THE SOCIAL SCIENCES AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
GENESIS ON MALADAPTIVE BEHAVIOR AND DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES
The Book of Genesis provides many Aetiological Statements which have the Literary Intent to “explain some phenomenon in the universe or being”.
Genesis 1-2 provides an aetiological statement of the Universe as the ideal environment for human existence. Much of Genesis 1-2 layout environmental “boundaries” (cf the Kosher Food Laws as theological statements of “boundaries”). These boundaries will be extended to human relationships (husband, wife, parents and siblings). Yet Genesis 3 makes several aetiological statements as to why Humanity is in such an existential mess in a less than perfect environment ie the disharmony of “crossing boundaries”. These “trespasses” include crossing theological, psychological and social boundaries.
The key aetiological statement that this paper will focus on comes from Genesis 3.16 which has the Literary Intent to explain Domestic Conflict, Maladaptive Behavior and Dysfunctional Families as the Curse of Patriarchy: “Your desire shall be for your husband, but he will rule over you”.
The psychological and social fallout from this curse is clearly demonstrable from Genesis 3 and following (including the existential present). Genesis 4 deals with fratricide (Cain kills his brother Abel). Noah has a dysfunctional family based on his “nakedness” and the interaction between Noah and his son Ham. Abraham, far from being a man of great faith, crosses marital boundaries leading to adultery via polygamy which splits the family apart under extreme emotional distress (expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael). Isaac and Rebekah play favorites with Esau and Jacob which leads to the disintegration of the family. Sibling rivalry with Joseph and his brothers (along with Jacob’s continuing favoritism) leads to near family destruction—saved only by YHWH whose providential care brought “good” (salvation) out of evil (maladaptive behavior and dysfunctional families): “You intended it for evil, but God intended it for good—even the saving of many people”.
Genre Recognition and Theology are also critical in relation to Genesis 3.16: This is a curse (Law) that can be redeemed (Gospel) through the Substitutionary Penal Atonement of Jesus Christ and through Theology. An example of this multi-leveled salvation process is how YHWH “covers” Adam and Eve’s nakedness ie he cares for the psychological fallout (shame, low self-esteem and “body-image”) of Original Sin and acts to, at least in part, save them from it.
The “Good News” (Gospel) of Genesis is the fact that YHWH continually acts in history (including personal and family) to save his people from Original Sin and Actual Sins often manifest in maladaptive behavior and dysfunctional families. Indeed the God of the Bible continues to use messed up people and families to bring salvation (mission) to the world (cf Hosea’s family).
“Scientific Enquiry into the Spiritual Dimension of Healing: Contemporary Catholic Approaches” by Dr Catherine Caufield
The theme of this presentation is the double-edged nature of a metaphysical understanding of reality, encapsulated by religion: The capacity of religion on the one hand to oppress and destroy and on the other to comfort and restore.
The Oblates were key figures in the residential schools in Alberta from 1862 to 1975. This religious society partenered (with some tension) with the nation-building goals of pre-and post-confederation governments and with the expressed desires of Indian and Metís communities to educate their children to adapt to a changing world. The story that unfolded over more than a century has come to be understood as a history of well-meaning intentions gone badly awry, leaving in their wake thousands of deeply damaged lives and a legacy of fractured relationships.
Methodologically, the first part of this presentation is descriptive, outlining approaches to healing taken by the Oblates in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples. These approaches include the sacraments, healing circles, and two structured programs “Return to Spirit” and “From Grief to Grace.” The second part of this presentation glosses contextual narratives: the Greek stories of Asclepsius and Chiron as interpreted by Jung, the Hebrew suffering servant (Isaiah 53), and the Christian story of Golgatha. Finally, in scholastic form these first two parts will be discussed utilizing Ricouer’s theoretical insights regarding mimesis and representation as an explanatory basis for articulating the non-ostensive reference that is evoked through story and actualized in ritual.
The purpose of this presentation is to explore the possible capacity of the spiritual dimension of healing.
“The Relationship Between Duration of Residency and Religiosity” by Ms Emily Crate, Ms Leah Kelly & Dr Bryan Rooney
Nations differ greatly in the extent that their people are religious or secular (Diener et al., 2011). Canada is a relatively secular nation, but welcomes immigrants from nations that vary widely in degree of religiosity. Do immigrants to Canada retain the religiousness of their country of origin? Does living in an affluent western country secularize immigrates who originate from relatively religious countries? Research has found differing results. A recent study found a trend of increasing religiosity the longer immigrants remained in the United States (Akresh, 2011). In contrast, others have found the opposite trend, in Quebec, Canada (Connor, 2008) and in the USA (Connor, 2009). Although previous work has focused on religious participation, our purpose was to determine if there is a relationship between level of religiosity and the length of time people have lived in Canada. We conducted a pilot survey of 28 men and 13 women (age 18 to 62 years) with a variety of religiou s affiliations. Participants completed the Daily Spiritual Experience Scale (Underwood, 2011) and indicated the length of time they had resided in Canada. We found a medium size negative correlation, r(39) = -.347, p = .013, indicating that the longer an individual has lived in Canada the lower their level of self-reported religiosity. These pilot data are consistent with Connor’s findings but do not support the findings of Akresh. This may be due to the length of time an immigrant has resided in the new country. Our sample included people with a wide range of time in Canada whereas Akresh examined relatively recent immigrants. Although our findings are significant we consider these data as preliminary and we will continue to collect data to include more participants at all durations or residency.
“Close Personal Relationships and Emotional Regulation Via Prayer” by Ms Emily Crate and Dr Wendy Pullin
The use of prayer in managing emotions has been a subject of recent interest in the literature. Specifically, current research has investigated the use of prayer in managing anger and the process of forgiveness (Krumrei, Mahoney & Pargament 2008, Vasiliauskas & McMinn 2012). This case study will focus on interpreting themes and patterns in an individual’s use of prayer for emotional regulation in interpersonal relationships. An essay-style questionnaire will be sent via email to a participant who regularly attends church and is 40 – 50 years old. The participant will be asked to reflect on an anger episode occurring within a close personal relationship in which the participant used prayer to regulate emotions and possibly resolve the conflict. The participant will also be asked to reflect on how the experience of anger fits within the context of personal religious beliefs and relationship with God. The responses will be examined using interpretative phenomenological analy sis (IPA) to find the significant themes in how prayer helps manage anger in relationships and how the experience of anger fits into the participant’s relationship with God. An informed perspective obtained by reviewing the relevant social science literature will set up the interpretations of the participant’s responses via parallels and contrasts with phenomena reported in the literature. As this is a case study, further research may be done to identify common themes across multiple case studies.
“Is it Better to be Christian, Muslim, or Atheist when Applying for a Job?” by Ms Naomi Danielson, Ms Brittany Hinton & Dr Bryan Rooney
Canada prides itself in being a multicultural society, accepting and tolerant of all cultures and religions. Though tolerance is something Canada is known for, we tested whether this general view was reflected in the opinions of Canadian university students. Given the wide media coverage of terrorist groups with ties to extremist Islamic groups, we hypothesized that Canadian students would have a more positive attitude toward Christians, than individuals who where Muslim or Atheist. We surveyed 16 men and 29 women ranging from 18-31 years of age and attending Concordia University College of Alberta. Each participant was asked to assume the role of an employer intending to hire a new employee. Participants read one of three short resumes wherein the job candidate was described as either Christian, Muslim, or Atheist, all other details were the same except the name of the applicant. Respondents then answered questions about their perception of the individual’s intelligence, t rustworthiness, qualification for the job, and ultimately their decision to hire. We found that there was no significant difference between participant’s perceptions of intelligence, qualification for the job, or their decision to hire, however, between there was a significant difference in the assumed trustworthiness of the individual, F(2, 42) = 3.790, p = .031. A Tukey post hoc test indicated that the Muslim applicant was rated as more trustworthy (M=6.400, SD=.82808) than either the Christian (M=5.4667, SD=1.30) or Atheist. Our results indicate that young Canadian students are generally not prejudice, however, counter to or hypothesis we found a slight bias in favour of Islam. We discuss the possibility that this my represent a reaction to the often negative portrayal of Islam in the media.
“Self-Protection: A Means to Wholeness?” by Dr Delmar B Epp
In this paper, I explore the impact of a fundamental human need, the need for self-protection, on our willingness to engage or affiliate with others. This need describes our wish to maintain a positive social or self-image, or to protect aspects of ourselves that we hold dear. I review theory and evidence for a self-protective motive in several domains of psychological research. I then report two empirical studies that examine the relationship between self-protection and affiliative choice.
In the first study, volunteers experienced a specific threat or boost to their academic self-esteem, and then were asked, ostensibly as part of another study, to commit to an interaction with another student (potential interaction partners varied in terms of their group membership). Those who received a boost to their self-esteem indicated a general openness to interact with members of any other group, whereas those who perceived a threat were more restrictive in choosing a conversation partner.
In the second study, the nature of the boost or threat to self-image was made more generic. Volunteers were (falsely) informed that a classmate had chosen (or not chosen) them to partner on a task, based on a self-description of leisure interests, career goals, and personal values. Once again, those who experienced a threat to self-esteem (a rejection) were more likely to limit later affiliative choices to members of in-groups.
I suggest that one factor that tends to separate us as individuals and as communities is found in our basic need to maintain and protect our own self-image. Thus self-protection and the fear of loss may lie at the heart of many experiences of exclusion, even prejudice. I find this to be an ironic outcome, in that our efforts to protect those precious aspects of self are intended to be “thrusts to wholeness” (Black, 2006).
Black, P. (2006). Thrust to wholeness: The nature of self-protection. Review of General Psychology, 10, 191-209.
“Resilence Strategy of St. Paul” by Dr Peter Doherty
Resilience is well known in the Scriptures. Biblical figures have both the Hebrew and New Testament have had to struggle to overcome crisis in their lives. They not only persevered but in many cases thrived in the face of adversity. Many of the greatest teachings from the Scriptures are a result of the struggles of the writers. The central thrust of this study will be the examination of the writings of St.Paul to further understand his skills, strategies and understanding of adversity in his life. His resilience style impacted his faith development, his ministry and his spirituality. To a lesser extent comparisions will be made to other key figures in the Scriptures to further clarify Paul’s model of resilience.
“A Biblically Informed Assumptive World” by Revd Darren Dressler
In the last few decades the concept of the ‘assumptive world’ has been well established in the literature concerning trauma, bereavement, grief, and loss. There are three core assumptions outlined by Janoff-Bulman in her work, “Shattered Assumptions: Towards a New Psychology of Trauma”: The world is benevolent; the world is meaningful; the self is worthy. These core assumptions influence the way we perceive and relate to the world around us, as well as how we experience loss – especially traumatic loss. Frequently, traumatic loss will shatter our assumptive worlds because they have no room for traumatic loss to happen in our own lives. The result is that on top of the grief that we experience, we also experience the devastating destruction of our core assumptions about ourselves and the world around us. For some Christians, the shattering of their assumptions about God and how he operates in the world can result in turning away from Christianity (‘I refuse to believe in a God who lets this happen!’). It is important, therefore, for Christian pastors, teachers, and leaders to be intentional about assisting Christians in adopting an assumptive world that has room for, and can begin to comprehend, traumatic loss. This paper, therefore, will argue that an assumptive world informed by the Bible can allow for traumatic loss and help the individual Christian, as well as the Church, respond to such losses and care for those who experience them. The intended result of adopting such an assumptive world is that the Christian may experience traumatic loss without having to also experience the devastating pain of the complete destruction of his/her assumptive world.
“Framing a Christian University Unionization Drive” by Dr John Dyck & Dr Robynne Healey
Union organizing is frequently viewed as an adversarial action. Research on the topic suggests that management and labour are deeply divided about the purpose and consequences of unionization. Indeed, organizing drives may become public contests in which parties on either side of the management-labour divide work to aggregate the necessary employee support for their vision of stable employer-employee relations. Adversaries appeal to normative terms like ‘loyalty’, ‘solidarity’, ‘tradition’, ‘shared values’, and ‘shared experiences’ as each side frames a particular outlook favourable to their objectives. Not only do management and union organizers appeal to the ‘interests’ of the potential bargaining unit; they also consider the attitudes of other stakeholders in their communications. All of these players – management, labour, and stakeholders – influence the flavor of individual union campaigns. Nonetheless, all union campaigns and activities take place within the context of guidelines established and overseen by state-regulated Labour Relations Boards (LRB).
Organizing campaigns on university campuses take on another level of sophistication since both management and labour consider themselves to be appealing to ‘colleagues’ on either side as well as across the management-labour divide. And when the university at which organizing is attempted is a Christian one, arguments for and against organization are framed within a context that attempt to privilege particular interpretations of Christianity and the Christian mission, especially if the rhetoric employed by stakeholders attempts to classify union activity within or without the bounds of Christian ‘orthodoxy’ or ‘truth’.
This paper examines the unionizing drive at Trinity Western University which began formally on 28 August 2012 and ended with the counting of the ballots on 28 March 2013. An entire year of conscious planning, executing the plan, and waiting for the process to play out will be examined. While the current paper is decidedly one-sided, reflecting the authors’ involvement in the union organizing drive from the initial planning period through to the ruling of the LRB in March 2013 and the counting of the ballots (in which faculty voted not to unionize), the auto-biographical perspective will be grounded in wider theoretical and practical research. It will in particular examine the public record of how the union organizing committee was framed by both the university administration, fellow colleagues and some students in the deliberate attempt to undermine the credibility and success of the unionizing drive. The idea of an interpretative frame, as developed by Judith Butler in Fra mes of War: when is life grievable? will be used to examine the epistemological, ontological and ethical schema used to determine in advance what are Christian ‘values’ and ‘Christian practices’ appropriate to a Christian university, thereby excluding alternative interpretations of unionizing. Perspectives on ‘loyalty’, ‘solidarity’, ‘leadership’, and ‘transparency’ will be examined in light of their use during the union organizing drive.
“Spirituality: Effects on Psychological, Emotional and Social Health” by Ms Jessica Gosselin, Mr Kenneth Murdoch, Dr Bryan Rooney and Dr Dorothy Steffler
With the aging population and increasing number of seniors involved in retirement care or assisted living, there is a need to provide appropriate supportive services for the health and well-being of these older adults. The purpose of this study was to investigate the potential relationship between spirituality and various constructs of psychological and social well-being. More specifically, our study examined factors such as satisfaction with life, optimism, depression, loneliness, and resilience/coping and how these constructs relate to an individual’s spirituality, as manifest in daily spiritual experience. Quantitative data was collected via hard copy survey from a convenience sample of older adults residing in retirement care facilities in and around Edmonton, Alberta.
A correlational and multiple regression analysis will be conducted on the quantitative data. Recent research has consistently shown a positive correlation between spirituality and various facets of physical and mental health. Our results will have potential implications for spiritual programming and support in retirement care centers.
NB: Poster Presentation
“Therapeutic Benefits of Managing Anger by “Talking with God” by Ms Chayse Haldane and Dr Wendy Pullin
The focus of this case study is to gain an in-depth examination of an individual’s use of prayer to find specific themes or processes in prayer that may help with a particular individual’s emotional regulation. We are specifically interested in how an individual uses prayer to manage anger interpersonally in everyday situations. We are also interested in how the feeling of anger with another person fits into an individual’s religious understanding and relationship with God. An essay-style questionnaire will be sent via email to a person who attends church regularly and is between the ages of 40-50. The questions invite the participant to reflect on a recent episode in which she felt angry with someone close to her, such as a relative, significant other, or close friend. The participant must then reflect on emotions that she felt towards the person and how these emotions fit into the context of her religious beliefs.
Subsequently, she will be invited to explain how praye r has helped her deal with these emotions and how prayer has affected her understanding of the anger episode. The responses will be examined using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to identify significant themes in how prayer helps the participant manage anger in relationships, or how anger may be consistent, or possibly inconsistent, within an individual’s religious belief system or relationship with God. These interpretations will be done within the context of an understanding of current research in the area. Further analysis may be done with a collection of case studies to determine common themes.
“Environmental Discussions Within Canadian Mennonite: Content Analysis of Canadian Religious Periodic” by Ms Carrie L Hall
This research project examines the coverage of substantive environmental matters as discussed within a Canadian religious periodical. We conduct a content analysis of the Canadian Mennonite in the ten year period 2002-2012. Each biweekly issue over this time period, environmental content was collected and reviewed for content details and several manifest themes, including climate change, lifestyle, social justice, and theological rationale. Thematic frequency and co-occurrences were assessed over time as were other features consistent with media analysis in the social movements literature such as length and placement of the environmental content, associated organizations, and other characteristics. Secondary objectives extend the question of the religious-environmental engagement to examine how “sacred appeals” have been connected to these environmental discussions: that is, what are the discursive frames applied to religiously-based environmental action? Social movement studies frequently examine movement “framing” or explication of the issues and their solutions. We apply this approach by examining the implicit theology, ergo, religious framing of the environment, in a specific Christian tradition.
Content analysis is widely recognized for its effectiveness in systematically examining the presence of thematic elements within discursive mediums. The most common approach to such research has targeted public discourse through examination of national print and online newspapers (Young and Dugas 2011; Deacon and Baxter 2009).This study expands Christian scholarship by specifically examining how a specific religious tradition discursively reports its engagement with a particular issue – the environment.
“Religious Mediation: Media Framing and the Role of Christian Social Actors in Public Discourses” by Dr Randolph Haluza-Delay & Daniel Muthui
There are divergent and often sharply divided views on the role the Christian faith plays or ought to play in shaping the consciousness of the public and stirring debates around issues in contemporary society. Thus, religious actors’ involvement in the secular sphere is the basis for contestation, especially in controversial issues such as the environmental impacts of the oilsands development in Alberta. Similarly, there has been a proliferation of studies examining social movements and media representations, particularly in regards to movement framing of issues. Movement representations – or framing processes – are central in understanding the efficacy of social movements in achieving social change in alignment with their goals. While this is well-studied in the social movement literature, it is has received less research at the intersection of religious actors and the media.
Religious actors, such as the ecumenical organization Kairos and the Roman Catholic and Anglican Bishops for the region have received media attention for their insertions into the oilsands debates. This study examines the relationship between religious actors’ representations and the media on a socially contentious issue by considering how the media coverage of a Christian faith-based social movement’s impacted its goals, outcomes and the general treatment in the public. The study focuses on the Kairos Church leaders’ tour of the Oilsands in May 2009. We conduct comparative analysis of the media coverage of the tour in both the secular and the church media.
Secondly, we examine the public responses to religious engagement with the oilsands issue. Three articles on religion appeared in January 2009 on the CBC News website. We compare the public comments about Bishop Luc Bouchard’s pastoral letter on the oilsands with the public comments following two other articles about religion appearing at the same time: the public’s reaction to the University of Alberta’s move to remove an explicit reference to God on the convocation speech and the debate that raged over the bus ads promoting atheism in Calgary by a Toronto-based group.
“Limbic Regulation and Group Worship” (part of the CUCA Psychology Department Psymposium on Love, Attachment and Spirituality) by Ms Lillian Kennedy
Limbic Regulation and Group Worship (15-minute presentation) -part of a Psychology Department Psymposium on Love, Attachment, and Spirituality
This is a theoretical presentation which takes concepts described in A General Theory of Love (2000) and applies them to aspects of group worship. Using the triune brain theory as a template, the authors of the book (Drs. Thomas Lewis, M.D., Fari Amini, M.D., & Richard Lannon, M.D.) propose that the limbic brain is the seat of emotion and that limbic resonance, limbic regulation and limbic revision are the major psychological mechanisms underlying interpersonal attachment and the experience of love. These concepts will be reviewed briefly.
The psymposium presenter will use the framework of limbic regulation as a steppingstone to examine group worship customs that have been passed on through the generations. The concept of limbic regulation emerges from evidence that our biology is to some extent “open source”, i.e. the ongoing stability of our biological processes depend in part upon the physical proximity of other caring people and our interactions with them. There is a mutual exchange of emotional information, mediated by body language, facial expression, words, and behavior and this reciprocity has a profound biological impact on relationship participants. The presenter argues that limbic regulation could reasonably be considered as a factor in group worship practices. The focus will be on the most common features of group worship: choral voice and choral movement. The behavioral aspects of these practices are described. The presenter suggests that choral voice and choral movement facilitate limbi c learning and can influence the emotional (limbic) regulation of group members in a positive way. It is therefore proposed that these features of group spiritual practices are rooted not only in the wisdom of tradition but also in sound psychological principles.
“The Role of Religion and Spirituality among Caregivers of Persons with Dementia” (part of the CUCA Psychology Department Psymposium on Love, Attachment and Spirituality) by Dr Alison Kulak
This is an overview of literature concerning the role of formal and informal religious practices in the lives of people providing care for a loved one with dementia.
To date, the bulk of research involving caregivers of a person with dementia (PWD) has focussed on the stressors associated with this role. For example, it is well documented that caring for a loved one with dementia puts caregivers at risk for both physical (e.g., high blood pressure) and mental health problems (e.g., depression; Cucciare et al., 2010). Similarly, there is an established body of research suggesting that, more generally, religious and spiritual practices may be associated with benefits for both physical and mental health (Krause, 2010)
In the body of research exploring the experiences of people caring for a loved one with dementia a relatively unexplored dimension of this caregiving relationship is now being addressed; one that acknowledges the significant stressors associated with caring for a PWD while also exploring the religious and spiritual dimensions of dementia care (Stuckey & Gwyther, 2003). On the whole this literature indicates that religious and spiritual practices may provide critical nurture and social support for individuals coping with dementia and, moreover, that spiritual growth may be an outcome of this challenging journey.
“Christian Higher Education as Intercultural Service Opportunity: Scholarship as Calling” by Dr Marvin McDonald
The dynamic unfolding of world Christianity (Sanneh, 2008) offers pivotal horizons for Christian scholars in higher education. On the one hand, Christian communities across the globe are actively cultivating explicitly Christian institutions higher education (Glanzer et al., 2011). On the other hand, Christian involvement takes shape as one family of voices amidst broad academic communities (e.g., Marsden, 2000).
In this presentation I outline vocational rationales and priorities for Christian involvement in international developments in higher education for applied psychology and psychotherapy training. Humanitarian needs for international mental health training are widely recognized and promoted. And attention is also being directed to indigenizing psychology and mental health practices across the world. There are converging and distinctive features of Christian scholarship on psychotherapy for contributing to these initiatives. For instance, spiritual dimensions of psychological healing and psychotherapy are receiving substantial interfaith attention. Christian professionals and academics can actively support widely shared priorities in (a) recognizing spiritual resources in psychosocial healing and in (b) acknowledging spiritual abuse as a source of human pain that can be addressed through psychotherapy, among other modalities. Christians professionals and academics are also working to help clarify distinctions between tradition-specific and universal dimensions of spiritual well-being (e.g., Moberg, 2000), to participate respectfully and constructively in interfaith dialogue (e.g., Volf et al., 2010), and to refine practices and understandings connecting modalities of psychotherapy with spiritual care (e.g., Moon, 2002; Tan, 2011). Thus, substantial resources are available for Christian scholars to draw upon in (a) developing international and intercultural training models, (b) promoting indigenization in the practices of research, training, and psychotherapy, and (c) engaging spiritual dimensions of psychotherapy and healing in multifaith environments. Illustrations of principles for faithful scholarship will be offered by drawing from situations facing those engaged in cultivating partnerships with academics and professionals in China.
“Unpacking the Baggage of Poverty Reduction Efforts in a Kenyan Slum Orphan Rescue Centre” by Mr Jason Morris
Social sciences literature regarding poverty reduction efforts for poor countries often stresses caution in appearing colonialistic when governments and nongovernmental organizations distribute foreign aid or oversee other programs and services. Leading Christian writings emphasize the importance of missionaries respecting local cultures when planning and providing poverty relief and support. Both sources regularly agree that a culturally and historically insensitive, top-down approach to alleviating poverty may do more harm than good. But does this “hands off” paradigm now reduce the effectiveness of assistance operations when aid agencies and missionaries alike hold back knowledge, experience and resources so as not to “step on the toes” of those they wish to help? Using a child orphan rescue centre in a Kenyan slum as a case study (based on the author’s 2012 experiences in Nairobi as part of a men’s missionary team), this paper and presentation asks if and how it is possible to provide effective, efficient and even assertive help that steers clear of the mistakes of past paternalism. It will combine, contrast and critically assess the social science and Christian scholarship on poverty assistance with personal experiences, using rare images and video of slum life in Kenya. A tentative conclusion will be posited for both aid organizations and Christian missions: that the building of personal relationships with regular, clear communication between donors and recipients may minimize the repeating of past mistakes, while making a lasting difference, today, in easing the suffering and enhancing the self-sufficiency of those in great need.
“Encouraging Christian Eloquence” by Dr Joanne Neal
The Christian Church has an unprecedented opportunity to engage in dialogue and corresponding action with regard to issues of social injustice, environmental stewardship, and economic violence that are occuring within the context of our globalized market economy. However, in order for the Christian Church to have a commanding collective voice with the necessary credibility and pragmatism, there is also a clear need for the dissemination of theologically grounded information to its membership. John Lovatt (1992) highlighted this concern about the proverbial conversation between sacred and secular interests “falling flat”.
“…once the discussion reaches any depth or detail, confusion and bewilderment result because those arguing from a Christian standpoint have no proper theology to work from.”
Essentially, the membership of the Christian Church (both laity and clergy) may have a strong desire and clear intent to speak out about issues of social injustice, environmental stewardship, and economic violence. The hindrance lies in our inability to be articulate from a theological standpoint. This leads us to the notion of “Christian eloquence”; the dynamic interplay of the art of gracious and respectful listening with the art of intelligent and informed persuasion. It requires us to enter into dialogic exchange ir order to seek truth and to create undertstanding. It is about promoting gracious debate with our interlocutors while avoiding the drive to bring closure to conversation by simply claiming our “rightness” in issues of moral deliberation. It is about opening up conversations with humility in order to engage in sensitive and productive exchange that is aimed at moving society towards being more just. Christian eloquence requires practice in our capacities to listen deeply and profoundly in order to become more Christ-like, allowing us to open pathways to the core of what another is saying in the context of a culturally and religiously pluralistic society. This paper examines practical ways that Christian eloquence can be cultivated in a faith based post-secondary setting.
“Is God Still at University?” by Revd Michael Pietsch
This paper could also be titled ‘The nexus of faith and reason in the Post Modern institution of higher education’. It will initially give a snapshot of some of the recent discussion about the place of religion in the higher education sector in Australia. This will include a rationale for affirming the close links between religion (and religious studies) and the academic endeavours of higher education institutions. A brief synopsis of the history between the church and state in Australian higher education institutions will be presented. Four types of institutions in Australia will be roughly grouped along with their varying responses to matters of religion and academia. This will then tap into a discussion by various Vice-Chancellors of Australian institutions of higher education, both within the media and also between the universities themselves. They include the challenges and reflections of Stephen Schwartz, Andrew Trounson, Glyn Davis and Greg Craven. The current sit uation and the ensuing discussion will then be re-examined in the light of John Henry Newman’s book titled “Idea of a University”. Frank M. Turner and George M. Marsden are both interpreters of Newman and his concept of the place of religion within an institution of higher education. Their reflections about institutions of higher education, in the light of Newman’s book, will be used to explore the place of religion within the current higher education institutions. The paper will conclude with some thoughts exploring the options in the Post Modern age for continuing the discussion between religion and the higher education institutions. Suggestions will also be given as to how to ‘keep the door ajar’ in the dialogue between the faith communities and the institutions of higher education.
“Love and the Limbic Dance of Intimacy” (part of the CUCA Psychology Department Psymposium on Love, Attachment and Spirituality) by Dr Wendy M. Pullin
In the human brain, the limbic system frames our experience of emotions. We cannot control the limbic system in the same way we control the neocortex. The neocortex frames our conscious thoughts and helps us make sense of emotion. Our emotional regulation appears to be in a large part determined by the limbic system and such hard-wired patterns as the universal fight-or-flight response (Goldhor Lerner, 2005; Lewis, Amini & Lannon, 2000). In addition to the brain hard-wiring that drives us, our early experiences pre-dispose us to react to our intimacy partners in a dance of attachment that will frame our love relationships for the remainder of our lives. Infants and caregivers reciprocally respond to one another, shaping infants and young children to express and integrate emotional patterns that are not yet mediated by higher-order abstract thinking. In adulthood, emotional life can be influenced, but it cannot be commanded, by the neocortex (Lewis, Amini & Lannon, 2000).
Thinking cannot stop us from intense feelings of anxiety, obsessional need or anger. The dance of attachment depends on limbic regulation. Unwittingly, in our adult dances of attachment (with partners, parents, friends or colleagues), we find ourselves repeating patterns of our early attachment, for example, emotional pursuit (fight) or emotional distance (flight). In my presentation, I will explore insights gained by comparing the therapeutic literature on dances of intimacy and anger that occur in close personal relationships with data I have gathered with my colleagues exploring the role of prayer, forgiveness and talking to God when attempting to mediate anger responses. I will explore the wisdom of modern therapists with the wisdom of modern Christians by examining their efforts to shape responses to anxiety and anger in loving relationships while identifying commonalities and contrasts, in addition to gender differences.
Lewis, T., Amini, F., & Lannon, R. (2000). A General Theory of Love. Vintage Books: New York.
Goldhor Lerner, H. (2005). The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Pattern of Relationships. Harper Collins: New York.
“An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of the Emotional Regulation of Anger Through Christian Prayer and Faith-Based Beliefs” by Dr Wendy Pullin, Ms Chayse Haldane, Ms Emily Crate and Ms Shelby Vitek
Anger management has long been of interest to psychologists. Many clients who present with a variety of psychological difficulties and disorders, including depression, anxiety, and the sequelae of trauma and abuse, end up identifying ongoing experiences of anger as a either a cause or a trigger for their symptoms. They may seek therapeutic aid in regulating these emotions in a beneficial way. Consistent with the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists, professionals are mandated to respect and work within a client’s existing value system. Within the last several years, there has been a renewed interest in the role of religious beliefs in clinical practice by professional psychologists and researchers (Aten, O’Grady &Worthington, Jr., 2012). In the present study, we seek to identify and examine methods adopted by Christians to regulate their anger in close personal relationships. We hope our published observations might benefit all therapists who work with individua ls whose Christian faith guides their emotional regulation. Our research consists of a series of case studies. An essay-style questionnaire will be sent via email to a small group of participants who regularly attend a Christian church. The participants will be asked to reflect: (a) on an anger episode occurring within a close personal relationship, and (b) how the experience of anger fits within the context of their personal religious beliefs and their relationship with God. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) will be used to identify significant common themes. An informed perspective obtained by reviewing the relevant social science literature will set up the interpretations of the participants’ responses via parallels and contrasts with phenomena reported in psychological literature examining: (a) emotional regulation, and (b) religion and spirituality.
“Evangelization and Culture: A Sociological Reflection” by Dr Richard Rymarz
This paper contrasts two views on the vigour of the Christian churches in Canada today. Both perspectives have important implications for the sociological underpinnings of how the Churches interact with culture. As a focus, the paper discusses the need, or otherwise, for a new evangelization as proposed by the Catholic Church. The rationale for the new evangelization arises out of a particular sense that the Church in many Western countries faces important challenges that call for a proportionate response. This arises at a time of institutional weakness. The vigour of the Church as measured by standard sociological indices of individual commitment is not robust.
This assessment claims to be based on strong empirical data and is in no sense a moral judgment. What is called for, in this view, is discernment and a vision for a new way to engage with the wider culture. This is an active program and as such will not always be fruitful or uncontentious. As an alternative, another reading of the contemporary state of the Church sees a much more stable level of religious commitment amongst believers, along with an increasing polarization in the wider community. As such, this perspective proposes a more continuous approach to evangelization in the wider culture. In this view the large numbers of affiliated but not strongly committed Christians, as discussed by Greely, Bibby and others, is seen as an indicator that current pastoral strategies will, overtime, bear fruit. A critical question that the paper will address is the human capital of evangelization, that is, who are those most likely to be the vectors of evangelization in contemporary culture.
“Beyond Religion: Collective Meaning in Community Context” by Dr Dale Schlenker
Over the past several decades, social science research tends to confirm the diminishing authority and acceptance of religious plausibility structures in North America. One of the clearest manifestations of this trend is the dramatic increase in the “religious none”, largely defined as those who no longer indicate a religious preference when queried via a population census or other survey instrument. The apparent decline in religious affiliation, does not of necessity mean a decline in spiritual search and the consideration of issues of ultimate meaning. Some theorists have invoked “innovation” theory as a means to understand the shift in religious meaning systems, suggesting that the religious economy is dynamic and the decline of traditional religious organizations, such as mainstream Christianity in Canada, leaves the field open for the emergence of new and innovative religious groups.
The perspective advanced in this research is that there is no compelling reason as to why we must continue to view meaning construction, even as collectively expressed, as inherently religious. Moreover, the methodological premise of this study is that while survey research and statistical analysis can be insightful for general population trends, it is woefully inadequate to the study of diversity in collective knowing that arises in the specific context of community. Drawing on Mannheim’s theoretical formulation of “relationism”, it is proposed that spheres of thought are best understood in the context in which they are expressed. It is, then, the milieu of a particular historical period that serves to center the multiplicity of meaning perspectives that co-exist and compete with each other, regardless of origin and emphasis.
The preliminary findings of an attempt to map collective meaning perspectives, in the context of a small British Columbia island community, is offered as illustrative of a promising research direction. To this point, the research is primarily based on observational data gathered from field research and supplemented by secondary resources, such as local publications.
“Faith, Global Justice and Forums of Resistance to Neo-liberalism” by Dr Elizabeth Smythe
Since 2001 the World Social Forum (WSF) has provided a space for activists in the Global Justice Movement to critique neo-liberalism and articulate alternatives under the theme “Another World is Possible”. Among those actors involved in the WSF were a range of Christian and other faith-based organizations, despite the WSF identifying itself as non-confessional, ie secular, space. Yet much of this activity has been ignored by social scientists. More recently the Occupy! movement has also emerged to challenge and resist global capitalism. Again a number of Christian churches and other faith-based groups have actively supported the Occupy movement, especially in the wake of violent evictions in a number of places around the world. This paper examines the role faith-based organizations have played in the reaction to the financial crisis and the growing levels of internal and international inequality which the diffusion of capitalism has produced. Using qualitative analysis involving case studies, participant observation and interviews we compare a variety of social forums and Occupy movements to examine how faith groups have helped to frame a moral critique of financial capitalism and played a role in diffusing values and norms which challenge the morality of growing inequality.
“Love and Meaning” (part of the CUCA Psychology Department Psymposium on Love, Attachment and Spirituality) by Dr Dorothy Steffler
Human nature strives for meaningful existence. The understanding of meaning is highly personal and at times, language itself may be a hindrance in describing important variables that contribute to meaning (Paloutzian, 1996). Because of the existential nature of understanding what constitues a meaningful life, it is important to explore this construct using both qualitative and quantitative methods. The study that I will present is part of a larger study investigating factors that influence meaning and spirituality across the lifespan. I used a mixed-methods design, including both a qualitative and quantitative methods. In this psymposium I will report on the qualitative portion of the study.
Participants were 295 adults across four age groups: 18-29, 30-49, 50-69, and 70 + years of age. All participants completed Morgan and Farsides (2009) Meaningful Life Measure, which includes 5 open-ended questions about principled, valued, purposeful, accomplished, and exciting life. In addition, approximately 120 participants responded to guided interviews about how they experience meaning in their own life. Approximately 100 participants responded online using Survey Monkey and an additional 18 interviews were conducted face-to-face, telephone, or via email.
A thematic analysis of the responses indicated relationships, spiritual beliefs, community, work, and recreational activities were consistent themes that contribute to meaningful life across all ages. Many participants commented on the transcendent nature of meaningful life, indicating love was key to meaningful existence, that is, a feeling of being connected with God and loved ones. These themes will be discussed in the context of the relational nature of humans from psychological and Christian theological perspectives.
“Factors That Influence Meaning and Spirituality in Young, Middle-Age, and Older Adults” by Dr Dorothy Steffler, Mr Kenneth Murdoch & Jessica Gosselin
The purpose of our research was to explore how spirituality influences meaning in life and whether this influence changes across the lifespan. Participants were 295 adults across four age groups: 18-29, 30-49, 50-69, and 70 + years of age. We used Morgan and Farsides (2009) 23-item Meangingful Life Measure which includes five relevant factors: principled life, purposeful life, accomplished life, valued life, and exciting life. Spirituality was measured using the Spiritual Involvement and Beliefs Scale-Revised from Hatch, Spring, Ritz, and Burg (1998). This 22-item measure of spirituality includes 4 factors: core spirituality (connection, faith, involvement, experience), spiritual perspective (hope, gratitude, reflection, appreciating nature), personal application (generosity, self-improvement), and acceptance (serenity). Personality was measured using the Short Version of the Big-Five Personality Measures (Rammstedt & John, 2007). This is a 10-item questionnaire measuring ext raversion, openness, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism Other variables such as gender, income, and self-reported health measures were also included.
There were significant interaction effects for meaningful life and age, as well as spirituality and age. Personality variables, income, and health emerged as significant predictors of meaning in various age catgories.
This research indicates that both meaningful life and spirituality are a complex interaction of many factors that do indeed change across age in adulthood. Older middle age adults are high in both principled and purposeful lives, but these factors, as well as exciting life, decline in senior years. There were no significant differences across age on valued nor accomplished life. Younger adults have lower core spiritual values but are relatively high in other measures of spirituality. There were no significant differences across age on spiritual application nor acceptance.
Overall, it appears that having a spiritual perspective, that is, being reflective, hopeful and grateful in times of hardship, and appreciating nature is one of the strongest predictors of meaningful life.
“Teaching Psychology through Literature: Redeeming the Power of the Word” by Dr Tina Trigg
In an efficiency and quantitatively driven society, the power of narrative can be readily overlooked, yet even Jean-Francoise Lyotard in his seminal text on postmodernity contends that narrative is society’s enabling force. Outlining the pivotal role of language in the meaningful exchange of ideas – particularly new, scientific ideas – in an increasingly expertise-oriented culture, Lyotard reveals the foundational nature of narrative: people rely on stories to understand their world, their communities, the individuals around them, and themselves. Moreover, the power of the Word has deep implications for Christian scholars, readers, and thinkers, centering our practise in the embodiment of narrative by identifying language as God’s creation, His hermeneutic, and as constitutive of being.
This paper begins from these premises, articulating the transformational power of narrative as tested in a cross-listed, co-taught undergraduate Psychology and Literature course. Our pedagogical strategy was to represent narrative (primarily in the form of the novel) as an embodiment of psychological theory. Some of the concepts covered include: fear, vulnerability, trust, control, relationship and love, empathy, mystery, investment, “human time,” trauma, and transformation (of character, reader, and society).
The course was structured as an experience of familiar and unfamiliar forms of narrative with the goal of creating self-awareness of interpretive strategies and normative expectations. Narrative was presented as visual and textual, beginning with the surrealist film Un Chien Andalou as a means of disorientation or destabilization. Margaret Atwood’s historical novel Alias Grace was the focus of hermeneutical control and thresholds of trust. The reader’s need for constant risk assessment culminates in the novel’s ambiguous conclusion, thereby manifesting the very necessity of gaps or mystery in psychological attempts to theorize human complexity. Freud and Marta Nussbaum provided a theoretical framework for studying Anne Michael’s Holocaust novel, Fugitive Pieces as an unlikely site of transformation, demonstrating “the [human] need to make love necessary.” Together, these texts embody the power of narrative to constitute being, of language to withhold and to creat e meaning, and of our God-given deep need for love in community.
“Anger in Relationships: The Role of Prayer” by Ms Shelby Vitek and Dr Wendy Pullin
Anger is commonly seen as a strong and powerful emotion that can be dangerous and many religious teachings encourage people to manage their anger by following God’s word. Sharp (2010) suggests that prayer helps people work with their negative feelings by providing an “imaginary social support interaction” (p.433); this offers people with emotion management strategies by giving them a role model to follow and someone that they can to talk to. Talking to God can be helpful for many people during stressful situations because it allows them to debrief afterwards and to express their feelings in a healthy way to someone whom they feel will not judge them. The purpose of the present study is to examine how prayer and religion may have helped people deal with an anger episode involving someone with whom they are close, such as: a partner, a friend, a family member or a colleague. A participant will be emailed a questionnaire in essay format that directs the individual to refl ect on how prayer helped the individual to handle a specific anger episode. The researchers will use a qualitative analytic approach called Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to identify significant themes within the participant’s answers. Using IPA will allow the researcher to gain an in-depth look at the emotions and thoughts experienced by the participant including how he/she used prayer to cope and make sense of the situation. The results of the analysis will show how a Christian incorporates prayer into managing anger in relationships. As this is a case study, further research may be done to identify common themes across multiple case studies.
“Christian Faith and the Voices of Caribbean Families Who Seek Education for their Children in North” by Dr Jean Walrond
Pope Francis I, Reverent Martin Luther King Jr., and President Barack Obama are leaders who focus on the need to reach out to our less fortunate brothers and sisters to help them to self actualize. Hyacinth Evans (2001) a graduate from the University of Ottawa who earned her Ph.D. at the University of California, and is now a Professor at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica, West Indies reminds us that historically, the Blacks in the Caribbean have used education as a means for escaping the harshness they experienced during enslavement. Today many people from the Caribbean travel north to accomplish this dream. This presentation will be grounded in writings of these visionaries to explore some of the challenges Caribbean families experience as they seek an education for their children in North American schools.
This presentation explores the intersection of migration, identity development and the school achievement of Caribbean heritage children. In doing so, it uncovers the history of the Caribbean and its early inhabitants such as the Siboneyes, Guanahatabeyes, Tainos, Caribs, and Arawaks, who predated the arrival of European explorers and enslavers, and it explains the relevant connections to colonialism, neo-colonialism and Caribbean migration to North American schools (United States and Canada). The presentation further explains what happens when these immigrants transition from being the ethnic majority in their home country, into the minority in a foreign country. Interviews with families and personal narratives are weaved into a rich discussion on immigrant identities in school and society. The findings strongly support the treatise in the literature that Caribbean heritage families place a strong emphasis on education and school achievement. Additional findings support the literature that North American schools need to become more inclusive in terms of providing appropriate curricula, pedagogy, and teacher practices that help Caribbean heritage youth to self-actualize. The discussion points to the need for greater activism within North American Caribbean communities to advance their needs as stakeholders in their children’s education. It also raises greater awareness regarding the concerns of Caribbean immigrants and their education, and provides strategies for teachers and school leaders.
” Faith-Based Parenting” by Mr Eric Kagwi Wanjiru
The research question explored in this pilot study focused on how parents “remember God” in their own lives and how they try to bring about “remembrance of God” in their children’s lives. Early Christian writers focused on the importance of remembrance of God as a key component in the faith journey of every individual (Zolner, 2011). However, remembrance of God is challenging amidst the competing demands on the time and attention of both parents and children. Christian parents attentive to their role need to keep one eye on the physical necessities of life and one on helping their children to develop an awareness and knowledge of their faith in God. This study was designed to help the researcher gain some insight into these issues, in this little studied area of developmental psychology.
In addition to establishing the appropriateness of the questions, this pilot study also sought to determine parenting practices in relation to raising children in their parent’s faith tradition. The objective was to determine how parents help their children learn to “remember God” in their lives. Many scholars have pointed to the low attention that issues of religion and spirituality have received in social sciences (Benson, King, Roehlkepartain, & Wagener, 2006, p.2, Benson, Roehlkepartain, & Rude, 2003, p. 206; Boyatzis, 2006). In psychology, matters of faith development in children are usually seen as separate from psychology’s specialization, and even child development textbooks rarely include children’s faith development issues (Zolner, 2011, p. 255). The little attention that has been accorded spiritual development “finds its home in the psychology of religion”, which interfaces more with social psychology and personality, more than it does with developmen tal psychology (Benson et al., 2006, p.2). This study sought data that would improve developmental psychology’s understanding of how parents’ remembrance of God, parenting practices, and children’s contexts influence children’s remembrance of God, and consequently their spiritual development.
Recruitment of participants targeted Christian parents above the age of 18 years. It was carried out through snowballing technique as well as through announcements in churches that were willing to participate. Participants took part in a focus-group discussion with other parents about their parenting ideas and practices in relation to raising their children in their faith tradition. Each focus- group had between 3 and 7 participants. A semi-structured interview was used to pose the questions for discussion. A demographic survey was also administered to each participant.
Benson, P. L., King, P. E., Roehlkepartain, E.C., Wagener, L.M. (Eds.). (2006). The handbook of spiritual development in childhood and adolescence (pp. 15-35). Thousand Oaks, CA, US: Sage Publications, Inc.
Benson P. L., Roehlkepartain, E. C., Rude, S.P. (2003). Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence: Toward a Field of Inquiry. Applied Developmental Science 7 (3), 205–213 Byatzis, C.J. (2006). Advancing Our Understanding of Religious Dynamics in the Family and Parent–Child Relationship. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 16 (4), 245–251 Zolner, T. (2011). Parenting in the Spirit: Helping children stay on the king’s highway. Logos: A Journal of Eastern Christian Studies, Nos. 3-4, 253-292