Wednesday, December 23, 2020

American St Nick- Review


The American St Nick




   The Men Who Restored Christmas


A great Christmas story combines warmth, kindness, generosity, traditions, and a memorable event—especially one that brings hope against the backdrop of an evil empire. A true story describing how a few soldiers from the 28th Infantry Division restored Christmas for the children of Wiltz, Luxembourg ranks with the best.

In late 1944, the allies had the German soldiers on the run. By December, some men were sent to Wiltz, Luxembourg for a much needed break. The townsfolk were grateful for the liberation from five years of Nazi rule including the ban on their Christmas tradition. This year they planned to restore the celebration of Saint Nicolas (Klees’chen) on 6 December but they were at a loss for gifts and treats.

Jewish Corporal Harry Stutz meets with the local priest, Father Wolffe, and other town leaders to see what could be done. He then plans a party with help from fellow soldiers who cook doughnuts and gather donations of sweets and items sent to soldiers from family and friends. Finally, he turns to friend Corporal Richard Brookins to play the role of Saint Nicholas. A bit reluctant at first, Brookins agrees then dons the priest’s garb, a worn rope beard, and a broken staff. After a sleigh ride via Army Jeep through town, the children and their families join the soldiers at Wiltz Castle.

Alas the war was not over. The Germans initiated a final resistance effort (Battle of the Bulge). Allied bombers responded and many in Wiltz lost their lives along with much of their town.

But after the war, the joy and hope of that special day was remembered. The celebration of 1944 was recounted far and wide. After some effort, connections were made with Corporal Brookins and some others. They returned to a warm welcome by the children who never forgot. 

Last year (2014) 94-year-old Richard Brookins joined in a re-enactment—riding again in a jeep as he had 70 years ago.

I saw the story on PBS presented as The American St. Nick. There is also a book by Peter Lion, which I haven’t read. Here’s a link to more on the story at the WW II Foundation.

Resources at WW II Foundation

The Book on AMAZON


Handbook Psychology of Religion 2nd

 Handbook of the Psychology     


 of Religion and Spirituality

     2nd Ed.

By

   Raymond F. Paloutzian

    & Crystal L. Parks, Eds.


Reviewed by

  Geoffrey W. Sutton



As I write this review, world leaders, both secular and religious, have attempted to separate the heinous actions of murderous groups identifying with religion from the majority of people who practice their religion in peaceful ways. As the editors observe, the importance of religion and spirituality hardly needs justification. The editors and authors of the thirty-three chapters clearly focus their attention on a psychological perspective without ignoring the contribution of sociologists and anthropologists. They accomplish this by focusing on two meta-themes, which the editors propose will take scholars beyond the endless attempts at formulating definitions of the terms religion and spirituality. 

The first meta-theme views the study of religion in the context of meaning systems, which enable people to integrate their beliefs, feelings, and behavior with the ongoing stream of information one encounters in life. 

The second meta-theme is an affirmation of a “multilevel interdisciplinary paradigm,” which encourages researchers to examine any topic at any level of analysis in an effort to build a richer understanding. In this view, there is a place for the neuroscientist to examine the role of neurochemistry and neuroanatomy in religious experience as well as for the scientist collecting thematic material by interviewing practitioners about their experiences wherever they worship or practice their faith.

This handbook is divided into six parts that focus on progress since the first handbook was published in 2005. In reading the chapters and checking the dates on the references, I found that, for the most part, the authors provided sufficient context to track the historical trajectory of a particular subfield even though the focus is on the proliferation of research in the past eight years. Both the subject and author indexes are extensive and will serve readers well in tracking a particular topic. For example, entries for the following topics include multiple subtopics taking up more than half of a column: Developmental Psychology, Forgiveness, Meaning systems, Mental health, Moral concern, and Religious coping. In contrast, several high-profile media topics garnered a few pages of references (number in parentheses): abortion (1), homosexuality (4), LBGT or LGBTQ (0).

 

Part I consists of seven foundational chapters. I consider the first two chapters as two parts of a State of the Field report. The editors provide an overview of progress in chapter one, and chapter two reviews progress on defining the elusive concepts of religion and spirituality. The other basic chapters cover measurement, research methods, psychodynamic and evolutionary approaches, and cross-cultural comparisons. Part II consists of three chapters covering research on religion and spirituality through the lifespan.

 In Part III readers will find contributions to the study of religion from various disciplines within general psychology. These include neuropsychology, cognitive psychology, social psychology, cross-cultural psychology, and focal chapters on purpose, affect, and personality.

 Part IV consists of several classical issues. The lead chapter, by Crystal Park, re-iterates one of the key themes—Religion and Meaning. Other classic topics include spiritual struggles, spiritual transformation (conversion, deconversion), mystical and related experiences, ritual and prayer, fundamentalism, and two more recent areas of research—forgiveness and the role of religion in self-control.

 Part V has a pragmatic focus. Chapters focus on the interaction of religion and spirituality with health, mental health, coping, mindfulness, and psychotherapy. Two other chapters consider spirituality in the workplace and the link to terrorism.

 Part VI includes one chapter. The editors offer thoughts on directions for the future of the field. The lengthy chapter title refers to the future of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. The inclusion of spirituality is in itself evidence of change, as the field has been known for decades as simply the Psychology of Religion.

 This second edition of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality is a valuable tool for anyone interested in research and a richer understanding of how individuals and groups understand and practice their faith. In some ways, the discipline could be called the Psychology of Christianity. Thus, the book is of high interest to readers living in Christian cultures or wanting to understand the nuances of Christianity played out in the lives of its adherents, regardless of official church doctrines. This limitation to research on Christians is no fault of the handbook, but it does serve as a reminder that more research is needed to better understand that near universal aspect of human nature deemed religious or spiritual. 

Another issue a novice reader might conclude is that researchers understand this core aspect of human behavior by relying on surveys. There are some experiments, interviews, and comparative group studies, but surveys have, in fact, dominated the field. Given the increasing interest in religion and spirituality, this, too, should change in the years ahead as scientists build models and conduct studies likely to expand understanding in laboratory and field experiments as well as quality longitudinal studies.

 Clergy and other religious leaders are well aware that what is taught in places of worship or written in the Bible and other sacred texts is often at variance with the way people live out their faith. This handbook addresses the understanding of human nature and its relationship to religion and spirituality. This understanding is necessarily incomplete without considering the theological context in which people practice their faith, but in these thirty-three chapters, readers will find intriguing insights into how people pray, rely on the Bible and other texts for guidance, convert and deconvert from one belief system to another, and struggle with doubt. Of practical relevance to ministry are summaries of findings linking religious faith to a variety of health and mental health conditions. The growing body of research on the role of religion in terrorist activities might be of interest to some readers. I expect this book to be a tremendous resource for professors and students of religion and religiously linked interdisciplinary studies in seminaries and universities around the world.

 

Reference

Paloutzian, R. F. & Park, C.L. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality, 2nd. Edition. New York: Guildford.

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Monday, December 21, 2020

European Pentecostalism - Book Reviews

European 

Pentecostalism     

By

   William K. Kay

Reviewed by

   Various

European Pentecostalism is a 398-page book, which is the seventh volume in a series of 12 titled “Global Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies.” The series is published by Brill. The book is not exclusively a behavioural science text but part three included sociological perspectives.

********

A review by Michael Wilkinson finds the book useful for sociology of religion researchers.

“Finally, the sociological and statistical coverage, while general, will be of value to sociologists of religion, especially those conducting current research on the movement. This material provides an excellent framework and background for current issues of migration, globalization, religious diversity, and cultural change.” (p . 130).

********

In Paul Schmidgall’s review, he refers to data describing the scope of Pentecostalism in the Introduction by Anne Dyer with data from 2001. His comments reveal appreciation for Kay’s sociological perspective:

“In the sociological section, William Kay looks back into the past and identifies “the two world-wars and state-sponsored communism as the major factors which disrupted European Pentecostalism in the 20th century (389)” This is well taken, even if we must not forget, on the other hand that, Pentecostalism has also experienced tremendous growth under communist persecution and right after the two world-wars.” (p. 301).

Link to more books on  >> Pentecostal Studies

References

Kay, W. K. & Dyer, A. E. (Eds.). (2011). European Pentecostalism. Leiden: Brill.

Schmidgall, P. (2013). European Pentecostalism. Pneuma, 35(2), 300–302. https://doi.org/10.1163/15700747-12341339

Wilkinson, M. (2013). European Pentecostalism. Sociology of Religion74(1), 129–130. https://doi.org/10.1093/socrel/srt001

 


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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Spotlight- Movie Review

 Spotlight

Director

  Tom McCarthy

Writers

  Tom McCarthy

  Josh Singer

US Release

6 November 2015


My wife and I saw the award-winning film, Spotlight. We both came away shocked and disturbed. The actors did a superb job at evoking a strong emotional response to the outrageous behavior of church and community leaders who covered-up child sexual abuse in Boston. The damage to human lives is horrendous.

For me, the timing of the film is ironic. Two days before seeing the film, I reviewed proofs on my book A House Divided: Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures. The book represents two years of work examining sexuality in the church from the perspective of moral psychology. I aim to promote open discussions of healthy Christian sexuality. But I also wrote about sexual abuse because it would be irresponsible to ignore it. As Spotlight illustrates, sex abuse happens in the church and a lot of people get seriously hurt.

Spotlight is the name of the investigative unit at the Boston Globe Newspaper. The movie, Spotlight, is a dramatic film of the investigation into the cases of child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the area of Boston Massachusetts. 

The investigation begins in 2001 when the new managing editor, Marty Baron, meets Walter "Robby" Robinson of the spotlight team. Baron read an article alleging a cover up of a priest's child molestation by Cardinal Bernard Law and encourages the team to investigate. The investigation leads to more discoveries of abuse by many more priests.


Spotlight Lessons

There’s so much that could be said about sex-abuse scandals in churches. Here’s a look at six lessons using a moral framework of six dimensions derived from the work of Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind ) and his colleagues.

1. Care vs. Harm

We expect churches to be in the business of caring about people—not just souls but wholes—as H. Norman Wright says. In Spotlight we find a common practice of caring more about one’s colleagues than about the damage done to the victims and survivors. The message of the Christian gospels directs attention to the social outcasts during the time of Jesus’ ministry.

Our moral impulse is to care for the young and vulnerable. Children do not survive without parental care. Righteous anger naturally rises when we see harm done to children. It’s a perversion of morality to turn the care-harm focus on an organization rather than the people an organization ought to serve.


Estimated percentages of child sexual abuse in the U.S. are
27% for girls and 16% of boys. 
See “Nature and Scope…”


2. Equality and Justice

The film shows the lack of justice accorded those who suffered deeply from child sex-abuse. A friend of mine, psychologist Ev Worthington, often speaks about the problem of the “justice gap.” We all have an innate sense of injustice. We are motivated to close the gap—to seek justice. Anger fueled vengeance seeks to right the wrongs in society. And sometimes it’s personal as seen in the film. I felt angry. Anger is a good thing when destructive people and their unjust systems are dismantled or reformed.

3. Oppression and the need for freedom

Following the publication of the sex abuse scandal, the Boston Globe was inundated with phone calls from area victims. The breaking of the sex-scandal was like blowing up a dam. People in chains to memories of sexual violence came forward. The silence of churches and organizations is oppressive. Silence can prevent victims from becoming survivors. Christian attitudes toward ethnic minorities and women are two other examples of religiously justified oppression. Faith ought to set people free. Too often leaders of faith keep people in chains.


Silence can prevent victims from becoming survivors.


4. Respect for Authority

A society cannot survive if the participants do not respect legitimate authority. Religious and political leaders are human beings who often act out of self-interest. Sadly, religious leaders often hide behind a cloak of godly authority. At times religious leaders have acted as if an attack on the clergy or the church is an attack on God.

It’s always been that way. Christians fret about the deteriorating morals of society. Unfortunately, many religions have lost their historic claim to moral authority. The scandal revealed in Spotlight is one massive example of the importance of holding leaders accountable in any organization that wants to have a moral voice.

5. Loyalty vs. Betrayal




In Spotlight we see efforts to encourage people to be loyal to the home team. Loyalty to Boston and the Catholic church is a virtue. Don’t destroy the works of good people because of a few “bad apples.” It’s interesting that the film focuses on numbers as if a quantifiable critical mass of bad priests is needed before one feels justified to “betray” the church.

Loyalty is indeed a virtue. But where one’s loyalty lies is important. Christians, and all moral people, are continually tested to determine whether their loyalty lies with their church/religion, pastor, political party, nuclear family, extended family, school, and so forth. At times, the ties that bind us to others must be broken. Spotlight shows what can happen when misplaced loyalty reinforces destructive church practices.

6. Purity vs. Degradation

The church has often portrayed sex as dirty and unclean. Shining the Spotlight on the filthy frocks in the church reveals dirt instead of the moral purity expected of its leaders. Sexual purity remains a focus of many Christian groups who periodically rail against premarital sex and pornography.

The film, Spotlight, evokes disgust. Disgust over sexuality provokes the desire to be clean. We find the behavior of the priests and the church disgusting. Disgust moves us to protection. Disgust can be a good thing. But we must protect those who have been hurt not an organization that perpetuates harm.

As long as churches are led by people, problems of uncontrolled sexual behavior will persist. The people who govern any organization ought always to be disgusted enough to “clean up” their organization. But churches must focus on those who have been hurt by the actions of their leaders. People who have been sexually abused often report feeling dirty. I once heard a woman say of the Christian leader who abused her, “I felt like trash-- a piece of paper that he wadded up and tossed in the trash.”

Read more about Sex and Christian morality, in  A House Divided

For related works, see my book list and reviews about Sex and Religion 

  


Resources


To learn more about the problem of child sexual abuse, see the Catholic Church report on the abuse of minors for the period 1950 to 2002. It is available from the USCCB.

Link to a 2002 Spotlight team report at the Boston Globe.

The story behind the movie, Spotlight at the Boston Globe.

Clergy Sexual abuse is not just a Catholic issue. Newsweek story 7 April 2010.


















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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Unbroken-Survival Resilience and Redemption

 UNBROKEN

A World War II Story

of Survival, Resilience,  

and Redemption

By

   Laura Hillenbrand

Reviewed by

   Geoffrey W. Sutton

Unbroken is the true story of Olympian Louis Zamperini who survived the crash of his plane in the Pacific Ocean and endured severe abuse at the club wielding hands of his captors.

Hillenbrand provides key elements of Louis biography. He was in trouble with the law as a youth but became a track star in High School. Eventually, he was chosen to be on the 1936 US Olympic Team, which competed in Berlin. A few years later, Louie enlisted in the military.

Zamperini became an airman. On a mission in 1943, his plane crashed in the Pacific. He and two other men floated on a raft for 47 days punctuated by severe thirst and starvation, sharks aboard the raft, Japanese machine-gun fire, and even a typhoon. 

They were captured by Japanese and sent to a POW camp where they were severely tormented until he was near death by the time the war ended. His particular ordeal was the extreme pain and anguish inflicted by a man called "The Bird."

Sadly, Louis Zamperini was only physically liberated. He would now have to endure psychological torture now known as PTSD. Hellish dreams destroyed his nights. He was filled with rage, hatred, and thoughts of revenge. And he drank too much. 

Louis Zamperini's life was transformed in a classic conversion story. He found peace, let go of his anger, and lost motivation to seek revenge. Instead, he returned to the nation that tortured him in 1950. Naturally, he thought about the one man most responsible for the extreme brutality and haunting post-war suffering. The arch tormentor, The Bird, was not there. It was at this time that Louis felt a sense of compassion and realised he had forgiven his enemy.

I recommend this book for several reasons. Hillenbrand is an excellent writer who documents her research in copious end-of-book notes. My parents survived World War II in London so I am used to learning about death and destruction as well as miraculous survivors, but Louis' story overwhelms me with respect for this man's life-- his courage, bravery, and resilience are extreme. And the story of forgiveness and redemption inspire even now as I write this review.

As a psychologist, I am well acquainted with soldiers and civilians who have struggled with PTSD. I have studied forgiveness and religious conversions. The story of Louis Zamperini offers a case study that rings true and offers hope that others may also experience post-traumatic growth and a transformed life.

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To read more about Forgiveness, see FORGIVENESS and RECONCILIATION

Key Words: World War II, POW, Survival, Resilience, PTSD, Post-Traumatic Growth, Forgiveness, Reconciliation, Spiritual Conversion

Reference

Hillenbrand, L. (2010). Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. New York: Random House.

Unbroken has been made into a movie (2014) directed by Angelina Jolie. Here is a link to the YouTube trailer.



Here is a link to Zamperini's story of conversion.


At age 81, Louis Zamperini carried the Olympic Torch.






Pentecostal Studies- Book List & Reviews

 


I read a number of books reporting research with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians as a part of my own investigations and when writing Counseling and Psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians (2021). This book list with links to reviews or book summaries the product of that research.

I am using the concept, studies, to refer to scientific investigations that report quantitative or qualitative data. Some references refer to theorizing by scholars. 

I do not include religious studies or theological sources because that is not my area of expertise, although I did read several of these works in preparing the aforementioned counselling book.

Key Topics: Anthropology, Counselling, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Psychotherapy, Sociology, Integrating Christianity and Counseling or Psychotherapy

 

Counseling and Psychotherapy with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians by Geoffrey W. Sutton

 


 

 

 

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The Assemblies of God: Godly love and the revitalization of American Pentecostalism by M.M. Poloma & J.C. Green


 

 

 

 

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Catch the Fire: Soaking Prayer and Charismatic Renewal by Wilkinson & Althouse

 


 

 

 

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Christian Morality: An Interdisciplinary Framework for Thinking about      Contemporary  Moral Issues edited by Sutton & Schmidly    (Includes chapters by educators, a psychologist, and a sociologist)

 

 

 

 

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European Pentecostalism by William  K. Kay

 

 

 

 

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Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Restoration edited by Mittelstadt & Sutton (includes chapters by psychologists and sociologists)

 

 

 

 

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Godly Love: Impediments & Possibilities by Lee & Yong

 

 

 

 

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The Science and Theology of Godly Love by Lee & Yong

 

 

 

 

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Testing Prayer: Science and Healing by Brown

 

 

 

 

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 When God Talks Back by T.M. Luhrman

 

 

 

 

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 Related Post

Christian Counseling and Psychotherapy Books

 

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