka heretic, he fled England to hide in Germany and the Netherlands to achieve his calling—the translation of the Bible into the vulgar tongue of English.

Even for readers who don’t know much about history, the book’s subtitle reveals the outcome—Tyndale was a martyr. What Moynahan treats us to is the life and death struggle between Tyndale and More, staged against political and religious battles for control of the Bible, money, and the lives of men and women.

Early on we get a small glimpse of Tyndale’s early years. We learn he went to both Oxford and Cambridge. He then set upon his life’s goal of completing an English translation of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into English. Such a translation was forbidden by the ruling Roman Catholic Church whose English warrior was none other than the famous Thomas More (1478-1535). In 1524, Tyndale left England for Germany and completed his English translation of the New Testament in 1525. The book became a bestseller despite its illegal status in England.

As Tyndale was working on the Old Testament, another battle took place between King Henry VIII and the Pope. As you may know, Henry was in lust with Anne Boleyn and eager to divorce his first wife, Catherine, who had given birth to Mary, but no male heir. The pope’s refusal to grant the divorce led to Henry’s 1534 break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England, which granted the divorce. The biblical battle runs from the bedroom to the continent as Queen Anne Boleyn kept a Tyndale New Testament at her bedside and was occasionally able to assist reform minded Englishmen until she fell victim to Henry’s penchant for other women.

As the political-religious battle waged between pope and king, More was rooting out heretics and sending them flaming into eternity. Following More’s flameout, Tyndale was eventually captured when he was betrayed by Henry Phillips. During his 500-day imprisonment, Tyndale responded at length to inquiries about his beliefs. In the end, he was strangled and burned at a stake 6 October, 1536.

Only three years after his death, Tyndale’s work provided a substantial basis for Myles Coverdale’s Great Bible (1539) and later, the King James or Authorised version of 1611. More’s legacy includes canonization by Pope Pius XI in 1935 and fame associated with Utopia.

Moynahan is a master of the art of creative nonfiction as he moves the story with lively conflicts between various religious and political characters. He illustrates the main points of disagreement between the reformers and the traditional church with quotes from Tyndale's original translation on such matters as transsubstantiation, priests vs. elders, and love vs. charity. Doctrines hang on the difference in meaning of a word or two. But more importantly, lives are at stake. For Tyndale, Christians do not eat the body of Christ during the Eucharist, they do not need a priest for confession, and 1 Corinthians 13 is about love--not charity and the association of charity with donations to the church. There's more of course--the famous Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith crops up in more than one battle.

 Moynahan keep us close to the action by pointing to familiar landmarks in the main cities of London and Antwerp but he also keeps us close to the era by judicious quotes from the main characters presented in early modern English.

Reference
Moynahan, B. (2002). God’s bestseller: William Tyndale, Thomas More, and the Writing of the English Bible—A Story of Martyrdom and Betrayal. New York: St. Martins.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

Taking Out the “White Trash” A Book Review



WHITE TRASH

The 400-Year Untold History  
 of Class in America


2016

Viking



Isenberg states her purpose on page 2. “…by reevaluating the American historical experience in class terms, I expose what is too often ignored about American identity.” She adds a second aim. “I also want to make it possible to better appreciate the gnawing contradictions still present in modern American society.” Her major theme appears to be a persistent lack of equality since the early English settlements gained a foothold in America: “How does a culture that prizes equality of opportunity explain, or indeed accommodate, its persistently marginalized people?”

She encourages Americans to “recognize the existence of our underclass.” And offers us a question to answer: “The puzzle of how white trash embodied this tension is one of the key questions the book presumes to answer.”

As we might expect of from a history professor (LSU), Isenberg begins at the beginning—that is, she offers us an English context for the people selected to inhabit the early settlements in America. In doing so, she reminds us that a variety of whites came along with the storied religious Pilgrims and Puritans as well as the Virginia Gentlemen. She does not ignore slavery and the increasingly well-known horrors of African Americans. Rather, she focuses our attention on the laws and attitudes that excluded a white underclass from enjoying the opportunities of the wealthy rulers who governed the inhabitants of the eastern seaboard.

Twelve chapters, with catchy titles and colorful language aimed at classifying the poor whites, expose the uncharitable manner in which the elite used their power to keep a certain group of white people within limited boundaries. We discover American leaders identified common characteristics of laziness, low ambition, and a general uncleanness of people variously labeled rubbish, poor white trash, clay-eaters, and mudsills.

Often, quoted leaders use breeding analogies to refer to the quality of human stock. Blood lines and the importance of good parents are linked as explanations for the status of the poor and their characteristics that serve as missing rungs on the proverbial ladder of success. When the theory of eugenics arrives in the US, we see many leaders embracing the beliefs like converts to a tent revival.

From time to time we learn of plans to improve the lot of poor whites. There are efforts to give ambitious people a parcel of land, which often required the removal of Native Americans. As we move into the 1900s, we learn of the political battles over such efforts as FDR’s programs during the Great Depression when there was visible evidence of downward mobility and later, Johnson’s Great Society. Helpfully, Isenberg points out the uselessness of the occasional celebrations of poor folks who make it. Sometimes she points out the false claims of the rags to riches stories. At other times, she reminds us that such celebratory news stories are rare events and not typical of the vast underclass that remain at a considerable distance from the halls of wealth and power.

By the time I reached the end of the book, I felt overwhelmed by the stories used to support her thesis. Indeed, America has an underclass. Although some of the stories are new to me, I was familiar with others from various sources such as PBS documentaries, textbooks on history and sociology, and living amongst the poor and middle class for most of my early life.
Nations have myths so it is not surprising to learn that many of the American myths were quite detached from reality. What is interesting is the degree to which the myths and belief systems create such an effective class structure.

I am no historian but I like to think of other possibilities to account for a set of findings. Isenberg has focused on the underclass in the early American colonies and the persistence of the poor whites in the American South. Having lived in New Mexico for some years, and finding many poor who were nether white nor of British heritage, it seems her thesis needs to be broadened to consider the influence of the Spanish who ruled vast swaths of what is now the United States. And why not consider the influence of French culture on mid-America—especially since the French held sway where the author lives and works in Baton Rouge?

Another factor that seems to be missing is a careful analysis of the role religion plays in maintaining or limiting the status of poor whites. After all, regardless of which European country the ancestors of America’s whites called home, most Americans have identified with some brand of Christianity. From time to time we hear advice to respect authority in church and in society. Isn’t religion and important factor in the status of America’s class system?
Isenberg’s attacks on breeding myths, blood, and eugenics are important. Such ideas rule even amongst those with graduate degrees in biology and the behavioral sciences. Nevertheless, she appears too dismissive of biological factors in accounting for the factors that make life a significant challenge to acquire and education or job skills that could become the path out of poverty.

Finally, I am disappointed in her lack of consistent comparisons across the historical time periods. Sometimes we are treated to quotes from influential political leaders, including the founding fathers. At other times she delves into the details of a novel or a play. What’s missing is some sort of weighting of the contribution of different sources to an understanding of why we continue to have an underclass.

So far, I am fortunate to have experienced the traditional American Dream. Our first home in America was indeed a filthy, insect infested, block rental house. Both of my parents left school at age 14, which was not uncommon amongst their peers, but considered a factor in poverty discussions. We were fortunate to have help from neighbors--a few white families and one black family--community makes a difference. And my father was healthy enough to work loading concrete blocks on trucks--health is worth a lot. When we needed more money, my mother was fortunate to find employment in retail shops or cleaning homes. In addition to the early start, I am now aware that I benefitted from white male privilege. But I recognize, that there are many white Americans who remain poor. And there are many reasons for their ongoing struggle.


I suggest the book will be useful to those who are unaware of the attitudes of America’s elite toward the poor and the history of false beliefs about why some people fail to achieve a modicum of independence from reliance on government support and help from area charities. Readers will not find a broad consideration of the causes of poverty or effective ways to raise their standard of living.



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