Thursday, June 9, 2011

Whatever happened to integration?

Whatever happened to integration?
By Paul Jones and Ron Wright

Confession time. Much of the literature on the “integration” of psychology and Christianity that we read ends up leaving us dissatisfied. While this perhaps can be marked up to our joint neurotic and critical tendencies, we wonder if there might be other factors at work. Our experience of frustration and dissatisfaction is perhaps similar to that of a conversation where people talk past each other or in parallel to each other. Like conversations where this dynamic occurs, it seems like getting to know the particularity of the other person (and ourselves) assists in creating a more rich, thick, dynamic conversation. We want to suggest that perhaps this type of dynamic is also needed within the larger field of integration. That is, perhaps the process of "integration" begins through a confessional stance of owning one's particularities and peculiarness. To be more specific, we wonder if coming to grips with our (and others’) epistemological, psychological, and theological assumptions might provide a way to enrich and deepen conversations around the relationship of theology and psychology.

In the first part of this series we will begin to address issues of epistemology by asking the questions: Which reality? Whose knowledge? We envision these questions as inviting dialogue around how we know what is “out there” and the differences between an epistemology influenced by modern, Enlightenment notions of truth, versus an epistemology influenced by postmodernity, constructionism, and hermeneutics.

Throughout this series we want to address these issues more fully and to invite responses into this dialogue. So join in! Perhaps it is time for all of us to become more confessional.

P.S. Whatever happened to integration? will also be the theme of the annual conference of the Society for the Study of Psychology and Wesleyan Theology (SSPWT) in March 2012 in Nashville, TN. Stay posted for more information!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Gabriel and the Vagabond


More of my new man crush...

What does it mean for us to whisper "hope" to others? What is the connection between hope and the future? How is hope impacted by imagination?

Monday, February 4, 2008

What should a Christian imagination look like?

“You can sing about the Light, or you can sing about what you see because of the Light. I prefer the latter.” ~ T-Bone Burnett
“I would rather be told an R-rated truth, than a G-rated lie” ~ Ken Gire, author of Reflections on the Movies: Hearing God in the Unlikeliest of Places

I’m going to be honest with you…I find that blatantly “Christian” music/books/art (to clarify, let’s just say that by this I mean anything one would usually find in one’s local Christian bookstore) is often just a matter of “singing about the Light” over and over (to use T-Bone’s great image) or just another avenue for “evangelizing” which after a while becomes trite and shallow. My frustration is not that I don’t think this stuff has its place, it’s that this has such a monopoly on what the evangelical Christians I know sing, listen to, read, and look at (perhaps this is an unfair generalization, but it does seem to accurately describe the folks I interact with daily). I’ve been wondering what effect this seemingly one-dimensional approach has on us? So here are my questions that I would love to hear your thoughts on:
What does it mean for a Christian to have a "Christian imagination"? What is the role of the imagination for living the Christian life? What is its role in the arts? What should the "Christian arts" (if we want to argue that there should be such a thing) look like? What would the purpose be for them?

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Revealing who we are, what surrounds us, and what we hope for:

Apocalyptic playlist 2007
“a.poc.a.lypse – a disclosure regarded as revelation” ~ Webster’s Dictionary

“The prophet was an individual who said No to his society, condemning its habits and assumptions, its complacency, waywardness, and syncretism. He was often compelled to proclaim the very opposite of what his heart expected.” ~ Abraham Heschel, The Propehts

Here are the songs that I found most revealing from 2007 about the human condition, the forces we are caught up in, and our deepest yearnings. Feel free to comment or post your own “apocalyptic” songs.

10. We’ve Got Everything – Modest Mouse
A nice reminder that part of human nature is to believe that we know more than we do and we are REALLY confident about what we (don’t) know (see the overconfidence phenomenon and the research around belief perseverance in any General Psychology textbook). While it’s not quite the Christian virtue of humility, perhaps lyrics like the following move us closer? “We've got everything, we've got everything, we've got everything down to a science, so I guess we know everything”.

9. Who Do You Love? – Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
“But who do you love? Who do you love? Who do you love? And so goes the most of our freedom of speech: we live for the city, we work for the beach.
And when the weekend seems to be just out of reach, just make the most of what you’re paid, dear. Your love’s a ghost, and that’s why we’re delayed here.”
Seems like Jesus put this in a different form, “you cannot love both God and mammon”, and while this song doesn’t seem to be some deep profession of faith, at least it is asking the right question.

8. The Trumpet Child – Over the Rhine
The lyrics speak for themselves…enjoy:

The trumpet child will blow his horn
Will blast the sky till it’s reborn
With Gabriel’s power and Satchmo’s grace
He will surprise the human race
The trumpet he will use to blow
Is being fashioned out of fire
The mouthpiece is a glowing coal
The bell a burst of wild desire
The trumpet child will riff on love
Thelonious notes from up above
He’ll improvise a kingdom come
Accompanied by a different drum
The trumpet child will banquet here
Until the lost are truly found
A thousand days, a thousand years
Nobody knows for sure how long
The rich forget about their gold
The meek and mild are strangely bold
A lion lies beside a lamb
And licks a murderer’s outstretched hand
The trumpet child will lift a glass
His bride now leaning in at last
His final aim to fill with joy
The earth that man all but destroyed

7. Bodysnatchers – Radiohead
Nobody reminds us of the forces that surround us which have the potential to take us over more than Radiohead has done throughout their career. This is just a fantastically creepy and paranoid song reminding us that our “selves” are often not totally our own.

6. Innocent bones – Iron and Wine
Perhaps the most gently sung roundhouse kick to the face of the past year, asserting that platitudes don’t cut it when one looks at all of the suffering in the world. The best line in the song? “There ain’t a penthouse Christian wants the pain of the scab, but they all want the scar. How every mouth sings of what it’s without, so we all sing of love”

5. The Prayer – Bloc Party
A great song exposing our narcissistic desires in a culture where charisma, charm, and being noticed rules…titling the song “The Prayer” was just genius!

Lord give me grace and dancing feet
And the power to impress
Lord give me grace and dancing feet
Let me outshine the moon

Is it so wrong to crave recognition?
Second best, runner-up
Is it so wrong to want rewarding?
To want more than is given to you?
Than is given to you

Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle them with my wit
Tonight make me unstoppable
And I will charm, I will slice
I will dazzle, I will outshine them all

4. The Picture – Son Volt
First off, Son Volt’s album “The Search” was my favorite album of the year. Second off, connecting mercy to the end of the journey is beautifully done, but for now, the picture is dirty. Here are the lyrics:

Hurricanes in December-earthquakes in the heartland
Bad air index on a flashing warning sign
Bound for trouble-the picture is dirty

We'll know when we get there
If we'll find mercy

Flotsam and Jetsam in charge of the agency
Where truth gets twisted in danger of dissolving
When war is profit and profit is war

We'll know when we get there
If we'll find mercy

Certified minds exacting a toll
Trying to fit a square block in a round hole
A heart of darkness facing 1000 bloodshot eyes

We'll know when we get there
If we'll find mercy

3. Temptation of Adam – Josh Ritter
So in J.R.’s world the Garden of Eden is now found in a missile silo where the temptation is whether or not to destroy the world for the exclusive love of the other because of uncertainty about whether that love could survive elsewhere…what a fantastic allusion!

2. Intervention – Arcade Fire
As the band has noted, their album “Neon Bible” is a critique of faith, but one done by people who have not given up on faith. Some stinging lyrics include:

Been working for the church
While your life falls apart.
Singing hallelujah with the fear in your heart
Every spark of friendship and love
Will die without a home

Ouch…but do we need to hear this and take it to heart?

1. Apartment Story – The National
I see this as a biting critique of American life, plus it’s really catchy!

Be still for a second while I try and try to pin your flowers on
Can you carry my drink I have everything else
I can tie my tie all by myself
I’m getting tied, I’m forgetting why

Oh we’re so disarming darling, everything we did believe
is diving diving diving diving off the balcony
Tired and wired we ruin too easy
sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave

Hold ourselves together with our arms around the stereo for hours
While it sings to itself or whatever it does
when it sings to itself of its long lost loves
I’m getting tied, I’m forgetting why

Tired and wired we ruin too easy
sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave
but I’ll be with you behind the couch when they come
on a different day just like this one

We’ll stay inside til somebody finds us
do whatever the TV tells us
stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz for days
We’ll stay inside til somebody finds us
do whatever the TV tells us
stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz

so worry not
all things are well
we’ll be alright
we have our looks and perfume

stay inside til somebody finds us
do whatever the TV tells us
stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz
so worry not
all things are well
we’ll be alright
we have our looks and perfume on

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The way of the Spartans vs. the way of the Cross: Some Lenten reflections on the movie “300”


“300” is an action-packed stylized rendition of Frank Miller’s graphic comic book of the same name. While the movie is getting all kinds of acclaim for the “cool” way it is shot (which does bring to life the graphic comic book character, I will admit), I am going to be a contrary voice on this aspect of it. For me, it felt like I was watching a video game which created an unhelpful distance between me and the story. The plethora of violence was easy to step back from because it was so obviously computerized and unrealistic (which is part of the point of the way it is shot, I know). The question that I wondered about regarding this aspect of the movie was, “is this a good thing that I am able to view violence in this distant of a manner?” I was struck by the contrast between the manner in which I “watched” (as an outsider unaffected by the acts of violence) “300” and the manner in which I felt like I participated in and was horrified by the violence in “Saving Private Ryan” where the cinematography did not allow the viewer to escape to any safe distance.

This led me to reflect about the moral worldviews that are perhaps behind the two films. Both films, in many ways, seem to lead the viewer to ponder the question of what is worth fighting for and the manner in which freedom and liberty have been won through the lives of warriors who were willing to die. For me, “300” left me with a sense of the inevitability of violence and that it is just the way things are, thus the distance created through the manner it was shot helped to only reinforce this notion (in existential terms, it did not face us with the reality of the abyss). On the other hand, “Saving Private Ryan” opened up questions about the horror and awfulness of violence, as well as a more authentic empathy and respect for the experiences of those who fought in WWII. The “in your face” cinematography of Spielberg allowed for a questioning of whether this is the kind of world we wanted and truly forced us to stare into the abyss of violence.

In the midst of this, the Church is currently observing the Lenten season and while I admire the way that Spielberg attempt’s to display the sacredness of life in the middle of violence, I cannot help but think about the ways that violence and power are often presented as the only solution to the problems of life, evil, and oppression and the manner in which the Cross stands as a radical, and hardly followed, alternative. The finest and most profound moment of “300” for me was when Xerxes meets King Leonidas for the first time. During their conversation there is a creepy moment where Leonidas has his back turned to Xerxes and Xerxes puts his hand on Leonidas’ shoulder and in a soft, seductive voice begins to list all of the things he will provide for Leonidas in terms of wealth and power if only Leonidas will bow down to him. My thoughts immediately went to Satan’s temptation of Christ in the wilderness and how this was a beautiful symbolization of the creepy and seductive way in which temptation occurs. While both Leonidas and Christ say “NO” in no uncertain terms to this temptation, the manner in which they go about resisting and fighting oppressive power is totally opposite. (As a side note: I am not one to cite Wikepedia, but I find it interesting that in the entry for Leonidas, a descendant of Hercules, it is mentioned that as part of the story of Sparta an oracle had prophesied that Sparta would be saved through the death of one of her kings…a descendant of Hercules. This brings even more of a strong oppositional viewpoint between the manner in which Leonidas “saves” Sparta through fighting with violence to his death and Christ’s fighting with love to his death). Leonidas and his soldiers meet violence with violence and die in gallant and honorable fashion in the face of overwhelming odds. Christ, alone, meets violence with love and forgiveness and dies a humiliating death on a cross reserved for thieves and the dregs of society. Which worldview are we most convinced of? When I look around at the evangelical church (my context) I’m not sure that we reflect the way of the Cross as much as we do the way of the Spartans. And I’m not sure we can have it both ways like many in the evangelical church desire…there is something that seems really out of whack when we can read in “Wild at Heart” about the fatherly advice for a young boy to push another boy down when they are being picked on and view that as a good, Christian, male response. While I thought the whole WWJD? phenomenon was quickly turned into a commercial enterprise, it does seems like it is a question we might want to occasionally ask ourselves, particularly when I want to place my boot up alongside someone’s grill.

When I’m honest, I’d rather go down like Leonidas (and Peter) with a sword in my hand, but my conviction that love does overcome evil leads me to now see this as another way that I am in need of transformation. Actively loving and suffering is much more difficult and it forces me to fall back into the absolutely terrifying experience of trusting that God really is the One who overcomes evil with love, death with life, and the closed past with the open future.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Empty Self Meets Satan


What I love about Wilco is their ability to "name" the powers that consume us (pun intended). Unfortunately, I'm not sure that the evangelical church has that same ability to illuminate the "powers and principalities"...thank God for Wilco and their faithfulness in reminding us that the road to Hell is shiny and often involves insatiable desires to shop. Check out this brilliant video interpretation of Wilco's song "Hell is Chrome" (It reminds me a little bit of Radiohead's video for "Fake Plastic Trees")!