Skip to content


Fellow blogger Richard Beck has a  new book out with Cascade Books entitled, Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality. This book does a great job of exploring the relationship(s) between notions of purity, mission, theology, and psychology. I had the pleasure to work on the book in its editorial process and am very happy that it is finally in print. The way it gets at the operation of disgust psychology in ecclesiastical notions of moral purity is very, very helpful and I hope this book finds a wide audience in the churches. Here is the description from the back of the book to whet your appetite:

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Echoing Hosea, Jesus defends his embrace of the “unclean” in the Gospel of Matthew, seeming to privilege the prophetic call to justice over the Levitical pursuit of purity. And yet, as missional faith communities are well aware, the tensions and conflicts between holiness and mercy are not so easily resolved. At every turn, it seems that the psychological pull of purity and holiness tempts the church into practices of social exclusion and a Gnostic flight from “the world” into a “too spiritual” spirituality. Moreover, the psychology of purity often lures the church into what psychologists call “The Macbeth Effect,” the psychological trap that tempts us into believing that ritual acts of cleansing can replace moral and missional engagement. Finally, time after time, wherever we see churches regulating their common life with the idiom of dirt, disgust, and defilement, we find a predictable wake of dysfunction: ruined self-images, social stigma, and communal conflict. In an unprecedented fusion of psychological science and theological scholarship, Richard Beck describes the pernicious (and largely unnoticed) effects of the psychology of purity upon the life and mission of the church.


  1. Brad E. wrote:

    Allow me to second this recommendation, not only of the series the book is based on or the blog (of which I’ve been a devoted reader since its inception), but just of Richard himself: a superb writer, a beloved teacher, a committed disciple, a playful but rigorous thinker, and almost constitutionally cross-disciplinary as a scholar. Just superlative in every respect.

    Also, as it happens, a fellow church-of-Christ-er; and as there aren’t too many of those publishing theological books these days, we’ve got to support our own. Buy his book!

    Monday, March 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  2. Hill wrote:

    More than I can get in to here, and I’m still pretty ignorant myself, but my mind has been blown wide open by the Margaret Barker I’ve been reading, about many things, but especially as regards Old Testaments concepts of law and purity. Check it out if you can. I can’t say I unambiguously affirm her whole project, but she will get you thinking.

    Monday, March 14, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

Switch to our mobile site