History of Pastoral Care in America

Thanks to Patrick Fore

Thanks to Patrick Fore

I finished E. Brooks Holifield’s A History of Pastoral Care in America: From Salvation to Self-Realization. The book has been a grounding or a re-grounding for me since my seminary days. As the title tells, it is a history of pastoral care and pastoral theology in the United States of America.

Holifield walks through several Christian theological lanes, surveying and summarizing some of the major figures in pastoral theology broadly and pastoral care more specifically. He intends the book to be narrow in the sense of covering Protestant pastoral counseling and ministry.

I found it broad in how it went about telling that history. The author named several primary voices in pastoral work, drawing out the thoughts and conceptions of thinkers and preachers and teachers who shaped the practical ministry of pastors and the academic institutions who trained ministers. Holifield wanted to show specifically how the “self” was revealed in history, how attitudes about the self developed in American religion, and wrote in that direction.

Any history that covers centuries has to be clear in its scope and intention. Holifield told of theological traditions and how they dealt with (i.e., defined, taught, and constructed meanings for) sin and spiritual development, two primary foci of pastoral care and those seeking such care throughout history. How a church defines sin directly relates to how a person in that church develops him/herself, whether they develop at all.

I appreciate learning names and dates that I was not thoughtful of. Holifield named preachers and leaders who framed debates that I know of but didn’t know the progenitors. One criticism is that the historical debates were framed around churches and communities which regularly disallowed the names and thoughts of non-white people.

That lack of voice is loud in Holifield, and I found myself wondering why he wrote about the influence of Jonathan Edwards but didn’t discuss with equal precision the thoughts and impact of Richard Allen or Alexander Crummell, the Episcopal priest who started what was essentially a society for African American intellectual and theoretical development. The omission is both honest from the historical perspective–since Allen wasn’t “invited to the debate” in his time–and discouraging because I don’t note Holifield walking through his work with the sense of loss with which I read him.

He presented a lot of philosophical material that made me feel informed, and he made the connections to keep me interested because he used several local church pastors to offer what could have been, simply, heady stuff. A central event in American history of the Protestantism Holifield writes about is the Great Awakening. He writes of the psychology of the Awakening and how with the best of intentions, leaders disagreed (meaning argued) about conversion and cure.

He notes the remark of one historian who says that the central conflict of the time was not theological but psychological, about opposing views of human psychology. Holifield points to how misleading that comment was, but it as helpful as it is misleading. As he says, “the theological context of any clerical assertion about psychology profoundly affected the interpretation of the psychological claims” and “the antagonists had far more in common than any such dichotomy might suggest.” Both are true then and seem true still.

The book covers material that can’t, or shouldn’t be covered in a review. There’s stuff about will and affections, comfort, cure, accountability, capitalism, and urban culture which I hardly would relay as urban in contemporary sense. He develops in solid detail the early therapeutic movements which we see but don’t see in pastoral counseling and therapy offices. He documents the beginnings of the Emmanuel Movement, explains less popular figures like Harry Stack Sullivan (whose work I appreciate), and points to how clinical focus moved from adjustment to insight.

He opened up for me a connection between mainstream culture in the US post-Civil War and the accompanying shifts of emphases in counseling and ministry and which established the primary contexts for the 20th century pastoral care movement. The same was true after World War 2. National violence, world violence directly impacted the needs for, methods of, and providers for pastoral care and mental health. Power and achievement and success were foci. Warlike metaphors abound from that time in clinical history, and the residuals of that period are still with us.

The last half of the book was much more relatable. He employed names and methods I have been introduced to, and the book did a good job unearthing the nuanced theories from which today’s approaches in pastoral theology stem. He dealt with the ever popular client-centered therapy and its large reception among pastors, as well as the derivative therapies thereafter. He mentioned early to mid-twentieth century pastoral heavy weights like Hiltner and Boisen and Oates and Wise.

I remember thinking about something one of my Bible professors said. Perhaps they are words I put in a professor’s mouth: the people who write our texts are the people whose stories stuck. Their stories endured. In other words, those we quote continue to be those we hear.

I felt Holifield reminding us of good historical stuff while also, in my view, choosing certain voices and neglecting others relative to a history of United States of American pastoral care. I certainly am developing a personal project to augment Holifield’s good work, thinking through whose voices are missing but shouldn’t be.

In summary, as good as this history is, it is short-sighted in the direction of white, male perspectives which is nothing surprising. Most of theological scholarship bends in that direction. Certainly most recognized histories bend there too. I could see more complementary texts coming alongside this book in order to illuminate the less-told stories of women and people of color. Indeed, I know the work of folks like Carroll Watkins-Ali and Archie Smith should be read with Holifield’s book.

Now, I’m on the hunt for another pastoral theological history that captures and enriches the story by adding the voices that Holifield didn’t include. That said, this quote, pages from the end, summarize well the good ground the author did cover and offers a kind of vista into the next places historically minded theological scholars may next dig:

Pastoral conversation–whether understood as counsel or as counseling–has never been a disembodied activity, isolated from social and cultural expectations and ideals. The strategies of pastoral discourse, the tone and vocabulary of private communication between the minister and the person in distress, always have borne the dim reflection of a public order. One begins to understand something about pastoral counseling by looking closely not only at prevailing conceptions of theology and psychology but at popular culture, class structure, the national economy, the organization of the parishes, and the patterns of theological education. And one must also look at the past.

 

Seth Godin on Credibility

Thanks to Luis Llerena

Thanks to Luis Llerena

You believe you have a great idea, a hit record, a press release worth running, a company worth funding. You know that the customer should use your limited-offer discount code, that the sponsor should run an ad, that the admissions office should let you in. You know that the fast-growing company should hire you, and you’re ready to throw your (excellent) resume over the transom.

This is insufficient.

Your belief, even your proof, is insufficient for you to get the attention, the trust and the action you seek.

When everyone has access, no one does. The people you most want to reach are likely to be the very people that are the most difficult to reach.

Attention is not yours to take whenever you need it. And trust is not something you can insist on.

You can earn trust, just as you can earn attention. Not with everyone, but with the people that you need, the people who need you.

This is the essence of permission marketing.

When I began in the book industry thirty years ago, if you had a stamp, you had everything you needed to get a book proposal in front of an editor. You could send as many proposals as you liked, to as many editors as you liked. All you needed to do was mail them.

In my first year, after my first book came out, I was totally unsuccessful. Not one editor invested in one of the thirty books I was busy creating.

It wasn’t that the books were lousy. It was me. I was lousy. I had no credibility. I didn’t speak the right language, in the right way. Didn’t have the credibility to be believed, and hadn’t earned the attention of the people I was attempting to work with.

Email and other poking methods have made it easy to spew and spray and cold call large numbers of people, but the very ease of this behavior has also made it even less likely to work. The economics of attention scarcity are obvious, and you might not like it, but it’s true.

The bad news is that you are not entitled to attention and trust. It is not allocated on the basis of some sort of clearly defined scale of worthiness.

The good news is that you can earn it. You can invest in the community, you can patiently lead and contribute and demonstrate that the attention you are asking be spent on you is worthwhile.

But, no matter how urgent your emergency is, you’re unlikely to be able to merely take the attention you want.

 

Read Seth’s blog. Daily.

From a Book I’m Reading

From the Dreamers & Doers at Death to the Stock Photo

Books grow out of the lives of the people who write them, of course. But they also grow out of the lives of the people they touch. The writer writes one truth; the reader brings to it another. When we read something that has meaning to us, we ourselves give it a meaning it never had before. If what we read resonates with nothing we ourselves know to be true, we call it fantasy.

From Joan Chittister’s Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope (pg. xiii)

Complications, Surgeons, Care, & “Undeniable Power”

Thanks to Leeroy and Life of Pix.

Thanks to Leeroy and Life of Pix.

This is an intriguing report about patient choice, public information about doctor’s records, and surgeons teaming up to prevent complications and errors even though they’re paid less for it. Here’s a quote that made me hopeful–and there were a few:

There was undeniable power in putting the information out there, where everyone could see it.

“When you get that grade, if you don’t like that grade or think you can do better,” Kaplan said, “you either study harder or go to the teacher and ask, ‘What can I do better?’”

Being a unit chaplain for surgical floors and a medical intensive care makes me particularly interested in this report which you can read here. Of course, your disagreements, your considerations, the comments after the report, and so forth are just as helpful in learning about all these things. And I’m grateful that Marian Wang shared this.

Just Mercy

I have a law project called the Equal Justice Initiative, and we’re trying to help people on death row. We’re trying to stop the death penalty, actually. We’re trying to do something about prison conditions and excessive punishment. We want to free people who’ve been wrongly convicted. We want to end unfair sentences in criminal cases and stop racial bias in criminal justice. We’re trying to help the poor and do something about indigent defense and the fact that people don’t get the legal help they need. We’re trying to help people who are mentally ill. We’re trying to stop them from putting children in adult jails and prisons. We’re trying to do something about poverty and the hopelessness that dominates poor communities. We want to see more diversity in decision-making roles in the justice system. We’re trying to educate people about racial history and the need for racial justice. We’re trying to confront abuse of power by police and prosecutors—

Bryan Stevenson in his book, Just Mercy (pg. 293)

“Concerted Effort By All Churches”

When it comes to racism in America, and specifically acts of violence against black Christians and black churches, the past is not even the past—it is a very present danger. While academics might argue about the death of the black church, racists know the history of the black church in America is a threat to white supremacy.

The current efforts to take down the Confederate flag across America, battle police violence, and improve black lives are also under attack. clergy and their church communities are spearheading much of this work.

The practicalities of protecting black houses of worship, however, are very much of this world. Many may not remember that during the years of 1995-1998, 670 churches burned, according to the Community Relations Service, and in 1996, the Church Arson Prevention Act was signed by then-President Clinton.

In light of the shooting at Emanuel AME and the church burnings, the White House, FEMA and Homeland Security recently held a conference call to help clergy members protect their churches and acquaint them with various governmental resources that churches can use to be “at the ready” in case of active shooter attacks, acts of arson, and other types of events that pose threats to buildings of worship.

While this is important, it focuses on prevention—not cure or eradication of racism or religion-based hate crimes.

These actions are a start, but they do not get to the root causes of racism and violence against black churches. Good white supremacists—some of them confessional Christians—fail to understand that the racial history of America has them captive. Some may have even come to their racist beliefs through biblical interpretations of the supposed inferiority of people of African descent.

What needs to happen is a concerted effort by all churches, black and white alike, to confront the issue of racism in America with fervor.

Read the full piece by Dr. Butler at RD here.

“…manipulate what race is…”

I want to thank Dr. Robin Henderson-Espinoza for suggesting this on Facebook, and it sums up a lot of good thought on a small but oddly popular story these days when the main kernel of the story, told from a different (i.e., black) perspective, would, sadly and truthfully, hardly be noticed.

I cannot hide my skin or make myself invisible when I am protesting police terror or creating theater art for other Black women with skin like mine. I cannot manipulate what race is for my own pleasure. Ms. Dolezal is a white woman, who made choices, who used and is still using every bit of her white privilege to maintain the power and elite status she has accrued from her deception. This use of white privilege in her case is no different from transracial adoptive parents who adopt bi-racial children because they want these children to identify with the “white side” of themselves. These parents completely ignore that how they want race to function is not actually how race operates out in the world. They are completely assured of their own power to bend and change race and meanings of race at their own white whim. This manipulation is what Ms. Dolezal has done. This manipulation of race is no different from what white supremacists did in the early days of our country, moving the lines of race back and forth when it pleased them, using the language of the law, even at the cost of Black, Brown, Asian and Native lives.

I want to be clear that this is complicated.

Read this post in full here at Lost Daughters.