Dr. Richard Beck, professor of psychology and chair of the Department of Psychology, has written a new book reflecting on the idea of hating sin, loving sinners and missional failure in the church.
The book is titled, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality. Beck’s purpose for writing the book was to describe the effects of the psychology of purity upon the life and mission of the church, according to the description of the book on his blog, Experimental Theology. Beck describes the effects of becoming “too spiritual,” and the effect it has on people outside the church. The book suggests that the longing for purity and holiness tempts the church into practices of social exclusion, which makes some Christians flee from the world and those in it.
“The church wants purity,” Beck said. “But it comes at the expense of people being excluded.”
Beck’s book was an inspired from his blog where he writes “thought balloons” and “what-ifs.” He says the name comes from the idea of integrating experimental theology with the Christian faith.
Beck started the blog in 2006, after talking with Al Haley, associate professor of English and Elmer Kelton prize winning writer-in-residence at ACU. Beck said after discussing book ideas, Haley suggested starting a blog to get Beck’s ideas published, making it easy for a publisher to see the blog. Haley teaches ENGL 320, a blog creation class.
“The advice I gave Richard (Beck) wasn’t unique to me. I had begun to read elsewhere that the 21st- century writer needs to take advantage of the Web to get his or her words out there,” Haley said. “The advantage of the blog is that it allows you to keep showcasing fresh writing to the world.”
Haley said that he did not remember recommending a blog, but said Beck would have started his own anyway.
In his blog, Beck published a paper called, Spiritual Pollution: The Dilemma of Sociomoral Disgust and the Ethic of Love, which later would be the inspiration for his book. Charlie Collier, editor of Wipf and Stock Publishers, read the blog and contacted Beck about writing a book.
“If I was going to do a book, it was going to be an expansion on that paper,” Beck said.
The Macbeth Effect, a psychological phenomenon in which the physical act of people washing their hands seems to free them from guilt according to The Spanish Journal of Psychology, is largely discussed in Unclean. Beck relates the Macbeth Effect to the missional failure of excluding others from the church. Beck describes a scene out of Matthew 9:10-11, when the Pharisees ridicule Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners.
“People used to obtain purity from abstaining from unclean people,” Beck said. “We [the church] fail because we see Matthew 9 replay itself over and over again.”
Beck had some doubts when writing Unclean, saying sometimes he got paranoid about the content of his work; but he said he enjoyed the process of writing his book.
“Overall it was a lot of fun,” Beck said. “I had a ball.”
Beck’s book can be purchased online at Amazon.com and on the Wipf and Stock Publishers website.