psychology

Sin, Guilt, and Psychology: What I Wish All Pastors Knew

Illustration of boy hiding behind a desk, Ron and Joe / Shutterstock.com

Illustration of boy hiding behind a desk, Ron and Joe / Shutterstock.com

Our culture's shift around its relationship to shame and guilt can be traced to the broad influence that psychology has had on Western culture over the past century. That is, the reason we have become so sensitized to guilt and shame today in our culture comes from the practical insights of psychologists: As they worked to help people face their hurtful and dysfunctional behaviors, psychotherapists observed that their attempts to help were often met with resistance. Early on Freud referred to this phenomenon as "denial," but regardless of the terminology we use, this is a dynamic therapists have recognized over and over and again because it is, quite simply, one of the most basic elements of human psychology: When we feel threatened we get defensive.

As a result of this dynamic, psychotherapists have found that people actually have struggles on two simultaneous fronts: One struggle is with their negative behavior patterns that hurt themselves and others. The other struggle is the feelings of shame and self-hatred that often accompany these. In fact, the two are frequently intertwined in a destructive spiral where feelings of shame lead to doing things to dull that emotional pain, which then lead to more feelings of shame, and round and round it goes.

Faith or Insanity? Homebrewed CultureCast with Psychologist Stephen Simpson

Homebrewed CultureCast logo. Photo courtesy Patheos.

This week on the Homebrewed CultureCast, we welcomed Stephen Simpson, one of the heads of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, to the show to discuss the intersection of faith and psychology. Specifically, we wanted to try and figure out with him where the thin line between religious fanaticism and pathological mental illness was. Hey, there it is!!!

Reconciling Faith and (Social) Science

Biblical literalism, and the corresponding idea of the inerrancy of scripture, has been bumping up against the sciences for a long time.

Way back in the Renaissance, the church insisted that the Bible taught that the sun revolved around the earth, and charged Galileo with heresy for claiming otherwise. Today, the debate between the Bible and natural science continues, most notably in the evolution/creation debate.

While discussions of religion and science usually revolve around conflicts with natural science, I'd like to propose that the place we really should be placing our attention is the relationship between faith and the social sciences.

As our understanding of all science grows, it becomes harder and harder to maintain the position of biblical literalism without seeming absurd.

Maybe we haven't all heard the thunder clap yet, but the lightning bolt struck a while ago. We are going to have to adjust our reading of the Bible to coincide with a modern scientific understanding of the universe. In broad strokes, that shift has already happened.

What Makes a White, Middle-Class Man Kill?

James Eagan Holmes. Image via the University of Colorado.

James Eagan Holmes. Image via the University of Colorado.

Like many others, I was shocked to hear this morning about the mass killing in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater at the hands of (according to law enforcement authorities) suspect James Eagan Holmes — a 24-year-old California native and neurosciences graduate student at the Univeristy of Colorado in Denver.

Having recently moved from Colorado to Oregon, the Aurora shootings tapped into old feelings as I recalled the Columbine High School killings in 1999. My wife, Amy, was a youth minister at the time, and one of the girls who had previously been a part of her group had helped the Columbine killers buy their guns.

Then there was the attack at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. And now this.

It got me thinking about what all of the killers have in common, and for that matter, what they seem to have in common with many of the mass murderers at the focus of such tragic stories.

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