Tag Archives: Judaism

Here’s an Odd One: Carl Jung’s Endorsement of Catholicism & Liturgical Worship For Mental Health

You might think Carl Jung was crazy, or wicked, or insightful, but no matter what you think, you’ll probably acknowledge the man formed at least some decent observations.

Along those lines, I tend to stumble across some of the weirdest stuff (I hear regular readers laughing).

Read these two excerpts from Memories, Dreams, Reflections for your own inferences and extrapolations:

“The play of fantasy [in artistic self-expression] is also helped by religion, an indispensable auxiliary for the psychologist. Catholicism in particular, with its ceremonial [sic] and liturgy, gives fantasy a priceless support, for which reason I have found in my practice that believing Catholics suffer less from neurosis and are easier to cure than Protestants and Jews.”

And later:

“Even so, as a Protestant, it is quite clear to me that, in its healing effects, no creed is as closely akin to psychoanalysis as Catholicism. The symbols of the Catholic liturgy offer the unconscious such a wealth of possibilities for expression that they act as an incomparable diet for the psyche.”

Infer and extrapolate at will.

Christianity’s Hell: Born in paganism, raised in Judaism

Candida Moss, professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Nortre Dame, writes in The Daily Beast:

“Chronologically speaking, hell didn’t always feature in conceptual maps of the afterlife. In the Hebrew Bible there are frequent references to Sheol, a place of shadows located physically beneath us. This is where everyone goes when they die, because people are buried in the ground. Upon occasion, Sheol opens its jaws and swallows people—a phenomenon we probably know as earthquakes, but which can in part explain why death is described as swallowing people up. Without a doubt, Sheol is a generally dismal place where people are separated from God, but it isn’t reserved for the especially wicked.

“In Judaism, the idea of post-mortem judgment, reward, and punishment seems to have gathered strength in the second century BCE. During this period Israel was again a conquered land, ruled by a succession of oppressive Greek empires. Along with high taxation and cultural colonialism, Alexander the Great and his successors brought the ideas of post-mortem punishment in the underworld to the Holy Land. There were many other potential religious groups envisioning post-mortem destruction, but the Greeks appear to have been the most influential. Think Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill, Tantalus being cursed with eternal thirst, and Prometheus having his liver eaten on a daily basis. For beleaguered and oppressed Jews, the idea that the injustices levied on them in the present would be rectified in the afterlife held a lot of appeal. And that kind of justice involved punishing their tormentors as well as rewarding the righteous.”

Read Moss’s entire article here.

Also see Emil Brunner on fear, The Judgment, and the Kingdom of Heaven.

A Jewish perspective on natural disasters

The following is an excerpt from Rabbi Laura Geller’s Huffington Post article, “Acts of God? A Jewish Perspective on Natural Disasters.” Consider without prejudice:

Two classic Talmudic texts make this point very clearly: “Suppose a person stole a measure of wheat and went and sowed it in the ground; it is right that it should not grow, yet the world pursues its natural course, and as for those who transgress, they will have to render an account. Another illustration: Suppose a man had intercourse with his neighbor’s wife; it is right that she should not conceive, yet the world pursues its natural course.”

The tradition is claiming that God doesn’t interfere with the natural course of the world. Earthquakes happen. Things that don’t seem fair from the perspective of morality happen because of laws of nature. People suffer as a result, but not because God has willed this specific tragedy to occur.

A second text is even more powerful. It plays off the two biblical commands, which carry the reward of living a long life: honoring your parents and shooing away a mother bird before you take her eggs, presumable to spare her feelings.

“The boy’s father said to him: ‘Ascend to the loft and bring me the eggs in the nest…’ If the boy ascends, dismisses the mother bird and takes the young, and on his return falls and dies, how can it be explained?” (After all, the boy was fulfilling the two commandments that come with the reward of long life — he was honoring his father and he was shooing away the mother bird.) After offering possible explanations for why this bad thing might have happened, Rabbi Eleazar says: “It was a rickety ladder, so injury was likely. Where injury is likely one cannot rely on a miracle.”

Earthquakes happen. We can’t depend on miracles. But we are responsible for the rickety ladders in our lives. The earthquake, the tsunami — that is the world pursuing its natural course. But building a nuclear plant so close to a fault line? That is the rickety ladder. We are responsible for that.

Read the full article here.

God, Hugh Laurie, and ‘House, MD’

A new article has me thinking more about the religious content of my favorite show on television: House, MD on Fox, starring Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House.

I don’t like to record it because I don’t like to wait for it. My world stops for the start of a new episode.

My affection is against the rules.

I am a theist — frustrated, searching, liturgically minded, often-doubting, usually more philosophical than theological, yet ultimately a Christian of some sort.

Laurie and his TV character House are both strident, stringent atheists. The actor and the character ridicule all stripes of believers with ease and regularity.

Oddly enough, series creator and executive producer David Shore has twin brothers who are Orthodox rabbis, according to an article in the Spring 2008 edition of Religion in the News (which just arrived in my mailbox today, in late July).

The brother of rabbis creating and guiding a show about an atheist? Maybe that’s why I find the religious content of House, MD to be remarkably well-informed and true to the state of religious thought in our time. (I’m not totally ignorant of the subject, either — hey, I won a Medal of Distinction in the Battleground God game at The Philosopher’s Magazine Web site!)

“To ignore issues of faith is to ignore a pretty fundamental part of all people’s lives when they’re in the hospital, facing death,” Shore said in an NPR interview last year. “I’m not saying all people find God, but they certainly do ask those questions.”

I’ll never forget the episode (can’t remember the title or season) in which Dr. Robert Chase, played by Jesse Spencer, spends time talking with a nun who has (what else?) an undiagnosed illness. We learn that Dr. Chase had once been a seminary student, and the way his lingering knowledge of the Christian faith — and his apparent desire but inability to believe — are brought to the surface rings true. Kudos to both the acting and the writing.

Here’s an example of the program’s religious content, from Christine McCarthy McMorris’s article “Playing Godless” in Religion in the News:

In “House vs. God” (Season 2), a teenaged faith healer is brought to the hospital, where House sets up a scoreboard for both him and God to win points. Although he discovers that the young healer has contracted a sexually transmitted disease that he is hiding from his father, exposure to the boy’s virus seems to (miraculously) shrink the tumor of a cancer patient at the hospital. Although House remains unconvinced (“I fear for the human race. A teenager claims to be the voice of God, and people with advanced degrees are listening,”), by the end of the program the score is even.

But some people have to latch onto the most simplistic, surface-level interpretations, rather than identifying the messiness of life and faith and doubt, and rather than understanding that television programs, like many creative works, are at their best when they jump into ambiguities and uncertainties, following William Shakespeare’s genius as explained by John Keats: “I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” Uninspired by such an approach would be The Parents Television Council, the leadership of which called Fox “the most anti-religious network” and accused House, MD of “consistently mocking religion and people of faith.”

Indeed, Dr. House’s ridicule of religious people has included not only Christians, but also Mormons and Orthodox Jews. But the program’s story lines don’t actually allow a cut-and-dried verdict on complex topics. Maybe that’s why I find it so rewarding to watch.

–Colin Foote Burch, member, Society of Professional Journalists, and affiliate member, Religion Newswriters Association