Between the Lines: A Conversation with Rev. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, PhD – Part 2

We recently had the chance to talk with Rev. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, PhD, about her book, Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness.

Kathryn Greene-McCreight (PhD., Yale University) is Priest Associate at The Episcopal Church at Yale. Her previous books include Ad Litteram: How Augustine, Calvin, and Barth Read the Plain Sense of Genesis 1–3 and Feminist Reconstructions of Christian Doctrine: A Narrative Analysis and Appraisal.  She also serves on the board of the Elm City Chapter of NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and on the Patient and Advisory Council of Yale Psychiatric Hospital.

Part 1 of this interview is available here.

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3. You suggest that friendship is important for the mentally ill. Don’t we all need friendship?

Yes, we all need friendship. Ill people in general need friendship and companionship more than healthy people do. But mentally ill people especially need friends. The symptoms of mental illnesses themselves can be so isolating, both subjectively and objectively. The pain of mental illness is compounded by the isolation and stigma fueled by people’s fears of the symptoms.

 

4. You mention that feelings are relatively unimportant in our life before God. How can you say this when psychotherapy itself focuses mainly on feelings? Isn’t the exploration of feelings important in the healing process?

This is a good question. It is true that psychotherapy focuses in part on feelings. And that is important for healing, to learn how you feel and why. But you can’t leave it there. I think there is a misunderstanding of psychotherapy, or of good psychotherapy anyway. And I think this misunderstanding keeps many from seeking out psychotherapy. I actually had one person tell me that he did not need psychotherapy (although he clearly did) because he wasn’t a “feelings person.” As though feelings were the only thing psychotherapy would affect.

It is true that psychotherapy makes you face your feelings, learn to accept them, and learn how to act or not act on them. Most importantly, psychotherapy seeks to help the patient learn how to handle feelings so they don’t cause further pain, either to the patient or to those whom the patient loves or has to live with. Part of this goal is to keep the feelings from coming out in maladaptive actions rather than in healthy ways of relating.

To a certain extant, psychotherapy seeks to train the patient in proper communication. This can take the form of many kinds of therapy. Talk therapy and art therapy may be some of the most profound I have experienced. Art therapy, I must quickly add, is often mistaken for helping patients paste bits of construction paper and string and beads. Another caricature. The creative arts used in therapy can include painting, photography, writing, gardening, cooking, dance, etc. The goal is in part to bring the often denied or repressed negative feelings to the surface in a healthy way in order to short-circuit patterns of thinking and acting that might aggravate the symptoms of the mental illness.

But I think what I meant by saying that I mistrust feelings is in part this: feelings change so often and so dramatically. This is especially true for someone with poor mental health. Also, while you are of course right that psychotherapy deals (in part) with feelings, the Christian faith has to do with an action. That is, God’s action of healing the world in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Granted, much of Protestant Christianity rides on a tradition that would focus on feelings, whether the feeling of ultimate dependence on God, feeling of joy, feeling of love toward neighbor. These may make us feel good. They may not. But even if they don’t make us feel good, that doesn’t falsify the gospel. It doesn’t negate the faithfulness of our witness.

Evangelical Christianity can sometimes fall into a distortion of Christian confession by telling us that if we don’t feel the joy of the Lord, we somehow have missed the mark, we are not saved, we don’t believe aright, we don’t pray enough. But this all locates the truth of the gospel in our interiority and subjectivity. This is dangerous. People struggling with poor mental health sometimes simply cannot feel pleasure. The technical term for this is anhedonia. But the fact that we may not be able to feel joy doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love us or that we are lost. I think it is especially important for Christians who live with mental illnesses to be reminded that God is “objective.” Being a Christian is not a matter of subjective experience of God but of God’s objective reality. God is objectively real, whether we feel His presence or not. We all need to be reminded of that, ill or healthy. We all need to remind each other of that.

The Weekly Hit List: April 18, 2014

Margaret Feinberg concluded her series of interviews with Craig Blomberg, author of Can We Still Believe the Bible?.

“Is This the Most Divisive Bible Passage of Our Age?”
“The ban on women speaking just seems so out of place in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, like it was inserted later. It just doesn’t seem to go with the rest of the book. Did Paul really tell women to keep quiet in churches? How do you interpret 1 Corinthians 14:34-35?”

“3 Bible Questions You’ve Asked Yourself Before”
On the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers; what it means to be “fill with the Spirit”; and how the epistles were delivered.

 

Upcoming interview: Craig will appear on The Bob Dutko Show on Tuesday, April 22, at 1:00 p.m. ET.

 

Quick Hits:

Speaking of Dying by Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith, and Joy V. Goldsmith was quoted by The Substance of Faith.

Nicole Baker Fulgham and her book, Educating All God’s Children, were included in “Real Family Values: Child Care and Early Childhood Education” in Center for American Progress.

Cross-Shattered Christ by Stanley Hauerwas was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books.

 

Ebook Specials:

The Redemption of Love: Rescuing Marriage and Sexuality from the Economics of a Fallen World by Carrie A. Miles is only $3.99 (86% off) through April 22.

Lectionary Reflection for Palm Sunday

This excerpt comes from Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 21:1-11:

Jesus and the disciples come near to Jerusalem, reaching Bethphage and the Mount of Olives. This will be the staging area for Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

It is a triumphal entry, but one that parodies the entry of kings and their armies. This is the entry of the one who has come to serve, but that he has come to serve makes him no less a king.

The great King David went to the Mount of Olives in grief because of Absalom’s conspiracy against him (2 Sam. 15:30–31). Yet in Zech. 14:1–5 the Mount of Olives is the place where the Lord declares he will stand in order to defeat those who have gathered against Jerusalem. From that mount the Lord will become king over all the earth, forever securing Jerusalem from destruction.

Jesus stands on the Mount of Olives as one in mourning for Jerusalem, but also as its priest-king destined to bring all nations to the recognition of the God of David.

Accordingly, Jesus tells two of his disciples to “go” into the village ahead of them, where they will find a donkey tied with her colt. They are to untie the donkey and colt and bring them to Jesus. If anyone asks what they are doing, they are to say that “the Lord needs them,” and they will be sent with the donkey and colt back to Jesus.

Jesus identifies himself as the Lord, but one that will ride on an ass, a creature not normally associated with what it means to be a king. Victors in battle do not ride into their capital cities riding on asses, but rather they ride on fearsome horses.

But this king does not and will not triumph through force of arms.

 

©2006 by Stanley Hauerwas. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Ebook Special for The Redemption of Love by Carrie A. Miles

Now through April 22, the ebook of The Redemption of Love: Rescuing Marriage and Sexuality from the Economics of a Fallen World by Carrie A. Miles is only $3.99 (86% off) from the following participating retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

CBD

 

“An interesting study of gender roles and marriage. . . . Timely and relevant.”
Christine M. Fletcher, Journal of Markets & Morality

Today’s society is saturated with competing answers to the dilemmas of love, sex, relationships, marriage, gender roles, and family. In The Redemption of Love, Carrie Miles resists the temptation to jump to solutions without first stepping back to understand the problem and its cause.

Meticulous in her arguments, Miles leads the reader in discovering what the Bible has to say about love in the twenty-first century by using the relatively new tools of socioeconomics. The result is a comprehensive, compelling approach considering economics not in terms of money but with reference to how we allocate our time and energy and how our beliefs and values shape our identities.

Miles outlines a consistent description of biblical love throughout scripture. The differences that divide men and women and set them up for conflict today were not created by God, she argues, but by sin. According to Miles, the Bible shows us that the love God envisioned for his people is a “soul-stirring, deep, and passionate” love—the only effective solution Christians can offer in today’s battle to save marriage and family. This will be a valuable text for courses on family, marriage, and gender issues, as well as for clergy and laypeople searching for answers.

Carrie A. Miles (Ph.D., University of Chicago) works as an organizational psychologist and consultant in Fairfax, Virginia. She is a senior research fellow at the Consortium for the Economic Study of Religion at George Mason University, Virginia, and the executive officer of the Association for the Study of Religion, Economics, and Culture.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with Rev. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, PhD – Part 1

We recently had the chance to talk with Rev. Kathryn Greene-McCreight, PhD, about her book, Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness.

Kathryn Greene-McCreight (PhD., Yale University) is Priest Associate at The Episcopal Church at Yale. Her previous books include Ad Litteram: How Augustine, Calvin, and Barth Read the Plain Sense of Genesis 1–3 and Feminist Reconstructions of Christian Doctrine: A Narrative Analysis and Appraisal.  She also serves on the board of the Elm City Chapter of NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) and on the Patient and Advisory Council of Yale Psychiatric Hospital.

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1. What makes this book different from any other narrative of mental illness? You’ve written theological books before—how does this one differ from your other work?

A colleague once referred to the book as a memoir, but I corrected her. It is not a memoir. If it fits a genre, I might say it is a theodicy, but that doesn’t work either. Modern philosophical theodicy dwells on the level of theory. There is nothing wrong per se with theories about God’s relation to human suffering—unless you are in the midst of suffering, in which case theories are the last thing you need. Don’t try to give a theory to someone in the death throes of stage four cancer or to someone at the window ledge ready to jump.

Darkness asks questions about God’s relation to human suffering but from within a specific life, the life of a Christian trying to live faithfully with and in spite of a mental illness. The larger framework is not philosophical. The framework in which the questions are asked and lived out is orthodox Christian confession and practice.

I suppose I would say that, more properly, the book is a lament; it is a prayer; it is a testimony. It is an offering for the upbuilding of the Church in love of God and love of neighbor, especially in love of those neighbors who happen to live with mental illnesses.

 

2. Why did you title your book Darkness Is My Only Companion?

The phrase “Darkness is my only companion” is from the final verse of Psalm 88 in the 1979 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (BCP) psalter. Because I pray the psalms from the Book of Common Prayer, I memorized the verse as it is translated there: “My friend and neighbor you have put away from me, and darkness is my only companion.” When I prayed, it rang out to me. As hard as this may be for others to understand, it even reassured me. I could feel completely alone and in pain and in darkness, but that was okay. My complete despair was not a sign of my lack of faith. If the psalmist could cry out in such misery, then I felt it was okay for me to say it too.

But here is where things get muddy. You can blame the negativity of my title on the odd translation of the 1979 revision of the 1928 prayerbook’s psalter. The 1979 BCP modernized Coverdale’s long-cherished translation of the psalter, which had laid the foundation for the classical tradition of English psalmody from the sixteenth century onward. Here is Coverdale’s translation: “My lovers and friends hast thou put away from me, and hid mine acquaintance out of my sight.” Coverdale’s translation is closer, it seems to me, to the Hebrew, Septuagint, and Vulgate than is the 1979 BCP. In fact, I don’t quite see how or why the translators came to render the verse as they did. Here it is in the RSV: “Thou hast caused lover and friend to shun me; my companions are in darkness.” The NRSV is not much different. “You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me; my companions are in darkness.” The other English translations I checked do not understand darkness itself to be the psalmist’s companion.

If I were to have written it now, I think I would have entitled it using the first part of John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness.” Or maybe Psalm 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.” I would choose these not so much because they are more uplifting than “Darkness is my only companion,” but because I don’t like the 1979 BCP translation of Psalm 88:19! But this didn’t occur to me at the time.

The Weekly Hit List: April 11, 2014

Two Brazos Press titles were selected as finalists in the 2014 Christian Retailing‘s Best Awards.

iGods by Craig Detweiler was nominated in the Church and Culture category.

 

 

On God’s Side by Jim Wallis was nominated in the Social Issues category.

 

 

The complete list of finalists is available here. Winners will be announced in June.

 

Quick Hits:

Craig Detweiler, author of iGods, appeared with Edward Blum on Religions & Ethics Newsweekly on PBS.

Nicole Baker Fulgham, author of Educating All God’s Children, wrote “School Equality as a Matter of Faith” with Aria Kirkland-Harris for PRISM Magazine.

Craig Blomberg, author of Can We Still Believe the Bible?, was interviewed by Margaret Feinberg: “The Most Misinterpreted Verse in The Bible Uncoded”

Can We Still Believe the Bible? by Craig Blomberg was recommended by Nate Claiborne.

Learning for the Love of God by Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby was recommended by Byron Borger of Hearts & Minds Books.

Generous Spaciousness (May 2014) by Wendy VanderWal-Gritter was mentioned by Publishers Weekly.

Lectionary Reflection for the Sixth Sunday in Lent

This excerpt comes from Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 27:11-54:

Who killed Jesus . . . cannot be determined by any one text. That it is unclear from the gospels and especially from Matthew who killed Jesus, is not accidental.

Matthew, as we have seen from the beginning, has written his gospel in which we cannot avoid being a disciple of Jesus, one of the elites, or a member of the crowd. The answer to the question of who killed Jesus, therefore, is that we all killed Jesus.

The disciples killed Jesus by deserting him. The crowd killed Jesus because they were a crowd. The elites of Israel killed Jesus because they feared his call to holiness. Pilate killed Jesus because he had the responsibility to maintain order. “The people as a whole” killed Jesus because they had nothing better to do.

We all killed and continue to kill Jesus. So let us all say that “his blood be on us and on our children!”

Jesus must be killed because Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus must be killed because Jesus has called into existence a new people who constitute a challenge to the world order based on lies and deceit. Jesus must be killed because he is a threat to all who rule in the name of safety and comfort. Jesus must be killed because we do not desire to have our deepest desires exposed. Jesus must be killed because we do not want our loves governed by his love. Jesus must be killed because we refuse to forgive our enemies. Jesus must be killed because we do not believe in a God who creates us and who would come among us after our likeness. . . .

Why did he have to die? Why did he have to die on a cross? The latter question seems easily answered. He had to die on a cross because that is the way Romans executed those they regarded as a threat to their interest. Hang them high so that all could see what happens when one challenges Rome.

But that answer is not sufficient for us to understand why he had to die on a cross. He died on a cross to reveal the heart of God. The cross is where God’s life crosses our life to create a life otherwise unimaginable.

 

©2006 by Stanley Hauerwas. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Brazos Press at the Festival of Faith and Writing

This Thursday through Saturday (April 10-12) is the biennial Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Begun in 1990, this conference “brings together writers, editors, publishers, musicians, artists, and readers for three days of discussing and celebrating insightful writing that explores, in some significant way, issues of faith.”

You can find more info about the FF&W (including a schedule of events) here.

Brazos Press, alongside the other divisions of Baker Publishing Group, will be in the exhibition hall (at booths #7-9) highlighting many of our new and relevant titles. Also, several lectures and workshops during the conference include Brazos authors. Here are a few highlights:

Thursday, 3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.: Daniel Taylor will present on “The Use of Story in Popular Apologetics: Why It Works and How to Do It.”

Friday, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Marlena Graves will participate in a panel discussion with Edward Gilbreath, Al Hsu, and Helen Lee on “Issues Facing Writers of Color in Christian Publishing.”

Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.: Miroslav Volf will present on “The Ends of Our Lives.”

Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.: Brazos Press acquisitions editor Robert Hosack will participate in a panel discussion with Rachel Marie Stone and Adrianna Wright on “Publishing While Christian: How Not to Lose Your Soul as You Write and Promote Your Book.”

Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Daniel Taylor will participate in a panel discussion with John Leax and James Schaap on “Wearing Our Trousers Rolled: Writing into the Years.”

Saturday, 3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.: Miroslav Volf will be interviewed.

We are excited to be a part of this year’s festival and that Brazos Press will be so well represented. If you’re around for the festival, be sure to stop by our booth to say hello!

Ebook Special for Real Sex by Lauren F. Winner

Now through April 10, the ebook of Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity by Lauren F. Winner is only $5.99 (60% off) from the following participating retailers:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

CBD

 

Christianity Today 2006 Book Award Winner

“Winner, author of the critically acclaimed memoir Girl Meets God, weaves an intriguing tapestry from sociological, autobiographical, pastoral, and historical threads. She balances a journalistic report of how difficult chastity is for American Christians; a personal account of how she and her friends have approached premarital sex and marital sex; a survey of what the Bible, pastors, and good Christian books say about the topic; and an overview of how chastity has been understood throughout Christian history. The candor with which Winner writes about sex may alarm some Christian readers, but those who follow her arguments to their conclusions will find themselves rewarded with fresh insights about an overdiscussed but still deeply entrenched problem among Christians. Interestingly, some of Winner’s best insights are about married sex. . . . Winner places real sex not in the passionate world of one-night stands and dating relationships but in the ordinary, domestic life of married couples. As such, she helpfully and perhaps even radically reframes both the Christian and cultural discussion of chastity and sexuality.”
Publishers Weekly

SEX. Splashed across magazine covers, billboards, and computer screens-sex is thrilling, necessary, unavoidable. And everybody’s doing it, right?

In Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity, Lauren Winner speaks candidly to single Christians about the difficultyand the importanceof sexual chastity. With nuance and wit, she talks about her own sexual journey. Never dodging tough terms like “confession” and “sin,” she grounds her discussion of chastity first and foremost in scripture. She confronts cultural lies about sex and challenges how we talk about sex in church (newsflash: however wrong it is, premarital sex can feel liberating and enjoyable!). Building on the thought of Wendell Berry, she argues that sex is communal rather than private, personal rather than public.

Refusing to slink away from thorny topics, Winner deftly addresses pornography, masturbation, and the perennial question of “how far is too far?” Winner also digs deeper: What does chastity have to do with loving my neighbor? How does my sexual behavior form habits and expectations? With compassion and grit, she calls Christians, both married and single, to pursue chastity as conversion and amendment of life. Real Sex will be an essential read for single Christians grappling with chastity, for married Christians committed to monogamy, and for those who counsel them.

Lauren F. Winner (PhD, Columbia University) is the highly acclaimed author of the memoir Girl Meets God. She is assistant professor of Christian spirituality at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, and has written for theNew York Times Book Review, the Washington Post Book WorldPublishers Weekly,Christianity Today, and Christian Century.

Lectionary Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

From Ezekiel (BTCB) by Robert W. Jenson, commenting on Ezekiel 37:1-14:

Ezekiel 37:1–14 is undoubtedly the most famous passage in Ezekiel’s book: besides inspiring a popular song, it is prominent in both Jewish and Christian iconography and has been endlessly debated in Jewish and Christian exegesis and speculation (Zimmerli 1983: 263–65).

I will declare my own enthusiasm immediately: the vision of Israel as dry bones and the promise of the bones’ resurrection are from a certain Christian point of view the effective culmination of Ezekiel’s prophecy and book, and indeed of the Old Testament.

For it has come to this: Israel as a whole and as such (37:11) is—as Ezekiel so often threatened—well and truly dead, a strewing of remains no longer even skeletal, so definitely of the past that the bones have separated and preserve no personal identities—no one can even point and say, “Alas, poor . . . I knew him well.”

The word of Gen. 2:17 has finally been fulfilled: the clash between God’s will for his human creatures, by which alone they live, and their refusal to follow that will, has been worked out in the history of Israel and has come to its inevitable conclusion.

Is then what the Lord here shows Ezekiel what it appears to be, the irreversible end of Israel’s history with the Lord? And that is, of the bearer of the Lord’s history with all humanity? Can Israel rise again? Indeed, can humanity, dependent for its specific being on the Lord’s presence in history, live as what it was created to be? The Lord puts the question to Ezekiel: “Son of a man, what do you think? Can the dead live again?”

Ezekiel has no answer; this knowledge is beyond a son of a man. But Ezekiel does know that the Lord is the giver of life; our passage is pervaded by reminiscence of the Lord’s first vivification of humankind (Gen. 2:7). And he knows that therefore the Lord can answer the question yes or no as he chooses. So he throws the question back.

For answer he receives an implicit yes: a command to prophesy life to the dead. Even in the nonbeing of death the bones can hear him, because the word given the prophet is the same word that gives being and life in the first place, that addresses precisely “things that are not” (1 Cor. 1:28).

Thus Ezekiel is to do nothing less than speak the dead back to life (Ezek. 37:4–6): we arrive at the extreme possibility of the prophets’ general assignment “to pluck up and to pull down, . . . to build and to plant” ( Jer. 1:9–10). In the vision, Ezekiel speaks as commanded and the dead are raised (Ezek. 37:7–10).

 

©2009 by Robert Jenson. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.