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MINDING GOD/MINDING PAIN: CHRISTIAN THEOLOGICAL REFLECTIONS ON RECENT ADVANCES IN PAIN RESEARCH

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Abstract:

Abstract.

As Gregory Peterson's book Minding God illustrates, an ongoing encounter between theology and the cognitive sciences can provide rich insights to both disciplines. Similarly, reflection on recent advances in pain research can prove to be fertile ground in which further theological insights might take root. Pain researchers remind us that pain is both a sensory and an emotional experience. The emotional component of pain is critically important for the clinical management of people in pain, as it serves a communicative function—human connection occurs more readily through the expression of and response to emotion than through the sterile exchange of “objective” descriptions of sensory phenomena. But emotion, pain and communication also figure prominently in Christian theology. For example, doctrines of incarnation and eschatology raise questions about suffering, healing, and hope as well as about the nature of the divine–human relationship. In addition, there seems to be scientific evidence for (admittedly subtle) gender differences in the perception of and response to pain. Several feminist theologians have noted that a habitual theological emphasis on God's rationality tends to reinforce masculine images of God and demeans the validity of emotion in the divine-human relationship. Potential theological implications of the emotional and communicative aspects of pain and how this might affect women's religious experience-with a particular focus on Teresa of Avila-are explored.

Keywords: emotional or affective; gender; healing; pain; plasticity; redemption; suffering; transformation

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9744.2005.00651.x

Affiliations: Jacqueline R. Cameron is an associate medical director at Palliative CareCenter and Hospice of the North Shore and an assisting priest at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, 2120 Lincoln Street, Evanston, IL 60201;, Email: jcameron@carecenter.org.

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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