Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality

Category: Worship & Devotion
Author: Richard Beck
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by The_Right_Trousers   2019-07-21

If you're interested in more ways the psychology of disgust regulates religious experience, I highly recommend Richard Beck's book Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality. Beck is an experimental psychologist, and the book is written for theologians, clergy, and interested lay members. It's been invaluable to me in understanding certain aspects of my Mormon upbringing.

> "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Echoing Hosea, Jesus defends his embrace of the "unclean" in the Gospel of Matthew, seeming to privilege the prophetic call to justice over the Levitical pursuit of purity. And yet, as missional faith communities are well aware, the tensions and conflicts between holiness and mercy are not so easily resolved. At every turn, it seems that the psychological pull of purity and holiness tempts the church into practices of social exclusion and a Gnostic flight from "the world" into a "too spiritual" spirituality. Moreover, the psychology of purity often lures the church into what psychologists call "The Macbeth Effect" the psychological trap that tempts us into believing that ritual acts of cleansing can replace moral and missional engagement. Finally, time after time, wherever we see churches regulating their common life with the idiom of dirt, disgust, and defilement, we find a predictable wake of dysfunction: ruined self-images, social stigma, and communal conflict. In an unprecedented fusion of psychological science and theological scholarship, Richard Beck describes the pernicious (and largely unnoticed) effects of the psychology of purity upon the life and mission of the church.

by InhLaba   2019-07-21

Unclean by Richard Beck

The Language of God by Dr. Francis Collins

The Lost World of Genesis One by John H. Walton

Birth and Death: Bioethical Decision Making by Paul D. Simmons

The Authenticity of Faith by Richard Beck

Beyond The Firmament by Gordon J. Glover

All of these were required reads for me as I pursued a biology degree at a Christian university. I hope these help, and I wish you the best! If you have any questions about any of the books, please feel free to ask!!

by The_Right_Trousers   2019-07-21

I just learned an awesome way to reframe things to mitigate that problem.

If we regard the world as being contaminated by sin and falsehood, then we'll fear becoming contaminated by contact with it. Hunkering down and defending against any encroachment becomes our only valid move.

Jesus did and said a lot of things to try to turn this kind of thinking on its head. Paraphrasing: "No, contact with sinners doesn't make you unclean. It works the other way. See how I touched this leper to make him clean? In the same way, your contact with the world makes the world better. You're the yeast that raises the bread, the salt that gives the world its savor, the shining city on the hill. You won't find the kingdom of God by hiding in a fortress to stay pure. It's already within you, so get your butt out there!"

(FWIW, I owe this analysis to Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality, a book by an experimental psychologist on why and how disgust often regulates religious experience, which I've been recommending to everybody.)