Thanks, Mike and Lee for your reflections and questions about chapter 1. The notion that struck me most in this chapter was Wayne’s strong contention that the role of the spiritual caregiver in a psychiatric or general hospital setting, alongside the other professionals is to be an interpreter or evaluator. “The value system of the disturbed person is the minister’s territory.” His insistence that spiritual caregivers take the religious or spiritual problems of a person as real and not just symptomatic is a great starting place. I agree, it is important to understand that presentations in religious terms as the person’s way to make sense of their current situation. We all want to be taken seriously, especially in times of crisis or great distress.
While Wayne’s emphasis here is on specific circumstances where people have extreme emotional reactions that can be understood by careful listening and probing, I do wonder if it doesn’t have wider implications. A person example will help. As Lee knows, my youngest son became a person addicted the alcohol and drugs at an early age. He struggled with his addiction for 12 years. Even though he has been “clean and sober” for over 8 years now, I know he still struggles with his own theological understanding of himself, others and God. It is too simple to say he raised the use of mind-altering drugs to ultimate concern in life. Certainly, he had an illness that had to do with genetics and choice in the beginning. But the deeper question was how does he replace the loss of meaning (getting high and numbing) with something worth living for. Figuring out the hard way, as Oates quotes Draper, “Details of their interpretations of religion not only fit with their diagnostic picture, but also offer clues to diagnosis at the clinical, developmental, and psychodynamic levels.” Turning according to my son for him was when he faced a choice of whether he was going to continue to “be in control of his own destiny based on his ego needs” or let that go, die to that old self and let his God created self emerge. That was the beginning of a major reordering of his life.
More reflections on chapter 2 soon.