ACADEMIA

Reviews on Resources for Biblical and Theological Studies

O’Murchu, ADULT FAITH, 2010

Written By: Paulson Pulikottil - Jul• 02•14

Murchu Adult FaithO’Murchu, Diarmuid. Adult Faith: Growing in Wisdom and Understanding. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis Books, 2010.

The book begins with the personal note sketching the author’s own intellectual and spiritual growth. Brought up in Catholic Ireland, he questioned the imperial mindset imposed by the culture that one grows in. In his case, three factors influenced this growth—Television, which brought in the visual experience of a wider world, writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and exposure to other cultures.

The book is divided into two parts. Part one is a deconstruction of all that inhibits ‘adult appropriation of faith.’ The second part is an attempt to reconstruct. In this part the author tries to define or redefine what it means to be an adult and then how to appropriate religious faith as an ‘adult.’ He tries to explain how evolutionary factors impact the new understanding of being human.

The presentation of his thoughts are clear and very well structured. Each chapter ends with three summaries. First the ‘Conventional wisdom’ which keep people trapped in the old mind set. Secondly, what he calls ‘embedded codependency’ or the factors that keep people subjugated. Thirdly, ‘adult empowerment’ the new awareness of the responsible adult, or what is expected of an adult as defined.

The book argues that adult is not someone who plays by the rules of the game dictated by a patriarchal structure. But the working definition of adult used in this book is largely based on the concept of ‘protean self’ popularized by Robert J. Lifton. A protean adult is not just mature biologically as often considered but one who grows and adapts according to the ever changing world and even value systems.

However, such evolution is often hampered by codependency that is imposed by the patriarchal mindset which enslaves people. ‘Codependency’ is a term coined by Melody Beattie in 1987 to explain behaviour where one person ‘let another person’s behaviour affect him or her.’ Codependent people is unable to challenge the person who controls their life and even go to an extent of justifying or protecting their behaviour which has negative impact on their life. Thus the codependent people remain subjugated by the person/system that they ought to disagree with.

The possibility of being a ‘protean adult’ and the reality of ‘codependency’ seems to be the warp and woof used to weave the thoughts in the book.

The book re-examines almost everything that many of us accept unquestioning. The author points out to new possibilities of being responsible adults in relation to religious beliefs, rituals, nature, learning and a whole lot more. The book that begins with ‘being’ an adult ends with thoughts on how the protean adult signs off from this world. The last chapter is titled: ‘When Adults Die Gracefully.’

This book is a great synthesis of scholarly reflections from many disciplines: biology, theology, ecology, pedagogy, behavioural science and so on. It questions existing systems and ‘liberates’ human mind. However, many readers will remain suspicious and cautious with the questions it raises and the liberation it offers.