Posted by: Daniel McCurdy | June 27, 2013

Blogging Through Unclean by Richard Beck

Well, it looks like a couple weeks have turned into a couple months again. The second half of that term seems to have been particularly long and grueling. I have had so many thoughts that I want to write. I am on summer vacation now, so I hope I have a bit of time to get to at least some of them. I wanted to get back to writing about Inspiration and Incarnation, but I have read a number of books since April and I need time to go back and look through it again.

Currently, I am reading Unclean by Richard Beck. Beck is an experimental psychologist and has a blog ( that is pretty interesting. I don’t always agree with what he writes, but he does write a lot of thoughts that I find interesting. One of Beck’s bigger interests is studying the psychology of the church and Christianity. This is an interest that I have as well. This can sound dangerous, but people don’t stop being themselves when they enter church, or in their relationship with God.  Questions that are worth looking at are: How does the physical format of church affect us? How does the way we do church affect us? What underlying principles are being played off of here and should we do that.  I think that the field of psychology could help inform the body of Christ about what patterns (good or bad) have developed over time and can give insight into relationship dynamics.

The core concept of Unclean is the psychology of disgust. (I am only half way through at this point). Thus far he has given four features of disgust. 1. A boundary Psychology 2. Expulsive 3. Promiscuous 4. Magical Thinking.

I’m already getting long here so I’ll just focus on the first one. A Boundary Psychology – An example he uses is that of giving someone a Dixie cup and asking them to spit into it. After they have done this he asks them to drink the saliva. While I do not find this very disgusting, it seems a large number of people do. Even though we know we swallow or saliva all day there is something that seems different about it once it leaves the boundary of our body. My daughter has little to no sense of disgust about what she will try to incorporate into her body. It seems that this is not innate but learned.  This sense of disgusts originates with food, but doesn’t seem to stop there. As Beck puts it (pg 27) “Disgust regulates the act of incorporation and inclusion.”

One boundary is who you will let touch you or be around you. Matthew 9:9-12 shows an example where the Pharisees are really having trouble with Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners. These people were disgusting (in that they were not clean and could be a pollutant) to the Pharisees. Obviously, we want to avoid that which pollutes our body. We don’t want to get sick or eat rotting food, it disgusts us. A question to ponder is, Who or what type of person would make you feel uncomfortable if they sat down near you in church?


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