In seminary we read a famous book called The Wounded Healer. Written by Father Henri Nouwen, it was based on an idea of psychologist Carl Jung.
The idea is that effective pastors and therapists draw from their own wounds and pain in order to empathize with another. Their own pain gives them a unique window into the feelings of their patient or parishioner.
I was initially dubious of the idea. Every pain or tragedy or illness is unique. We can never enter fully into another’s feelings.
Over time, however, I realized it is not so simple. I realized that behind my initial suspicion was a unhealthy aloofness.
As I child I could not sit through movies or meals. Sitting through a musical was out of the question.
Yet, when I was seven, my parents decided to take me to see Fiddler on the Roof. Looking back now as parent of a seven-year-old, I would not have been so bold.
Since that first experience, I have been I love with this story. I’ve seen the musical four times and the movie at least half a dozen. It’s one of my favorite resources for classes and sermons on Jewish tradition and history.
Deadly images on television tear at our heart. We wish for the violence in Israel to end.
This land, sacred to three global religions, seems endlessly mired in conflict. Does religion just promote division or hatred? Is it because of its religious significance that Israel remains a place of tension? Or is faith, at its core, a force of peace?
If we listen to most voices in the media and pop culture, we would answer this question without hesitation. Religion is bad, primitive, and dangerous.
We would agree with late writer Christopher Hitchens, who said “The Bible
I just finished writing a book on Passover and the Exodus from Egypt. One of the parts I struggled most with is Pharaoh’s violence and God’s hardening of his heart.
Recall the setting: It is Exodus chapter nine, and Moses and Aaron have urged Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Thus far, Pharaoh has refused, and God has responded by inflicting five plagues on Egypt.
The Egyptian people are miserable. They want Pharaoh to just let the people go. Even Pharaoh’s top advisors are urging him to relent and tell Moses the Israelites can leave.
Yet, we then read “But God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them.” (Exodus 9:12)
While sometimes political correctness can rise to the level of foolishness, the words we use do matter. My book editor recently reminded me of this truth.
I had used the phrase “Southern leaders” in referring to political leaders of the Confederacy. My editor pointed out that Blacks in the South were Southerners as well.
To equate Confederate and Southern does an injustice to those African-American Southerners. I should, she suggested, refer to political leaders in the South as “White” or “Confederate” Southern leaders. Lesson learned.