01: Saints and Madmen (Henry Holt, $25) by Russell Shorto, provides interesting accounts of how psychiatrists and psychologists have discovered the importance of religious beliefs and practices.
Shorto traces the current interest in the relation of psychology to spirituality to an upstart group of psychologists in, surprisingly, the psychiatric establishment of New York in the 1980s. They felt that the strict Freudian and medical approaches to mental illness were not effective in bringing healing to patients. Shorto finds that some psychiatrists see psychotic states as a pathway to spiritual experience (although they don’t disdain standard treatments); others see prayer and meditation as an important as medication and therapy in fighting mental illness.
Another chapter looks at the formation of spritual discussion groups that provide an open forum for seriously ill patients to discuss religious questions that in the past were discouraged or ignored by doctors. Shorto also examines the role of psycho-spiritual disorders in recent cases of violence and terrorism, and the place of psychodelic drugs in religious experience.
02: In early November, some 20 national organizations representing widely divergent views on many religious topics, published a booklet that presents in detail how schools can teach the Bible without violating the Supreme Court rulings on separation of church and state.
The booklet, The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, is published by the National Bible Association and the First Amendment Center. Such widely divergent groups as People for the American Way, the National Association of Evangelicals, the National Council of Churches and the Christian Legal Society have agreed to promote this work, based on several years of preparation by experts in the field.
The major thrust of the booklet is to teach about the Bible rather than focus on theological or hermeneutical questions. Students may learn how the Bible influenced history, or how it influenced the civil rights movement, or stands as a work of literature. It incorporates versions of several traditions in its presentation; these include Hebrew, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox selections. It is currently being distributed to school districts around the country.
Readers may obtain a free copy by calling 1-800-830-3733 and asking for Pub. No. 99-FOC
— By Erling Jorstad