Tuesday, February 26, 2008

We Will Be Like Him

We Will Be Like Him "Growing Toward Got at Every Age of Life" is a new book by Msgr Vincent Rush. If I had not gone past the title page I would have liked this book. Unfortunately I read the book instead.

There is a popular saying now "that there is not there there" and with this book there is mostly no "Him" there. Jesus is not even really mentioned until the next to the last chapter. You would think that a book with this title would be about growing closer to Christ and would focus on the spiritual life.

This book mainly focuses on self-awareness, transformational change (not necessarily spiritual transformation), and the development of understanding, psycho-sexual Development. and development of ego. There is some interesting information of developments in psychology that have covered these areas in how we understand ourselves and relate to others. There are plenty of tables of development in multiple areas that show the various levels of development. The book uses examples of the interrelationships between some made-up people to describe how these relate to the real world. The stages of moral reasoning as outlined by Kohlberg's stage theory seem to partly ring true, but they are not without criticism in the academic world.

The examples used in the book are somewhat annoying such as using a draft-dodge as an example of the higher stages of moral reasoning. Surely there could have been much better examples used. Much of the book has a very secular feel to it and this is partly understandable since is uses much from the field of psychology. I would have found it much more useful if the author had translated it into a Catholic moral view and to see it within the framework of Catholic understanding. Instead much of the book is ambiguous and confusing since there is no clear relation to the Catholic worldview.

Not surprisingly the most problematic chapter was on Psycho-Sexual Development and discussions that reference masturbation (though not directly), sexual fantasy, etc are totally isolated from the Church's sexual ethic. There are no disclaimers or caveats or any reference points to this development in relationship to Church teaching whatsoever. Plus most the discussion in this chapter seemed to me to walk the edges of Catholic teaching without really ever really saying anything against them. A lot more could have been done to clarify this to avoid this confusion. A comment about how a sex addict and an anti-pornography activist probably being closely related I think gives the idea of the type of moral relativism the author holds.

Towards the end the chapter that actually deals with spiritual practice is rather vapid and says nothing new or says anything in a way that can help you in the spiritual life. Blurbs like:

Practice is the way we master a skill to get better at doing something. We improve our accuracy at fitting our performance to the requirement of the situations.

The other italicized blurbs in the book are not that much more insightful either. You can read any random paragraph from the Gospels or the Imitations of Christ and would have done yourself much better than anything this book had to say. The other thing that annoys me about this type of book is that once again out of all the examples of holiness of the saints of the Church you pretty much always get referred to as examples Gandhi, Buddha, Martin Luther King, and of course Thomas Merton. Now I have read a lot of Thomas Merton and like his diaries and earlier books, but please he is not the best example that you can find when looking at the treasury of the Church. Now to be fair a couple more traditional saints are mentioned later in the book briefly, but they are called moral geniuses like the others.

The other thing that annoyed me about this book is that it only confirmed my general prejudices concerning Paulist Press. Sure occasionally they have some solid titles, but for the most part they are not exactly orthodox. Though I do have a review coming of another Paulist Press book that was excellent and never set off my theological spidey senses.

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