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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Grace-Full Congregations

I recently heard a wonderful lecture by Karen McClintock, Methodist minister and professor of psychology at Southern Oregon University, on how congregations can be a refuge from a world in which shame-based behavior is often the norm. Unfortunately, they aren't always are, and McClintock discussed how churches can become "grace-full" rather than "shame-based" congregations. She also briefly introduced four types of shame: comparison, perfection, chronic illness, and sexual, all of which she covers in more detail in her book, "Shame-Less Lives, Grace-Full Congregations." If her book's anything like her lecture, it's worth reading.

That said, one could have walked away from her lecture (and perhaps after putting down her book) with the impression that the church is actually less psychologically healthy (i.e., more shame-based) than the world at large. Such an impression would be mistaken, however. As I've noted previously ("How Religion Benefits Everyone, Even Nonbelievers"), people of faith, on average, enjoy better mental and physical health than people with no faith. That is, they are more likely to happy, healthy, and live longer lives. Thus, churches (and synagogues, temples, and so on) must be doing something right.

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