Friday, July 05, 2013

Channing: a speculation about psychology

Back in 1997, Dr. Pat Davis at Perkins school of Theology assigned to write a paper inquiring into the psychological development of a religious leader.  It was an exercise, and we were all aware of the difficulty of doing that long distance analysis.  But we were reading Erik Erikson's analysis of Martin Luther at that time, so we were already deep in those waters.

I chose Channing as my subject.  There is a lot written about Channing including several biographies, mostly hagiographic, that are based on Channing's own journals.  And I chose as my focus the often observed discomfort that Channing had with power.

This subject returned to me after Ministry Days this year: Rev. Parisa Parsa's sermon on our Calvinist roots and Rev. Lillian Daniels who chided us for blaming Calvin for all our anxieties and stuff.  Channing was on the front lines against Calvinism; how did that work in his life?

And the issue of power is perplexing to us now.  How shall we use our power?  There is a curious contradiction between our lofty goals, especially in social justice, and our sense that because of our privilege, we are not quite qualified to think what we think, or our experience is not quite applicable to the rest of the world.

So, I have posted my 1997 paper, unimproved since then.  It's summertime reading for UU history geeks.  Please don't take it too seriously.

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