A Group of the American Academy of Religion
June 1997; Volume 20, no. 2
Kelly Bulkeley, Editor; D. Andrew Kille, Layout
Theme: The Future of Religion and Psychological Studies
William Parsons, Rice University, Presiding
Panelists: William Parsons, Rice University; Sandra Lee Dixon, University of Denver; G. William Barnard, Southern Methodist University; Susan Henking, Hobart and William Smith Colleges; Diane Jonte-Pace, Santa Clara University; Ian Evison, Meadville/Lombard Theological School
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John McDargh (Boston College) continues the adventure of learning by trial and error (and by some very sage advice from more experienced friends) the business of fathering one very dynamic six-year old, who, only six months removed from Russia, is now speaking entirely in English. John's essay, "From Oz to the Kingdom of God: Group Psychotherapy as a Spiritual Discipline," has recently been included in a new and expanded edition of Joann Wolski Conn's book, Women's Spirituality (Paulist Press). He will again be teaching a course on "Spirituality and Psychotherapy" at the Cape Cod Institute this summer and has begun speaking and working with groups in Boston looking at the spiritual nurture of children. A recent find that has made its way into his graduate syllabi is Sylvia Boorstein's That's Funny, You Don't Look Buddhist!, a warm and wise autobiographical reflection by a woman who calls herself both a "passionate Buddhist" and a committed and observant Jew.
Bastin Parangimalil (Dharmavam Vidya Kshetram) is teaching a course on "Counseling Skills in Pastoral Care" at DVK, an atheneum of Philosophy and Theology. He is relocating Atmadarsana, a youth ministry and counseling center based in Mysore, in Southern India, and he plans to conduct research on the effects of chemical and alcohol dependency on college students. He recently published Images for Human Wholeness, with P.J. Abraham (Bangalore: Pangaya Publications, 1995).
Elisabeth K.J. Koenig (The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church) is teaching a course on "Psychoanalysis and its Theological Response."
William Rogers retired from the Presidency of Guilford College in June of 1996. He now has more time for writing, house building (in Maine), singing, sculpting, travel, tennis, etc. He is working on four foundation boards with religion and health care, community-building, and social and economic development.
H. Newton Malony (Fuller Theological Seminary) is writing an article on "Christianity and Psychology" for the Encyclopedia of Psychology being published by the American Psychological Association. He has finished a book titled Persistent Paradoxes in Religious Leadership: Moving from the Tyranny of the "OR" to the Genius of the "AND", to be published by Jossey-Bass.
Daniel Noel is following his project on neoshamanism and post-Jungian psychology (The Soul of Shamanism, Continuum, 1997) with work on a depth psychology of millenial culture, including popular culture, the need for grieving rituls, Freud and Kristeva on mourning as applied to millenial culture, etc. In April he will teach a course at the Pacifica Graduate Institute on "The Myth of the Shaman in the Mind of the West," and in September he will be leading a tour of Southwestern England and Wales to sites associated with the Merlin legend.
James Ashbrook (Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary) has a new book which will appear this summer, co-authored with Carol Rausch Albright: The Humanizing Brain: Where Religion and Neuroscience Meet (Pilgrim Press, 1997).
Jennifer Rike (University of Detroit, Mercy) is teaching a course on "Violence, Non-Violence, and Religion," and is doing research on a) the paradox that religion has been a force promoting as much as opposing violence and b) the resources within the Jewish and Christian traditions for stopping the cycle of violence and healing from its deadly after-effects.
Ralph Underwood (Austin Presbyterian Seminary) is doing research on the healing/wholeness services of so-called mainline churches, especially those that had no tradition of laying on of hands/anointing before the introduction of new liturgies.
Kelly Bulkeley (Graduate Theological Union) has been elected President of the Association for the Study of Dreams. At the group's 1997 conference he will give an address titled "Feminine Fragments of a History of Dreams," offering a new interpretation of Queen Penelope's dream of the 20 geese presented in book 19 of The Odyssey.
Michael Christensen (Drew University) has completed his dissertation and anticipates graduating from Drew in the Spring of 1997. He is teaching courses on "Ministry in the Third Millennium" and "Modern Lay Theologians" at Drew University Theological School and "Urban Ministry and Youth Culture" at Princeton Seminary. He is also working on the following research projects: Post-apocalypticism and youth culture; The music of the spheres: ancient wisdom for a new age; and The lost cross of St. Euphrosyne: patron saint of Belarus.
Lee Butler (Chicago Theological Seminary) is working on a book project entitled Pastor as Healer: New Directions in African American Pastoral Psychology. The text will attempt to put forth a new framework for pastoral care and counseling within the African American context.
Charles Simpkinson (Common Boundary Magazine) announces the 17th annual Common Boundary Conference, Nov. 7-9, 1997, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. The conference's theme is "Creativity, Imagination, and Healing," and presenters include Robert Bly, Sarah Ban Breathnach, Jane Hirshfield, bell hooks, Jon and Mylya Kabat-Zinn, John O'Donohue, Gabrielle Roth, and others. Charles also announces that the winner of the 1996 Common Boundary Psychospiritual Dissertation/Thesis Award is Mishy Lesser, Ed.D., from the Department of Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She based her research on her experience training 24 El Salvador mental health workers who had themselves been exposed to stressors during the war, some quite severe. Her focus was on the role the spiritual belief system of the workers played in their growing and healing. Entrants for the 1997 Dissertation/Thesis Award (with its first prize of $1000) are due Dec. 31, 1997, and can be sent to 5272 River Road, Suite 650, Bethesda, MD 20816. PCR note: John McDargh has for many years served as one of the judges in the Common Boundary contest.
Special greetings to new PCR member the Rev. Kirk Bingaman, a doctoral student in the Religion and Psychology area of the Graduate Theological Union.
D. Andrew Kille successfully defended his dissertation "Psychological Biblical Criticism: Genesis 3 as a Test Case" and received his Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union in May. His dissertation is a critical reading of psychological interpretations of the Eden narrative from Freudian, Jungian, and developmental perspectives. Using several criteria of adequate interpretation drawn from Paul Ricoeur, the study highlights hermeneutical issues involved in psychological interpretation of the Bible. PCR members Wayne Rollins, Diane Jonte-Pace and Lewis Rambo served on Andrew's dissertation committee, along with chair Gina Hens- Piazza of the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley.
Lucinda Huffaker (Wabash Center) recently took the position of Associate Director of the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. Her interests lie in theological education, particularly in how PCR members teach psychology and religion and in how to develop programs that can help them do it better. She recommends a book coming out this summer titled The Gender and Psychology Reader, edited by Blythe Clinchy and Julie Norem (NYU Press), and she invites PCR members to visit the Wabash Center web page for workshop and grant opportunities.
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In anticipation of the PCR paper session on cultural psychology to be held at this year's AAR Annual Meeting, it is worth reflecting on Clifford Geertz's generally friendly review of Jerome Bruner's new book The Culture of Education. Bruner has played a major role in the history of American psychology, and his new book focuses squarely on what he believes is the promising emergence of cultural psychology. Rather than seeing the mind as a computer whose development obeys an inborn program, cultural psychology views the mind as a social achievement, growing out of the individual's engagement with culture. Bruner's main concern in this book is to analyze how the practice of child education can either stimulate or obstruct children's natural desire to create meanings, to understand others, and to make sense of the world. For Bruner, cultural psychology is an inherently interdisciplinary project that brings to light the many complex interactions underlying human mental functioning.
Geertz is of course pleased that a prominent psychologist like Bruner is turning to anthropology for insight and guidance. However, Geertz remains skeptical, and his concerns have merit. At the same time that cultural psychology is rising to academic prominence, so are other modes of inquiry with radically different methodological approaches: information-processing cognitivism, neurobiological brain research, and evolutionary genetics, all of which have little use, Geertz says, for the kind of interdisciplinary syntheses that Bruner is proposing. Geertz does not deny the value of seeking such syntheses, nor the practical possibility of achieving them. Rather, he says he cannot share Bruner's optimism regarding the inevitable conflicts that cultural psychology will have with these competing views of the mind.
Looking toward our PCR session on cultural psychology and religious studies, a couple of questions emerge from Geertz's cautionary comments. If religious studies scholars want to draw on the resources of cultural psychology, what should our stance be toward the broader academic debates in which cultural psychology is a participant? Put in negative terms, can religious studies scholars afford not to acknowledge those other approaches to the nature and functioning of the human mind? Put more positively, can religious studies scholars perhaps contribute new perspectives on the questions at issue in those debates?
Kelly Bulkeley, Graduate Theological Union
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