Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Updated Edition, by Peter Scazzero
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Zondervan. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
This is a book that left me with a lot of complicated and mixed thoughts and feelings. It is almost as if the author does not know where he is coming from or what he is trying to encourage in the reader. There are a host of contradictions buried in this reasonably short book of 200 pages that are waiting to be untangled. Why if the author is so intent on embarrassing himself with his own failings, does he flatter the reader by saying that they are emotionally mature adults, simply for reading and presumably appreciating this book? Why, if the author is a married pastor of an evangelical church, is he so interested in promoting Catholic monastic practices concerning daily devotion  and continually praising the Egyptian desert fathers? Why, in a book about emotional maturity, does the author seem to whine so much about the difficulties of life? Why does a book that seeks, however awkwardly, to address the Sabbath, focus so much on the grace that the author wishes to receive rather than give to others? Why, in a book that steadfastly rejects being judged by others or held up to a godly standard, does the author spend so much time judging others for being unloving and judging unspecified church traditions and being unhealthy–on what grounds can the author make such a statement? Why, in an ostensibly Christian book, does the author spend so much time dealing with pop psychology as a source of supposed spiritual insight? These sort of questions could go on and on forever.
In terms of its contents, this book begins with a discussion of a genuine problem concerning the lack of emotional maturity among many people–including the author. Then the author talks about becoming our authentic self in rather ragamuffinish fashion. This leads to a discussion about breaking the power of the past, given that all of us have some problems that spring from our family background, often that are unexamined. Then the author talks about going through the wall and remaining faithful to God through the dark night of the soul. Somewhat paradoxically at this point, the author then talks about surrendering to our limits–this after he had talked about breaking the power of the past that limited us. At this point the book takes a sudden veer into Catholicism with a discussion on the daily offices of monks (along with a brief discussion of the importance of the Sabbath), a chapter on growing into an emotionally mature adult, and then a discussion on developing what looks like a Catholic “rule of life.” Appendices follow that give excerpts from the author’s daily guide to emotionally healthy spirituality that continues the monkish feel as well as a definition of contemplative spirituality and a modified Catholic prayer of Examen.
To be sure, the book does address many of the negative aspects of performance Christianity that greatly hinder the workings of the Holy Spirit within the lives of professed believers as well as within society as a whole. Yet the author does not appear as part of the solution, rather part of the problem. Like all too many spiritual adolescents, he finds it easy to lash out at others but his self-examination is all too shallow and the contradictions of his thinking all too deep and pervasive for him to be accepted as a spiritual authority. There is also considerable difficulty in figuring out just what exactly the author is trying to accomplish. Does he want Christianity to be burdened with new traditions of pop psychology to replace old traditions? Is he consciously or merely unconsciously trying to lead Evangelicals in a direction towards Catholic religious thought and practice? Is this not a harmful sort of religious tradition that we are to avoid? The author’s free midrashing of biblical passages is deeply unsettling too, as it appears that the author uses scripture more for prooftexting than as an authority or guide for himself. It would be easier to trust the author as an authority if he respected the Bible as an authority in his own life rather than a quarry for ways to bludgeon others who think and practice differently than he does.
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