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Monthly Archives: April 2008

Petal

Petal is a rat my son received as a pet at Christmas. (On a related note, if you want to avoid this in your home, you might not rent the movie, Ratatouille.)   

 

Rats elicit a range of emotions from people. Revulsion comes to mind. Also, anxiety, disgust, fear, and other related emotions. My kids think rats are great, though, and I suppose that is what matters… at least this weekend. Did I mention that my daughter would like a pet rat, too, and that her birthday is this weekend? So we may see a friend joining Petal very soon.

 

Having a rat has also exposed us to the world of those who are really into them as pets. I learned recently that about 500,000 households (in the U.S.) have them as pets. I got this information off of the Rat Assistance & Teaching Society web site. Their mission statement: We believe rats should be respected as pets and treated as humanely as any other pet. Nice, right?

 

Another helpful site is MyPetRat.com, and some other fun sites include The Dapper Rat (check out The Grotto) and a site dedicated to great photos of pet rats.  

 

Well… that may be more than anyone wanted to know about the topic. After all, 500,000 homes is not that many when you think about it. (There are nearly 75 million pet dogs in the U.S.!)

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2008 in Off Topic

 

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Trans-ethnicity

Trans-ethnicity is currently an emphasis in several churches around the United States, including New Life Providence Church here in Virginia Beach. An upcoming conference on this topic is likely to draw a lot of people together to discuss the challenges and opportunities in creating transethnic communities of faith. The conference is called the Trans-Ethnic Transitions Conference and it will be held May 15-17 at New Life Providence Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

What is trans-ethnicity? New Life Providence Church talks about it as transcending cultural differences by emphasizing Kingdom values. They would say that we are to recognize, promote, and celebrate cultural differences but transcend culture, recognizing that Christian relationships are based on Kingdom values that transcends sociocultural values.

For reflection: Have you heard of the concept of trans-ethnicity before? How has it been defined? Does it resonate with you? Do you have any concerns about it?

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2008 in Trans-ethnicity

 

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An Informal Gathering

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Gary Collins is back in town. He is here for a consultation over the next two days. Unfortunately, I am out of town for the consult, so we met today as part of the pub club. We discussed a range of issues. One topic was Psychology Crossroads, a new platform for discussing and networking around various topics in the integration of Christianity and psychology and related disciplines. We are looking at ways to further develop the site. We also talked about possible publications for pastors and lay counselors, and the potential benefits and drawbacks to edited books and book series. He will speaking to the faculty about future directions in psychology and counseling, and I look forward to a report on those interactions.

 
 

What Kind of Family is the Church?

The title of this post is the title of the final chapter in Ray Anderson and Dennis Guernsey’s book, On Being Family: A Social Theology of the Family. This will be my last post on this book, as we have been using this for opening reflections in Family Therapy this spring semester.

 

It is in this closing chapter that the authors introduce a new term: siblial.

 

A ‘sib’ by definition is a ‘group of persons unilaterally descended from a real or supposed ancestor.’ A sibling is a person in a sib relationship on the level of a brother or sister…. Siblial relationships… are those in which people are committed to one another and see each other and accept each other as brothers and sisters. We are ‘joint-heirs’ with Jesus Christ.

 

We are family, but the nature of family now becomes collateral/siblial. In that mysery of brother and sister there is a sense of commitment in a growing bond that pulls us to one another. The continuing functions of family and the necessary importance of the family as a unit can be very much served by a commitment that is siblial.

 

When the New Testament writers use siblial terms they were not meant to be mere euphemisms. ‘Brother’ and ‘sister’ are not simply pious jargon. They are real, permanent, and predictive. The church is in fact a family of families and the dynamic of that familial organization is our relationship with our Lord who then calls us to be brother and sister to one another. Because of him we are ‘sibs.’ (p. 159).

 

The Psychology of Judgmentalism – 7

Our last reflection from Terry Cooper addresses what it means to be in a community of grace. Recall that Cooper is discussing the difference between judgmentalism and the capacity to make moral judgments. He wants Christians to avoid the former but retain the latter. In the closing chapters he talks about how we address judgmentalism in ourselves, and he recognizes the importance of being a part of a community of grace, because such a community allows us to come to terms with ourselves. Recall that Cooper has already indicated that one way to think about shame is to see it as judgmentalism turned inward.

 

Cooper says, “I do not think that any of us has the power to completely accept ourselves in isolation…. How does it help to ‘declare myself okay’ when it is my own testimony that is on trial in the first place?” (p. 121). There is a need, then, to be part of a community that “provides a healthy vision of growth and development” (p. 124). A community of grace is not biblical denial or minimization. Rather, it is a place that “helps us maintain a healthy awareness of our own struggles and shortcomings” (p. 125).  A community of grace is a place that helps us through spiritual deserts or dark nights of the soul. It is a community that practices support and empathy.

 

He shares that it is unlikely we will completely eliminate our judgmentalism. We will likely still have harsh criticisms and snap judgments from time to time.  But we can begin to make changes, and it is best to do so in community.

 

For reflection: Do you have this kind of community in place? How can you approximate this kind of community of grace in your own life? What do you see as the relationship between such a community and self-acceptance and moral judgments versus judgmentalism? In other words, how would you say a community of grace fits into the psychology of judgmentalism?

 

 

 

 
 

Pavlov’s Dawgs – Playoffs

 

The playoffs are here, and Pavlov’s Dawgs went in as the #8 seed. That means we played the #1 seed in the first round. The team we played this weekend is the team that sent us packing last year. To help the reader with the suspense, let me say that we did not win the game tonight. However, it was by far the most exciting game of the season for us and our fans. The Dawgs got off to a slow start. In fact, we were down early by a score of 23-4. After a much-needed time-out, we regrouped and played to within 13 or so by halftime. Then we rallied in the second half, cutting the lead to as little as 1 point, if I recall. But in the end the Dawgs lost 63-57. It is “one and done,” as they say, so the Dawgs are done and out of the playoffs. The Dawgs say goodbye to some great guys who are heading out of the area on internship. A core will hope to return next season.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2008 in Off Topic, Pavlov's Dawgs

 

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Kingdom Triangle

We recently completed the book Kingdom Triangle by J.P. Moreland. The triangle he is referring to is the Christian mind, the use of the spiritual disciplines in the life of the Christian, and the power of the Holy Spirit. The closing chapter, which we discussed today, is titled “Restoration of the Kingdom’s Miraculous Power.” Moreland defines the Kingdom of God this way:

 

The Kingdom of God is primarily the reign, rule, or authority of God himself; secondarily, it is the realm in which that rule is directly exercised, consisting largely in the laws governing the natural world and, more importantly, the individual and collective hearts of those who have bowed to God’s rule. (p. 173)

 

Moreland talks openly about the challenges faced by Christian in the West who do not “see” the Kingdom of God or the miraculous or a place for the Holy Spirit. Yet he documents the tremendous growth of the church in Third World countries.

 

Some estimate that in 1970, there were around 71,000,000 born-again Christians with a vision to reach out to the entire world for Christ. By 2000, there were 707,000,000, roughly 11 percent of the earth’s population! Up until 1960, Western Evangelicals outnumbered non-Western Evangelicals by two to one, but by 2000 non-Westerners (mostly Latinos, Africans, and Asians) lead by four to one, and the figure will be seven to one by 2010. Today more missionaries are sent from non-Western than Western nations. At a church planting conference in 1998, representatives from Latin American countries set a staggering goal of planting 500,000 new churches by 2010 and – get this – progress up to 2005 indicates that the target will be reached! In fact, five nations have already reached their target goals and have set new ones! (p. 167)

 

The growth may be traced to many factors, but one that is often cited is the power of the gospel – not just in intellectual or cognitive assent to the person and work of Christ, but the miraculous occurrences associated with conversion in these settings. This is part of what Moreland wants the reader to think about, especially in the West, where we are “trained” or “socialized” not to “see” spiritual realities.

 

This is certainly the case in psychology, where current training models often move a person away from “seeing” through these lenses. And they are different lenses, different ways of knowing, different epistemologies. It is easy in psychology to conclude that the psychological lens is the correct or superior lens. It can be helpful to bring to mind other ways of knowing, other epistemologies, and to locate and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the ways of knowing you use daily, particularly in a profession dedicated to the welfare of others, including those who may view their own experiences through these other lenses.   

 

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Adoption in the Family of God

From On Being Family: A Social Theology of the Family by Ray Anderson and Dennis Guernsey:

 

The church as the new family of God, however, is not formed by mere conssensuality between its members. Through spiritual rebirth, we each become a brother or sister of Jesus Christ through adoption into the family of God. Consequently, we are brother or sister to each other. This new criterion of worth has a transcendent source and thus a permanent status. Husbands and wives are first of all brother and sister in Jesus Christ before they are husband and wife. Sons and daughters are also brother or sister to their father and mother before they are sons and daughters. This precedence, of course, is logical, not always chronological. Nevertheless, because it is theological, it does constitute a real precedence in each relationship. (p. 147)

 

This quote was our opening reflection in Family Therapy this week. Students shared some of their experiences with these concepts, particularly the idea of a husband and wife being “first of all brother and sister in Jesus Christ before they are husband and wife.” It seemed to resonate as true theologically but as a concept that is seldom considered. Several students discussed the implications for how spouses think about one another’s spiritual well-being.

 

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The Psychology of Judgmentalism – 6

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Terry Cooper begins to walk the reader through steps of sorts for responding to judgmentalism. In Chapter 6 titled “Authoritative Judgments Vs. Authoritarian Judgmentalism,” he introduces ideas for responding to black and white thinkers. These include encouraging them “into a situation in which they confront different viewpoints” (p. 116) and taking on other perspectives (by asking about the context of how a person came to reach their conclusions). Cooper also suggests we understand an authoritarian person’s fear – that anxiety and insecurity fuels abusiveness. He also suggests we focus on the purpose or goal of conversation – that is, to focus on mutual understanding and respect rather than scorekeeping.

 

Perhaps nothing comes easier than to treat an authoritarian in an authoritarian manner. But again, the ultimate goal of life is not to crack their facade and reveal how insecure authoritarian thinkers really are. The point is not to treat the authoritarian like a cognitive leper. The goals is instead to invite greater humanness in a dialogue enveloped by care. We can affirm the person while disagreeing with the viewpoint. Uncaring argument does not help in the pursuit of truth. (p. 120)

 

For reflection: How have you responding to authoritarian thinking in others? What strategies have you found helpful for responding to them? 

 

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Ethics and Psychotherapy – 11

The last chapter by Tjeltveit is titled “Shaping Psychotherapy’s Ethical Character.” As he brings the book to a close, Tjeltveit reiterates that counseling goals really ought to be of benefit to clients and to the society as a whole. This give psychotherapists quite a bit of latitude in terms of goals – in part because there again are so many different stakeholders invested in defining goals.

 

In a section on dialogue, Tjeltveit discusses both broad and focused dialogue. Broad dialogue refers to discussions with those who hold to different perspectives. Focused dialogues occur within communities – they do not have to argue for their broad worldview but they go deeper into questions of application in particular instances.

 

Tjeltveit suggests that ethical acuity is important for improving the ethical character of psychotherapy. He is referring here to the ability to see with greater clarity the ethical issues (and the various alternatives) that pertain to psychotherapy.

 

Another term that is also introduced is ethical articulacy, which Tjeltveit sees as communicating our ethical ideals. He would like to see us be more explicit based upon the assumption that the more explicit we are about ethics the better (for ethical decision-making).

 

For reflection: What do you think of Tjeltveit’s suggestions for making gains in the area of ethical decision-making? What about being in dialogue with those with whom you disagree? Have you had that experience? How was it?

 

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2008 in Courses, Ethics, Implicit Integration

 
 
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