Recommended Reading – Spring 2005

Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses & Sayings, Desert Humor & Humility

Cistercian Publications, $12

Translator Eric Wheeler calls Dorotheos of Gaza’s teaching “pure Christianity.” That means a little rough around the edges, simple but hard-hitting. Direct. His sayings evince a certain indelibility with anecdotes and illustrations appearing in nearly every paragraph. These are instructions, yes, and often difficult in their wisdom. As a monk and elder of the desert monastery in Thawatha (in the region of modern day Palestine), Dorotheos’ pursuit was holiness; his work, self-renunciation and prayer. The nearer he came to God, the more clearly he saw himself as a sinner – and sought to communicate that vision to his brothers in community. With patience, we might see it too.

- Warren Farha

Understanding Clergy Misconduct: Scapegoating, Family Secrets, and the Abuse of Power

by Candace R. Benyei

Haworth Pastoral Press, $20

In most churches, when abuse or misconduct occurs, it is covered-up. Benyei shows how this secret keeping is destructive to victims and congregations: “The secret may be closely held by a few main players; the secret may be vaporous and no one may know anything for sure … [A] great deal of energy is used in keeping the lid on Pandora’s box.” Because the spiritual leader is seen as “the ultimate caregiver,” victims often become scapegoats.

At its best, the Church as a safe place, a haven, a place of healing. However, it can also be a place of deep wounding and sin. As Mother Gavrilla of blessed memory once said, “The Church is like a huge ship full of sailors, biting each other in the throat, tearing hair, punching, but the wonder is that the ship is coming into port because Christ is at the helm.” This side of the Church must also be revealed if it is ever to be healed. For healing to happen, we must understand the illness.

- Rene Zitzloff

The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil

by Andrew Delbanco

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $23

The author, a professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, examines “the shrinking range of phenomena to which accusatory words like ‘evil’ and ‘sin’ may still be applied in contemporary life, and … about what it means to do without them.”

His analysis of how we lost our sense of evil is divided into two parts. In “The Age of Belief” he writes about “The Old Enemy [Satan] Comes to the New World,” “The Devil in the Age of Reason,” and “The Birth of the Self.” In “Modern Times” he tells of “The Loss of Providence,” “The Age of Blame,” “The Culture of Irony,” and “Prospects.”

Delbanco suggests we demonize others because we no longer have tools to see evil in ourselves, evil being “deficient love.” If mundane to imply we don’t love as God does, the notion that we kill because we fail to love rings clean and clear in our era.

He challenges us to revisit the Augustinian idea that evil has to do with the loss of God. To rediscover love “offers something that the devil himself could never have intended: the miraculous paradox of demanding the best of ourselves.”

- John Oliver