By the fourth century, you could become a Christian without risking your life. Church inevitably became entangled with private clubs, government posts and social networks. The urge to offer oneself wholly in martyrdom never diminished, however, and a movement was born. Men and women left civilization for an adventure of “living martyrdom” in the deserts of Egypt, Syria and Palestine.
As a Presbyterian pastor, my husband, Bob, had always been sympathetic when a parishioner became trapped by dementia. His views on dealing with dementia had been shaped by his father, a man of deep Christian faith and an active layman.
There were five of us around the table: my husband, myself, my mother, and two medical students who had been assigned to dinner at our house. One of them said, “My parents always wanted more for me—a better education than they had, and a better job, and a higher salary. A better life. So isn’t it hard to have a child with a disability?
It is by living and dying that one becomes a theologian, Martin Luther said. With that comment in mind, we have resumed a Century series published at intervals since 1939 and asked theologians to reflect on their own struggles, disappointments, questions and hopes as people of faith and to consider how their work and life have been intertwined.
Plant a garden. Listen to birdsong. Sit quietly in a park without checking your phone. These activities are examples of ecotherapy, a form of mental health treatment based on the idea that nature has healing powers. “If you hold moist soil for 20 minutes, the soil bacteria begin elevating your mood,” says Craig Chalquist, an innovator in this new field. “You have all the antidepressant you need in the ground.” Chalquist maintains that it helps even more to give something back to nature—not just looking at trees, but caring for them (Atlantic, October).