Monday, June 13, 2011

The idea of Apostle Paul and PTSD, how a unique biography was born

The linking of the Apostle and post-traumatic condition is unique in so far as googling has carried us. The insight that led to it was no great feat of intellectual rocketry. It is that, while the study of Paul is tons of studies long, the study of PTSD is lightweight in time and determined in focus. The pertinent starting point, really, is in the glaring aftermath of Vietnam conflict in the ‘70s. As far as I personally am concerned, it goes back to the publication of Achilles in Vietnam, with its allusion that as far back as Homer that condition was recognized. It did not occur to me that this might have anything to do with Paul, but it must have begun to tickle in the back of my mind. Those Greeks had brain power – think Paul’s friend, Dr. Luke of Acts and a Gospel he wrote.

My own recognition of the parallel between PTSD studies and the stories about Paul in Acts began while I was working on a third book in OCD, this time directly about the linkage between that and religion. I had done some considerable work with obsessions and had written the definition of it in The New Dictionary of Pastoral Studies edited by the Dean of Westminster. I was reviewing some aspects of Paul’s fixations when it hit me that his traumatizing on the way to Damascus was a flashback. I couldn’t have kept my mind out of the starting gate if I had wanted to.

I had plenty of back-up on various post combat experiences. One night a fellow in the other men’s dorm went down the hall in a happy condition pounding on doors. He must have been quite sober when he saw five inches of blade where his hand had been; the sleeper always kept his jungle knife by his head at night. In seminary, my guess is that about a third of my class had been in the Texas contingent to the Marines, back when. As a young pastor it was about ten years after WWII that a lot of men quit denying and started talking; since then there have enough occasions provided by the Defense Department that a pastoral counselor has had incentives to keep current on the literature…

At the point where I began developing my thoughts on Paul and PTSD, our Friday morning book study group began to discuss the book on the early Paul that Michael Borg co-authored. It was subtitled as being radical. My own thoughts appeared to be radical enough in themselves, so that although the theme of The Early Paul and what was emerging in me were far apart, there were significant places that gave me both encouragement and comfort (but, if you are a fan of Michael Borg, you would have guessed that).

This week the publisher has indicated that the proofs for Annelie’s and my book cover will be coming. I will share it with you.

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