"Clinical Pastoral Psychology of Religion:
A ‘Peculiar and Dynamic Play between the Mundane and the Sublime’.” 1
– Comments Honoring the Rev. Dr. Orlo Christopher Strunk, Jr –
delivered in Virginia Beach, VA, on 30 March 2011 at the Plenary of the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy
– on the 135th anniversary of Anton Theophilus Boisen’s birth –
[out of respect for the first generation of our elders, let us note that we are gathering]
– on the 110th anniversary of William James’ popularization for the English-speaking world of the established French phrase “documents humaines ” [“human documents”] (1901) 2;
– on the 80th anniversary of H[elen] Flanders Dunbar’s assuming supervision of the Joint Committee on Religion and Medicine’s “Study Project in Religious Healing.” (1931);
– on the 80th anniversary of Boisen’s Hymns of Hope and Courage … . (1931);
– on the 75th anniversary of Boisen’s The Exploration of the Inner World … . (1936);
– on the 75th anniversary of Dunbar’s “Problems of Convalescence and Chronic Illness … .” (1936)
[Dunbar & Boisen both believed clergy were uniquely situated to serve those not yet ill & those not yet well];
– on the 70th anniversary of Boisen’s “Theology in the Light of Psychiatric Experience.” (1941);
– on the 65th anniversary of Dunbar’s Emotions and Bodily Changes … , 3rd edition. (1946);
– on the 65th anniversary of Boisen’s Problems of Religion and Life … . (1946).
[giving a nod to the second generation of our elders, let us also note that we are gathering]
– on the 60th anniversary of Carroll A. Wise’s Pastoral Counseling: Its Theory and Practice. (1951);
– on the 50th anniversary of Seward Hiltner’s The Context of Pastoral Counseling. (1961);
– on the 40th anniversary of Orlo C. Strunk’s
“Relationships of Psychology of Religion & Clinical Pastoral Education.” (1971);
– on the 35th anniversary of Paul Pruyser’s The Minister as Diagnostician … . (1976).
Robert Charles Powell, MD, PhD
Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959), as I have phrased it , was the one who translated the “thought-provoking ponderings” of Anton Theophilus Boisen (1876-1965) “about an intimate relationship between religion and medicine into a movement – a now world-wide movement – that has forever changed the definition of ‘chaplaincy’ and of what constitutes ‘pastoral care,’ ‘pastoral counseling,’ and ‘pastoral psychotherapy’.” 3 About 5 years after first meeting and working with Boisen, Dunbar asked how it was that “the various forms of worship -- liturgy and hymnody, the exercise of private devotions and the contemplation of religious symbols and architecture" seemed to have “therapeutic value” – essentially, how it was that religion seemed clinically to work. 4
While Dunbar is remembered primarily for her pioneering work in psychosomatic medicine, and Boisen is remembered primarily for his invention of the clinical pastoral field, we may need to be reminded that both of their paths began with a focus on the psychology of religion. Similarly, today’s honoree explored and still explores broadly but first made a mark in the psychology of religion. Several central, nagging questions remain. “Where does rigorous research on the clinical pastoral psychology of religion fit into our world today? Surely there are active creations and re-creations – discoveries and recoveries – of faith and faiths currently occurring world-wide – but what does all this mean? Do chaplains have sufficient scientific background and scientific curiosity to ask useful, focused questions? – or to provide thoughtful guidance toward answers? Dunbar repeatedly called for “the development of the … techniques of religion in the light of … new understanding.” 5 That is, she asked for a clinical pastoral practice informed by new, basic research on how religion works.
Last year we considered how the preadolescent or adolescent Dunbar might have been shaped somewhat by her mother’s translation of a French novel in which the heroine demonstrated “extreme individuality,” “extreme originality,” and “freshness” – as well as being “very unlike the rest of the world”. 6 Focusing on those who have made “significant contributions” to the clinical pastoral movement, the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, now entering its third decade, has accumulated quite a list of honorees who share Helen Flanders Dunbar’s maternally inherited gift of “persistent creativity”. 7
This year let us consider, at least in passing, how the young Dunbar might have been shaped somewhat by her father’s insistence on standing up for what he thought was right when his employer was less able so to do. The body of law built around “Dunbar v AT&T” (1906) and “Dunbar v AT&T” (1909), as I understand it, ultimately limited corporations’ predatory control over other corporations and reaffirmed the right of one man or woman to file suit on behalf of more powerful others. 8 Francis William Dunbar (1868-1939), an electrical engineer and patent attorney, ended up saving his employer’s company, just because standing up seemed the honorable thing to do. A 1909 article described “Frank” as “courageously” “persistent”. 9 Helen would have just turned 7 years old at that time, but surely she must have “caught the drift” of her father’s six years of involvement with the courts. Frank Dunbar won for his employer in the state supreme court, but all was lost when the adversary “waited out the clock,” rendering the victories moot. When Helen was age 12 her father, at age 46, abandoned “the rat race” wherein one can win but lose, moving his family to a not necessarily modest “cottage” in Manchester, Vermont. Today’s honoree abandoned the full-time “rat race” at a more modest age 60, but, specifically in regard to upholding the right to explore unpopular ideas, might be said to share Helen Flanders Dunbar’s paternally inherited gift of quiet “courageous persistence”.
Focusing on those who have made “significant contributions” to the clinical pastoral movement, the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy, now a known leader in the field, might want to consider seeking out more honorees who share Helen Flanders Dunbar’s paternally inherited gift of “courageous persistence”. At least two previous plenary speakers [Susan McDougal and Henry Heffernan] could be said to have insisted on standing up for what each thought was right, but this year’s Dunbar honoree may be the first chosen primarily for demonstrated “courageous persistence”. 10
On a previous occasion I spoke about the correlation of longevity – for individuals and organizations – with, in Dunbar’s words, a “continued ability to create and invent” – that is, with “persistent creativity”. On another past occasion I spoke about the important, mature capacity for holding strong convictions without becoming self-righteous. One could well argue for an analogous correlation of longevity – for individuals and organizations – with such judicious standing up for one’s values – that is, with “courageous persistence”. 11
Sixty years ago, in 1951, after three years in the Army Air Corps and three years in the newspaper business, today’s honoree decided to enter the ministry, thus beginning a journey from West Virginia Wesleyan College (BA, 1953), to Boston University School of Theology (STB, 1955), and then to Boston University Graduate School (PhD/ psychology, 1957). 12 Fifty years ago, in 1961, today’s honoree was described as “One of the rising young leaders in pastoral psychology” – a person of “versatile talents”. 13 Across the decades our honoree served two years as part-time executive secretary (1955-57) of The Institute of Pastoral Care, devoted years and years as a professor of psychology, and crafted 15 books as well as almost 90 articles, firming up the phenomenologic/ perceptual approach to the psychology of religion, among other things, while married and raising two children. 14 Twenty-five years ago, in 1986, today’s honoree left academia to lay back a bit, continuing on as a psychotherapy supervisor and managing editor of a major journal. About ten years ago our honoree, a lifelong poet, began allowing more time for creative writing, eventually publishing about one novel per year. 15 Though ordained within the Methodist church, the Wider Quaker Fellowship has fit well today’s honoree’s studied and accepted preference for solitude. 16
To say that our honoree has been open to new ideas – and new ways of knowing – about a great number of things – would be an understatement. A “comprehensive and authentic understanding of religious experience and behavior requires a broad and inclusive kind of perspective.” 17 Specifically, today’s honoree has discussed, with courageous persistence, open-mindedness versus closed-mindedness within the fields of religion and psychology, as well as concern about an uncritical/ unexamined acceptance of the Zeitgeist and various “isms”. 18 Complexity, in this view, should be embraced, not avoided or rejected. “After all, there is no such thing as a unified psychology; and certainly to think of religion generically strains credibility. What we have, of course, are psychologies of religions.” 19 Thus the newest Dunbar honoree, with courageous persistence, promoted and defended the formulation of new views, even if these were not popular. An episode ten years ago especially stands out, but there were others: an early book , for example, was dedicated to “those adversaries who unwittingly reminded” today’s honoree of a core value – privacy. 20
Several years ago our honoree went on record  hoping “that clinical ministry … will not abandon the original notion … that the critical acceptance of authentic science and authentic religion could form the basis for an intellectually sound and compassionate expression of care.” – that “those who practice clinical ministry ought to be well educated in both psychosocial studies and religious/ theological studies” as “a life-long commitment”. 21 Our honoree has maintained a courageous persistence in embracing the complex, the controversial, the unknown – suggesting that “our theology must become our psychology” – comprehending each individual’s “unique,” “peculiar,” “variable,” characteristics in a “flexible” manner. 22
On the 35th anniversary of his book praising quiet introspection, The Secret Self, please congratulate the tenth recipient of The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) Award for Significant Contributions to the Field of Clinical Pastoral Training, a man who tried to ground clinical pastoral practice in considerations of how religion works, The Rev. Dr. Orlo Christopher Strunk, Jr. 23
Dr. Strunk’s body is 86 years old, while the rest of him is not. I will be delivering the Dunbar Award and your good wishes to him tomorrow in Calabash, North Carolina.
Please let me make just a few more comments. For forty years Dr. Strunk has served as the Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling’s Book Review Editor, over and above serving much of that time as its managing editor. For five years I have served as CPSP’s chronicler of the Dunbar Award. 24 Both tasks appear a bit daunting at first glance – which is probably why we were assigned these jobs. Dr. Strunk has had the opportunity to experience more of the chaplaincy literature than he would have otherwise. I have had the opportunity to experience at least 5 chaplains’ work in more depth than I would have otherwise. Thank you for trusting me with this task.
1 Strunk, Orlo C., Jr. “The Role of Visioning in the Pastoral Counseling Movement”. Pastoral Psychol. 1982; 311):7-18, p.7.
2 In his 2005 presentation before CPSP, Robert C. Dykstra, MDiv, PhD, drew attention to James’ use of the phrase, generally identified with Boisen’s work, in The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature, being the Gifford Lectures on Natural Religion delivered at Edinburgh in 1901-1902 (New York: Longmans, Green & co, 1902). http://www.cpspoffice.org/the_archives/2005/05/who_we_shall_be.html In fact, the phrase appears in the fourth paragraph of James’ “Lecture I – Religion and Neurology” – so even those audience member who barely listened to the lecture or those readers who barely cracked the published volume would have encountered “documents humaines” very quickly. The original French phrase was “documents sur la nature humaine” [“documents on human nature”], used as a “battle cry” of the “Realists” versus the “Romanticists” in French literature. “Les documents humaines' was the title of a chapter in Emile Zola's study, Le Roman expérimental (1880), and served as the title of a book by Jean-Louis Debut de laforest, Documents Humaines (1888). Beginning in 1893 an American illustrated monthly magazine, McClure’s, ran a series of character sketches of famous people that it called "Human Documents," attributing the phrase to [Alphonse] Daudet while admitting that an exact citation could not be supplied.
[http://www.public.coe.edu/~theller/soj/una/human.htm] These sketches were pulled together into a book titled, of course, Human Documents, in 1895. One year later James began drafting the Gifford Lectures. In other words, while someone who, like Boisen, taught French literature might have been more likely to have encountered the phrase, “documents humaines” / “human documents” it was already definitely in the American domain by 1893. Significantly, Boisen added the prefatory word “living” – as in “living human documents” – because the original concept included non-living artifacts.
3 Powell, Robert Charles. “Be Strong! Take Courage! All Ye Who Hope in the Lord: Comments Honoring the Rev. Dr. John Edwin Harris.” delivered in Columbus, OH, on 11 April 2010 at the Plenary of the College of Pastoral Supervision & Psychotherapy; http://www.cpspoffice.org/Be%20Strong%21%20Take%20Courage%21%20-%20plenary%20comments%20%2011-apr-%202010%20-%20final%20-%20PR%20version-.pdf
4 Powell, Robert Charles. ““Emotionally, Soulfully, Spiritually ‘Free to Think and Act’: The Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902–59) Memorial Lecture on Psychosomatic Medicine and Pastoral Care.” J Relig Health. 40(1):97-114, PAGE X, quoting originally from: "Trinity Dean [Percy Kammerer] Seen as Faith Clinic Head: Academy of Medicine, Federal Church Council Unite in New York Project: Pittsburgh Divine Talked as Leader: Scientific Religious Center to Result from Study of Mind-Body Kinship," The Pittsburgh Press, clipping attached to telegram dated 3 March 1930, in Box 34, Federal Council Archives; as best can be ascertained, this and related items now are held as following: Religion and Medicine Committee, March 1923-March 1939, n.d. Folder 28, Part L. Research and Education Department, Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America Records, 1894-1952, Record Group 18, Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, PA http://www.history.pcusa.org/collections/findingaids/inventory/ncc18.pdf
5 Dunbar, H. Flanders. “The Faith and the New Psychology.” Living Church. 13: 333-336, 1934; reprinted [preprinted] in Liberal Catholicism and the Modern World. Frank Gavin, editor. Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishing Company, 1933; available on-line at http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/fgavin/liberal/13.html .
6 Powell, 2010, op cit, quoting from Schultz, Jeanne. Colette. translated from the French by Edith V[aughn]. Flanders [1871-1963]. New York/ Boston: T.Y. Crowell, 1898, pp. 201, 220, 223. [print-on-demand paperback exact reproduction of this specific translation: Colette. Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar/ BiblioLife, 2008.] [Jeanne Schultz is also listed under the pseudonym “Saint Hilaire Philippe”.] [uniform title per the US Library of Congress: Saint Joseph, or, The Nine Days’ Devotions of Colette].
7 G. Allison Stokes (2nd; 2003), Myron C. Madden (3rd; 2004), Robert C. Dykstra (4th; 2005), A. Patrick L. Prest (5th; 2006), Henry G. Heffernan (6th; 2007), Edward Everett Thornton (7th; 2008), Rodney J. Hunter (8th; 2009), John Edwin Harris (9th; 2010).
8 Dunbar v American Telephone and Telegraph (1906) and Dunbar v American Telephone and Telegraph (1909) are referred to frequently in legal proceedings – but that does not mean that such proceedings neatly summarize the meaning of these precedents; see, Cook, William Wilson. A Treatise on the Law of Corporations Having a Capital Stock, Volume 1, 7th edition. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1913), p.934; full text available on the web; this citation is provided merely because the author briefly notes both court cases on the same page.
9 McMeal, Henry B. Telephony. 1909; 17:526 “The Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company, as a result of the persistent fight so courageously carried on by Mr. Francis W. Dunbar and his associates, is now finally and legally restored to the position of a prominent independent manufacturer of telephone equipment and supplies.” See also page 242, re that the case began in June 1903.
Francis William Dunbar (1868-1939) was an exact contemporary of Richard Clarke Cabot (1868-1939), who worked closely with Flanders Dunbar and Anton Boisen in the earliest years of clinical pastoral education. There is no known biography of Frank Dunbar. He was employed initially by AT&T but later, more importantly, by the Kellogg Switchboard and Supply Company [initially at the corner of Congress Street & Green Street, then 8 blocks away at 1066 West Adams Street, Chicago]. In 1905 Frank Dunbar is known to have lived at 5210 Jefferson Avenue, Chicago, with his wife, Edith Vaughn Flanders Dunbar (1871-1963), as well as their two children, Helen Flanders Dunbar (1902-1959) and Francis Flanders Dunbar (1906-19??). Francis William Dunbar achieved recognition quite early. An article dated 1901 listed fourteen of the top names in the history of telephony, and Dunbar’s name is seventh on the list. [Miller, Kempster B.“Telephony.” The Electrical world &Engineer. 05 Jan.1901;37(1):33; full text available on the web.
10 Susan McDougal, a central figure in the so-called “Whitewater controversy,” spoke on “Why I Refused to Testify and What I Learned in Jail,” at the CPSP Plenary in March 2004; she quite specifically stood up for the right to remain silent when she believed she would be charged with perjury when her sworn testimony would not match what she considered to be falsehoods told by two previous sworn witnesses. Chaplain Henry G. Heffernan, chosen to receive the Dunbar Award in 2007, had to miss the presentation because at the last moment he was called to testify regarding discrimination against chaplains of certain faith traditions; he quite specifically stood up for the right of a Roman Catholic chaplain to administer sacraments outside the constraints of a secular forty-hour work week.
11 Powell, Robert Charles. “The ‘Continued Ability to Create and Invent’: Going for One Hundred Years of Clinical Pastoral Transformation.” delivered at the CPSP Plenary in March 2002; on the internet at http://www.cpspoffice.org/the_archives/2002/03/the_continued_a_2.html .
Powell, Robert Charles. ““Religion IN Crisis / Religion AND Crisis: ‘Having Strong Feelings without Being Self-Righteous’. delivered at the CPSP Plenary in 30 March 2006; some passages quoted on the internet at http://www.cpspoffice.org/the_archives/2010/04/be_strong_take.html .
12 “Orlo Strunk, Jr.[:] Major Biographical Events and Information.” in Rector, Lallene J. and Santaniello, Weaver, editors. Psychological Perspectives and the Religious Quest [:] Essays in Honor of Orlo Strunk, Jr. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1999). pp.181-184. [note the similarity in title to, Cattell, Raymond B. Psychology and the Religious Quest: An Account of the Psychology of Religion and a Defense of Individualism. London: Thomas Nelson, 1938]
13 [Johnson, Paul E.] “The Man of the Month: Orlo Strunk, Jr.” Pastoral Psychology. 1961;12(6):6,66.
14 re pheonomenological/ perceptual, see Strunk’s dissertation, A Redefinition of the Psychology of Religion: With Special Reference to Certain Psychological Theories of Gordon W. Alllport; Boston: Boston University, 1957, which, obviously concerned the work of Allport (1897-1967), including his Personality: A Psychological Interpretation. (New York: Holt, 1937) and The Individual and His Religion: A Psychological Interpretation. (New York: Macmillan, 1950). Strunk later published a study with a title similar to the latter, Religion: A Psychological Interpretation. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962). Allport raised the notion that a person’s religious views might mature with age – a notion further explored in Strunk’s Mature Religion: A Psychological Study. (Nashville: Abingdon Press,1965) and again, with revised views, in Strunk’s “Mature Reflections on Mature Religion.” J Pastoral Theol. 1997; 7(1):149-154]. See also, Allport’s (1944). The Roots of Religion: A Dialogue between a Psychologist and His Student. (Boston: Church of the Advent, 1944), and his Waiting for the Lord. New York: Macmillan, 1978).
15 Dr. Strunk’s novels are published under the name “O. C. Strunk”.
Strunk, O. C. Three-Two Count. (Frederick, MD: PublishAmerica, 2005).
Strunk, O. C. An Ever-Fixed Mark. (Frederick, MD; PublishAmerica, 2007).
Strunk, O. C. Satan's Angels. (Frederick, MD: PublishAmerica, 2009).
Strunk, O. C. The Geriatric Murders. (PublishAmerica, 2010).
Strunk, O. C. The Forerun Winter. (Frederick, MD: PublishAmerica, 2010).
Strunk, O. C. The Intelligentsia Connection. (March 2011, “under consideration” for publication).
16 Henderson, Robert S. “With the Head but also the Heart: An Enterview [sic] with Orlo Strunk.” Sacred Spaces: The e-Journal of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors (2009), vol.1, pp132-144; p.138; http://aapc.org/webfm_send/25 ]
17 Reuder Mary E. “A History of Division 36 (Psychology of Religion).” in Dewsbury, D.A., editor, Unification through Division: Histories of the Divisions of the American Psychological Association. 4:91-108. (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1999). http://www.division36.org/Reuder-Div36History.pdf ; Strunk, personal communication, November 21, 1997.
18 Henderson, 2009, op cit, p.135.
19 Strunk, Orlo C., Jr. The Choice Called Atheism. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1968), p.136.
20 Dr. Strunk accepted for publication in the Spring 2001 issue of the Journal of Pastoral Care an article which generated a significant amount of controversy – which some believed was sufficient reason for the well-written article not to be published, or at least not to be published without being paired with an article conveying an opposing point of view.
Strunk, Orlo C. Privacy: Experience, Understanding, Expression. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1982).
Interestingly enough, each of his dedications appear to concern those whose existence taught him something: Religion: A Psychological Interpretation  to his wife “A Mary With Just Enough Martha Traits” [an apparent reference to Luke 10:40-42 – which appears to have been common sermon material for pastors across the ages – contrasting Martha’s focus on work needing to be done and Mary’s on relationships needing to be experienced. Mature Religion: A Psychological Study  to his mother – “A strange woman whose sadness always has made me sober in the midst of foolishness and foolish in the midst of sobriety” [an apparent reference to 1 Peter 5:8 and Proverbs 24:9; compare Barnes' Notes on the Bible – re Romans 12:3: “Those who over-estimate themselves are proud, haughty, foolish in their deportment. Those who think of themselves as they ought, are modest, sober, prudent.” The Secret Self  to “The Fathers and Brothers of the Province of St. Paul of the Cross (Passionists)”. The Choice Called Atheism  to his two children – “… Only two of the millions of children on this earth who make the search for a more understanding world an absolute necessity.”
21 Henderson, 2009, op cit, p.143.
22 Strunk, 1968, op cit, pp.140, 142, 143.
23 Strunk, Orlo C., Jr. The Secret Self. (Nashville: Abingdon, 1976).
24 I have had the honor of introducing Henry G. Heffernan, Edward E. Thornton, Rodney J. Hunter, John E. Harris, and now Orlo C. Strunk, Jr. I guess you could say that I partially “introduced” myself in 2002.
EDITOR's NOTE: The application used to publish the Pastoral Report lacks the ability to properly format Dr. Powell's scholarly article with endnotes. The reader is encouraged to download the PDF file listed below that contain the informative endnotes that add depth and richness to the article.