The Weekly Hit List: February 26, 2016

 The Englewood Review of BooksBook Trailer of the Week was for The Justice Calling by Bethany Hanke Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson.

Byron Borger praised The Justice Calling as well as The Future of our Faith by Ron Side and Ben Lowe.

“What a book! On the heels of #Jubilee2016 this is perfect for me, since the conversations within circle around a huge question for many of us: what is the future of the evangelical movement, in what ways do the rising Christian leaders see things similarly or differently than older church leaders, and what are the burning issues pressing on us now, and looming on the horizon.”

Quick Hits:

Peter Leithart’s Traces of the Trinity was reviewed at Mere Orthodoxy.

At Thoughts, Prayers, and Songs, James called Kathryn Greene-McCreight’s Darkness is my Only Companion “required reading for anyone doing pastoral work.”

Kristen Williams reviewed To The Table by Lisa Graham McMinn.

The Weekly Hit List: October 23, 2015

Free to Serve: Grand Rapids EventJoin us Monday the 26th in Grand Rapids, for a special launch event for Free to Serve! The author and practitioner panel will continue a conversation launched by Free to Serve — on how faith-based organizations can meaningfully relate to one another, community leaders, government, and the media as we serve.


Jonathan Grant’s Divine Sex was reviewed at AJ Cerda.

This is the best book on Biblical sexuality that I have ever read….Jonathan Grant has done the Christian community a gigantic favor by meticulously pealing apart the layers of the modern sexual imaginary to expose the pathologies which are at the heart of the secularization of sexuality. This will satisfy the intellectual curiosities of your inner philosopher; but Grant does not leave the reader with a philosophical assessment of the sexual imaginary, he offers a solidly Biblical and deeply profound vision for the future of sexuality. The church, for her part, would be wise to listen.


Quick Hits:

Medieval Wisdom for Modern Christians, by Chris Armstrong, appeared in the Publishers Weekly article Exploring C. S. Lewis’s Lasting Popularity—52 Years After His Death.

Drew McIntyre, at Plowshares Into Swords, reviewed Darkness is My Only Companion, by Kathryn Greene-McCreight.

 

 

Feeling, Memory, and Personality – an excerpt from Darkness Is My Only Companion

The following is an excerpt from Darkness Is My Only Companion by Kathryn Greene-McCreight.

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Cover Art

I find that many people think of God as a self-help device we can use to improve our personality. To help us quit smoking, drinking, overeating. To help us be nicer people so we can stand to live in our own skin. To help us win more friends and influence more people. Or maybe even to be more affluent.

The drive to improve ourselves, personality included, motivates much religion in America. Many of us Christians are functional atheists, even though we may be quite pious indeed. We often can’t imagine how our religion would require anything of us that would not be directed solely to our own betterment. Even working toward justice and peace can sometimes be a veiled attempt to make us feel less unacceptable to ourselves, easier to live with.

But if God is really the God of the Bible, then he demands our worship and obedience despite how we feel about it, or about ourselves, or others.

Of course, it is always pleasant to feel good. And it would be especially nice not to go through life wanting to end it. But even this doesn’t separate us from God. Even wanting to return the gift of life does not damn us. “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Even before we make the slightest move out of our sloth to reach out to God this is true. The hard part when one is mentally ill can be choosing life. It is ever that, though, which is demanded of us. This is the hard part. How we feel does not change anything objectively about our life before God.

What will allow for our survival is not how we feel but what we remember, what God did for us and does for us. The Baʽal Shem Tov (1698–1760, founder of the Hasidic movement in Judaism) once said, “Exile is caused by forgetfulness, and the secret of redemption is memory.” I must remember, even if I don’t feel it, that I am part of a people of faith, of hope, of love. I cannot doubt or question that memory, even though all evidence would lead me to conclude that I never really did trust, never really did hope, never really did love.

I may feel like a hypocrite now for even pretending to pray. But how I feel, after all, is not that important. If I can do nothing else, I must simply remember that I am a part of the community of faith, the body of Christ, that I was once able to participate in the praises of Israel. “Put your trust in God; for I will yet give thanks to him, who is the help of my countenance, and my God” (Ps. 42:7).

©2015 by Kathryn Greene-McCreight. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

God goes on Loving – Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, on Darkness Is My Only Companion

The following is an excerpt from Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s foreword to Darkness Is My Only Companion by Kathryn Greene-McCreight.

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Cover ArtI must begin with a confession. I only began to read Kathryn Greene-McCreight’s book because my friend and colleague N. T. (Tom) Wright asked me to do so.

Since one of my own children began to blog and tweet about her own experience of mental illness, the daily experience has been of strangers writing and suggesting that they have come up with the book, treatment, diet, or other solution that solves the problem right away. One begins to get a little cynical. And so when Tom wrote to me asking me to look at this book, I felt that he might have been succumbing to the same problem.

How wrong I was. Kathryn Greene-McCreight does not set out to provide solutions but writes one of the most profound and eye-opening reflections on the grace and love of God, and above all on the nature of human relationships, that I have had the pleasure of reading.

….For me, that has been the greatest blessing of this book, a new understanding of what it means to say that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It has also renewed in me hope in the reality of Christian healing. Kathryn discusses the nature of prayer for healing and recalls her own experience of a moment of being prayed for as—to some extent and without great drama—a turning point. I found my own faith renewed—deepened—and my own hopes expanded through the beauty of her writing.

So, this is in the end a book about relationship. Full relationships are those of love that does not change when the one loved is profoundly altered. In such relationships we see most deeply the nature of God. They draw us out of ourselves and perhaps begin in a strange way to give faint echoes of a response to the troubles and divisions of the church in a multicultural world.

What does God do when we fail? God goes on loving. What does God do when the church collectively appears to be ill? God goes on loving. The reconciliation of God, I have learned afresh from this book, is overwhelmingly more powerful than all the brokenness of my humanity.

And so I am grateful to Tom for suggesting the read, to Kathryn for her beautiful book and for inviting me to write its foreword, and above all to the God who unexpectedly has renewed in me his perfect love and grace.

 

 

©2015 by Kathryn Greene-McCreight. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

This Just In: Darkness Is My Only Companion, Revised and Expanded Edition, by Kathryn Greene-McCreight

Cover ArtWhere is God in the suffering of a mentally ill person? What happens to the soul when the mind is ill? How are Christians to respond to mental illness?

In this brave and compassionate book, theologian and priest Kathryn Greene-McCreight confronts these difficult questions raised by her own mental illness–bipolar disorder. With brutal honesty, she tackles often avoided topics such as suicide, mental hospitals, and electroconvulsive therapy. Greene-McCreight offers the reader everything from poignant and raw glimpses into the mind of a mentally ill person to practical and forthright advice for their friends, family, and clergy.

The first edition has been recognized as one of the finest books on the subject. This thoroughly revised edition incorporates updated research and adds anecdotal and pastoral commentary. It also includes a new foreword by the current Archbishop of Canterbury and a new afterword by the author.

 

Kathryn Greene-McCreightKathryn Greene-McCreight (PhD, Yale University) is associate chaplain at The Episcopal Church at Yale, priest affiliate at Christ Church in New Haven, Connecticut, and a theological writer. She also serves on the board of the Elm City Chapter of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and on the Patient and Family Advisory Council of Yale-New Haven Psychiatric Hospital. She is the author of several books, including the forthcoming I Am with You: The Archbishop’s Lent Book for 2016.

 

Praise for Darkness Is My Only Companion:

“I am often asked by people who have read Hannah’s Child, my memoir wherein I tell the story of what it meant to live with someone suffering with bipolar disorder, how to go on in the face of such an illness. I simply recommend Greene-McCreight’s Darkness Is My Only Companion. I do so because the story she tells is shaped by her profound Christological commitments and wisdom, making this a book that we simply cannot live without.” – Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School

“In Darkness Is My Only Companion Kathryn Greene-McCreight takes the reader on her private journey through the hidden world of mental illness….This book is a must read for every person struggling with a mental health problem, every pastor that ministers to those in distress, and every family member whose loved one has been taken away from them by a mental disorder.” – Matthew S. Stanford, author of Grace for the Afflicted

“In this honest and poignant reflection Kathryn Greene-McCreight seeks to ‘witness to the working of the triune God in the pain of one mentally ill Christian.’ She does so beautifully, graciously guiding readers through the depths of depression and the cacophony of mania to the hard road of ‘reconstruction’–always relying on Scripture and the prayers and hymns of the church to give voice to her experience. This ‘extended prayer’ of a book is a gift to the church and to anyone who seeks to walk faithfully alongside someone with mental illness.” – Warren Kinghorn, Duke University Medical Center and Duke Divinity School

The Weekly Hit List: August 1, 2014

Colossians (BTCB) by Christopher R. Seitz was reviewed by Robert Gundry in the July/August issue of Books & Culture.

“Seitz offers a wealth of canonical and theological commentary on the text of Colossians. . . . Readers will be enriched both theologically and historically. . . .

“Happily for me, Seitz’s commentary, while paying due attention to the history and importance of theological interpretation as represented in the Nicene tradition, seems to prioritize the scriptural text.

“Well done!”

Subscribers can read the rest of the review here.

 

Quick Hits:

Dangerous Passions, Deadly Sins by Dennis Okholm was reviewed by Byron Borger on Hearts & Minds.

Devin Brown, author of A Life Observed, will be the guest speaker on the Educational Opportunies Tours’ May 2015 tour through England, “A Journey with C.S. Lewis & J.R.R. Tolkien.”

Darkness Is My Only Companion by Kathryn Greene-McCreight was reviewed by Michele Morin.

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.

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: October 18, 2013

Cover ArtNicole Baker Fulgham, author of Educating All God’s Children, wrote the article “How Can People of Faith Help Students Achieve Their Potential?” for Sojourners.

“Christians are often known for meeting local, immediate needs. Thousands of churches have programs connecting to schools – whether it’s donating backpack supplies, hosting afterschool programs or teacher appreciation dinners. We believe that work is good, but we can amplify our impact by also turning our focus to programs that increase student’s educational outcomes. High quality tutoring programs, for example, can make a huge impact on student learning. Holistic church/school partnerships with an eye to education and classroom activities can help transform a school. Churches are well positioned to lead this charge.”

Quick Hits:

At G92, M. Daniel Carroll, author of Christians at the Border, wrote about Immigration Laws in the Old Testament and Now.

Ted Schroder at Virtue Online referenced Kathryn Greene-McCreight’s book, Darkness Is My Only Companion.

Joshua Morris reviewed Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith, for Forward-Leaning Spirit.

The CS Lewis Society of Frederick, MD reviewed Devin Brown’s A Life Observed.

The Weekly Hit List: February 22, 2013

Speaking of DyingSpeaking of Dying by Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith, and Joy V. Goldsmith was reviewed by pastor Conrade Yap.

“I am deeply grateful for this book because it shines light into a dark place where few people dare to tread. It speaks into the needs of people who struggle with the questions of death and dying.

“Above all, as it helps the Church recover her voice for speaking hope to the dying, it also illuminates ways in which pastors, preachers, leaders, and concerned believers can participate in the ministry of caring for the dying.

“Well written and researched, intelligent and practical, this book is a strongly recommended reference book for all in Christian ministry and leadership. As much as we all want to live well, we need also to learn what it means to die well. This book provides much wisdom and guidance.”

Read the rest of the review here.

 

Quick Hits:

Christian Smith, author of The Bible Made Impossible, appeared on Dr. Bill Maier Live on Faith Radio.

Kevin Schut, author of Of Games and God, appeared on Relevant Magazine‘s web site with the article “Do Video Games Cause Violence?“.

Darkness Is My Only Companion by Kathryn Greene-McCreight was recommended as one of “My Top 5 Books on Mental Illness” by Amy Simpson on Christianity Today.

Matthew Dickerson, author of A Hobbit Journey, wrote an article for The High Calling: “The Slippery Slope of Idolatry.”

 

Cross-Shattered Christ Giveaway Winners:

Congratulations to Phillip Johnston, Laura Nickelson, Glenn Davis, Andrew Jacobs, and Cameron Merrill.

They have each won a copy of Cross-Shattered Christ: Meditations on the Seven Last Words by Stanley Hauerwas on The Brazos Blog.

Keep checking back for our next giveaway.

 

Ebook Specials and Other Offers:

February ebook specials are currently running for multiple Brazos Press and Baker Academic titles. All of these are at least 41% off.

Abraham (Ancient-Future Bible Study) by Stephen J. Binz
Paul (Ancient-Future Bible Study) by Stephen J. Binz
David (Ancient-Future Bible Study) by Stephen J. Binz
Peter (Ancient-Future Bible Study) by Stephen J. Binz
Women of the Gospels (Ancient-Future Bible Study) by Stephen J. Binz
Women of the Torah (Ancient-Future Bible Study) by Stephen J. Binz
A Handbook of New Testament Exegesis by Craig L. Blomberg
Magnifying God in Christ by Thomas R. Schreiner
Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson
Cross-Shattered Christ by Stanley Hauerwas
The Forgotten Ways Handbook by Alan Hirsch with Darryn Altclass