Write a critical assessment of the book The Relational Self: Ethics & Therapy from a Black Church Perspective by Archie Smith Jr., explaining how it associates with a particular culture and with social and political contexts of pastoral concern today.

A critical assessment of Archie Smith Jr.’s book The Relational Self: Ethics & Therapy from a Black Church Perspective could center on its relation to Pamela Cooper-White’s work, current conversations about race, or contemporary pastors who are politically active and aggressively challenging the status quo.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Although Archie Smith Jr. published his book in the early 1980s, it is, as the question notes, relevant to the political, social, and pastoral concerns of today.

A critical assessment could compare Smith’s work to a relatively more recent work on pastoral care. For example, in 2006, Pamela Cooper-White published a book on pastoral psychotherapy. Her book is called Many Voices. It shares several concerns with Smith’s book from the eighties. Cooper-White discusses the “multiple layers of meaning” within an individual. Smith echoes her point when he discusses the different kinds of “relations between people.” For Smith, people are externally connected and internally linked. “They live in us and we in them,” he says.

Like Cooper-White, Smith is focused on dissecting these myriad layers and relations in order to excise harmful behavior and perceptions. Smith calls these toxic outlooks “false consciousness.” For Smith, as with Cooper-White, pastoral care involves challenging nefarious notions of individualism and finding ways to heal people.

In terms of culture and politics, Smith’s ideas tend to correspond to present discussions about systemic racism and internalized racism. At one point, Smith calls out psychotherapy for reinforcing “established social systems and practices” that only add to the patient’s suffering. Like many scholars and thinkers right now, Smith was drawing attention to the way in which oppression is embedded in the systems and practices of everyday American life.

For Smith, the pastor should use psychotherapy to benefit the patient, not to prop up oppressive norms and institutions. Smith’s concept of a progressive, politically astute, and socially conscious pastor also connects to what’s going on today. For instance, the Georgia pastor Raphael Warnock has not shied away from politics or challenging the status quo. In January, he won his Senate race in Georgia. He is now a member of the United States Senate.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial