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Slaves to Faith: A Therapist Looks Inside the Fundamentalist Mind

Calvin Mercer

Description

Based upon the author's twenty years of classroom and clinical study, Slaves of Faith explores and explains the emotionally laden dynamic at work in the fundamentalist mind. As Dr. Mercer posits, the fundamentalist is fundamentally driven by anxiety layered over a fragile sense of self-identity constructed upon a system of beliefs that is both logically inconsistent and highly suspect in light of modern science. As a result, the fundamentalist completely rejects modernity while battling mightily in the arena of national politics and culture to bring about a world that aligns more closely with the fundamentalist worldview.

Focusing on Christian fundamentalists, the author puts Christian fundamentalism in its historical and theological contexts. At the same time, Mercer calls upon cognitive theory to explain that the fundamentalist's life story is not particular to Christianity or any other religious belief system but that fundamentalist Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and those of all other faiths share a common psychological profile. Indeed, Mercer insists that if the Christian terminology were eliminated from contemporary fundamentalist Christian rhetoric, what would remain would be a framework that fundamentalists from other religions would find quite familiar and even comforting. In other words, the structure of the fundamentalist worldview, and the psychology beneath it, is pretty much the same across religions. It is a controversial thing to say about Christian fundamentalism, a thesis that has already proved contentious in the author's public appearances, and one that is sure to generate considerable attention and passionate debate as the U.S. populace continues to divide into opposing camps.

Contents

   ix Foreword by Martin E. Marty
 xiii Preface: My Longest Email
 xvii Acknowledgments
 xix Introduction

    1 Part One: The Birth of Fundamentalism
    3 One: Who Are the Christians?
  19 Two: The Fighting Fundamentalists
  29 Three: Fundamentalists Retreat and Advance

  43 Part Two: Core Fundamentalist Beliefs
  45 Four: Fundamentalists and the Bible
  55 Five: Problems with Fundamentalisms View of the Bible
  61 Six: The Jesus Question
  81 Seven: The Rapture
  93 Eight: "Left Behind" Theology
111 Nine: Two Unofficial Fundamentalist Doctrines

129 Part Three: A Psychological Profile
131 Ten: The Psychological Model
143 Eleven: Profile of the Typical Fundamentalist
161 Twelve: The Threat from Rapid Cultural Change

167 Part Four: Strategies for Dialogue
169 Thirteen: Talking Theology
179 Fourteen: Talking About the Bible

189 Concluding Reflections
193 Appendix 1: Letters from Former Fundamentalist Students
197 Appendix 2: An Elementary Guide to Exegeting the Bible
201 Notes
211 Bibliography
225 Index

Comment

"Have you ever wondered how Fundamentalists think or make sense of the world? This book will tell you all you want to know and more. Dr. Calvin Mercer has written an absolutely excellent book providing information into the world view of Fundamentalists, their thinking processes, and strategies for dialogue with them. Dr. Mercer is well-qualified to provide such a comprehensive examination and does so in a very thorough and readable book. He first discusses the birth of Fundamentalism, then the core Fundamentalist beliefs, then (and especially interesting to me) presents a psychological profile of them. He concludes with several strategies for dialogue because their very certainty and cognitive literalism make it difficult for them to engage in discussions of theological issues."
— E. Thomas Dowd, Ph.D., ABPP; President, American Board of Cognitive & Behavioral Psychology

"Mercer (Religion and Biblical Studies, East Carolina U.) is also a clinical psychologist, and draws on both fields to offer advice to colleagues on how to understand and deal with the particular ways of thinking that fundamentalist Christians exhibit. He covers the birth of fundamentalism, core fundamentalist beliefs, a psychological profile, and strategies for dialogue. Particular topics include the fundamentalist view of the Bible and problems with it, the Rapture, left-behind theology, the threat from rapid cultural change, and talking theology."
Reference & Research Book News August 2009

"Mercer is a former fundamentalist Christian who has been 'born again' as a competent theologian and university professor of religion. When he realized what he had been through and how hard it had been to break free, he became fascinated by the fundamentalist mind. At one point his interest was so great that he returned to school, got a graduate degree in clinical psychology, and was in private practice for over a decade. His book is a wonderful primer on understanding the fundamentalist perspective on theology, the Bible and Jesus ..."

Editions (via Amazon):
  Hardbound

Categories:
  Psychology of Belief, Fundamentalism

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