The Taser's Edge


Tuesday Reading Wrap-up 1 (a.k.a. Tuesday Reading Roundup 11 (a.k.a. Tuesday Reading Retrospective 1))

Due to the 2-hit combo of shrill popular request and common sense (a dramatization of that conversation can be found here), I decided to change the weekly preview to a weekly retrospective.

1. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller–This book is divided into four books.  It starts out very promising, but now at 3/4 of the way through, I wonder if there is too much going on.  This is why I hate talking about books before finishing them and judging them before I finish them.  But, so you know what the convolutedness is about, Superman has shown up; the Soviets have launched a nuclear war with a bomb which also had an electromagnetic pulse, knocking out all America’s electronics (and thus her own launch capacities); and Superman has almost died because of the fact that the blast blocked out the sun.  Oh yeah, Batman is still around, getting shivved by the Joker and then getting rescued by the new Robin (who’s a girl!).

2. The Giving Gift: The Holy Spirit in Person by Tom Smail–Smail is (was?) a Church of England priest who had some very real charismatic experiences and then felt the need to write about the charismatic world theologically, in order to correct both the excesses of the non-denominational charismatic movement and the shortcomings of the larger Church in speaking of the work of the Holy Spirit.

3. Great Lent: Journey to Pascha by Alexander Schmemann–Ha.  I finished it…at least the bulk of it.  It has a rather lengthy appendix attached, which I am inclined to read.  It took me forever, but I would still suggest you read it.

4. Beyond Companionship: Christians in Marriage by Diana S. Richmond and David E. Garland–The selection for this week is the final chapter of the book, “What God has Joined Together.”  As you might guess, it is a chapter on divorce, a very good chapter, indeed much better than the other resources we read for this week, apparently Divorce Week, in Esther Acolatse’s Christian Marriage and Family Across Culture.

5. Ending Marriage, Keeping Faith: A New Guide Through the Spiritual Journey of Divorce by J. Randall Nichols–I actually read the selections from this book before the last book, and I was really disappointed by it.  Nichols, I think, is purposely trying to push buttons of conservative Christians with chapters titled “Divorce is Not a Sin” and “Forgiveness Has Its Limits” (which, while they may not sound provocative to you, they certainly do in certain circles).  He then claims to set out to see “what the Bible really says” on the topic of divorce, but fails to do any real exegesis.  While I think that most people need to be shown how complicated the difficult parts of life really can be, Nichols mostly talks in generalities while claiming to talk in specifics about various Scriptures coming into contact with modern life.  As I already said, it’s disappointing.  All caregivers need to problematize life to show how complicated it really is; pastoral caregivers need to take no less trouble in respecting the complexities of Scripture.

6. “Divorce and Remarriage in the Catholic Church” by Michael G. Lawler–Lawler digs into canon law, Church history, and Scripture in order to argue for inconsistencies in the Roman Catholic Church’s views on marriage, annulment, and divorce.  It’s interesting, but only so compelling to me as an outsider.



Personal Growth, Christian Friendship, and One Perfectionist’s Problems With Therapy


“Any effort to improve life, whether by education or religion or philosophy or therapy, seldom makes life simpler.  In fact, it makes it more complex.  Just as labor-saving devices have caused us more labor and complicated our lives, so counseling has further burdened our marriages by asking us to live up to what we know to be our best relationship that is achievable only under the special circumstances of the psychotherapeutic hour…Perhaps most serious, counseling gives a person the feeling–much more than is probably true–that he is in charge of his own life, that his problems are basically of his own making, and that their solutions are within his control…Constant attention to our problems as personal rather than as universal (which happens in counseling) has given us a highly distorted picture of what we can do about the problems we find in marriage.”  (Richard Farson, quoted in Beyond Companionship: Christians in Marriage by Diana S. Richmond Garland and David E. Garland, pp. 153-154)

Garland and Garland are writing specifically about marriage, but this sentiment can just easily be applied to all counseling.  To be clear, their context is a pastoral care text.  As such, it is talking all about psychology.  Diana is a social worker and both authors are trained academics.  They are not at all saying that there is not a need for couples’ therapy or for personal therapy, and from my own experience of counseling, I truly believe that a few sessions would be helpful for almost all people in terms of self-discovery and human growth.  With that said, these authors are pointing to a particular mindset that we can begin to take when we seek help for ourselves or for our marriages (or any other relationships we have).  We can begin to think that we are working toward perfection and can become more discontented than before we began counseling.  We can dig up new problems, and old problems can be renewed.  We can make progress in the big problems, but then small problems take their place.  I know this is true, because I do it.

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