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Sermons of a Psychiatrist

Sermons of a Psychiatrist

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Sermons of a Psychiatrist

159 pagine
2 ore
Mar 3, 2011


This book puts psychiatrist/priest Fulghum solidly in the company of Soren Kierkegaard, Irvin Yalom, and (I would add) Ernest Becker: existential realists with indomitable faith.

Jesus issued two orders to those he called. The first was Come! The second was, Go!This little book does what Jesus did, again and again. Fulghums candid humanity beckons us to come, to recognize ourselves both more deeply and (briefly) more comfortably. And he sends us out relentlessly.

This book is risky. Deep insight is not only a personal pleasureit rapidly emerges as responsibility.

The Rev. Canon Gray Temple
Retired Rector, St. Patricks Episcopal Church, Atlanta.

Charles has put together an anthology of his sermons that promises to deliver perhaps one of the most unique perspectives in Episcopal preaching. Having listened in the pews to many of Charles sermons I can promise that the reader will not only be entertained but will discover God found living betwixt and between moral psychiatry, existentialism and medical science. In the best of the Episcopal tradition Charles makes us think about God in relevant and thought provoking ways by reminding us that our stories are part of of a much bigger narrative.
>The Rev. Lang Lowrey, President, General Seminary
Mar 3, 2011

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Sermons of a Psychiatrist - Charles Fulghum


© 2011 Charles Fulghum. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

First published by AuthorHouse 2/24/2011

ISBN: 978-1-4567-3648-4 (e)

ISBN: 978-1-4567-3647-7 (sc)

Printed in the United States of America

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models,

and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

To Carole

She elicits the best Charles, always.




And Darkness Was on the Face of the Deep

Advent 1

The Search for Meaning


Mary’s Mission Impossible

Advent 4 Year B

The Approval of God

Epiphany 1 Year A

The Disciples Become Believers

Epiphany 2 Year C

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Lent 2 Year C

What Is God For?

Easter 3 Year C

A Sermon about Love

Easter 5 Year C

I Believe in One God

Easter 6 Year C

Believing and Having Faith

Pentecost Sunday Year C

The Disruptive Jesus

Proper 5 Year C

The Feeding of the Five Thousand

Proper 13 Year A

Belief and Faith

Proper 13 Year B

Learning to Swim

Proper 14 Year A

Will You Be Healed?

Proper 16 Year C

A Sermon for the Wednesday Healing Service

(Regularly attended by ten parishioners)

Will It Do Any Good?

Proper 18 Year B

Becoming a Follower of Christ

Proper 18 Year C

A Sermon about People Angry with God

Proper 20 Year A

Increase Our Faith

Proper 22 Year C

A Sermon about the Rich Young Ruler

Proper 23 Year B

Getting Your Bearings

Proper 26 Year A

Do You Want More?

The Last Sunday of Pentecost

A Sermon for All Saints Day:

The Beatitudes

Another Sermon for the Healing Service on Wednesday Morning

A Sermon Preached on the Sunday after September 11, 2001



by Theodore H. Runyon

Have you ever wondered what your psychiatrist or therapist really thinks about you? In this book you get clues as to how one psychiatrist who is at the same time a priest sees the human situation in its many dimensions, and he allows you to apply these clues to your own situation.

Urged by his parishioners to publish his sermons, Charles Fulghum bares his mind and heart in frank comments on the human condition, the basic search for meaning and purpose, the sense of responsibility and the feelings of guilt that often go with it, and the complex relationships that bind us together with family, friends, co-workers and bosses. No man is an island — nor is any woman — and here we see how those relations nurture and sustain us, or threaten and even devastate us.

Fulghum struggles with the tensions between psychiatry as a scientific discipline and psychiatry as a pastoral undertaking. Not surprisingly, he sees psychiatry as most successful when it combines the two, for he is convinced that the most effective therapy incorporates the insights and methods of pastoral care.

Faith involves loving and being loved in return. A priest is authorized by his or her office to mediate that love from the divine Source. And that love brings healing. But it is a healing that is not forced on us. It is a healing that we are invited to enter into and participate in.

The fact that he is a priest and theologically educated does not keep Fulghum from raising searching questions about the Scriptures and traditional doctrines. His questions do not cause him to reject these, however, but encourage him to press deeper to discover the hidden meaning-bestowing insights to be found there. From the Scriptures we get the impression, for instance, that it was obvious that Jesus was the Messiah. But if that was so obvious why did his disciples doubt and desert him so quickly after his crufixion? Yet, following his resurrection they were, as the Apostle Paul says later, one body with him, joined with him in his death and raised with him in his resurrection. This is what happens to us in our baptism by water and the Spirit, as Fulghum points out. We become one body with him, both in his death and in his resurrection. But baptism is a process. It doesn’t just happen once — and then is complete. It is a process that takes a lifetime to complete, because it is our growth as a human being. And it is that growth process that Charles Fulghum, by taking us into his congregation, helps us within this book of his sermons.

Theodore Runyon is Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology at Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.


My story is a very simple one. I grew up in a small town, went to public school, and everyone told me I could do better than I was doing. At sixteen, I got out of that little town and lived in the real world (aircraft repair and the navy) for three years, followed by fifteen years of professional education; I began to discover the nature of man. We are much more than a web of tissues struggling for survival in a world that doesn’t make much sense.

The big event in my life was medical school. What I learned there was to love my classmates who struggled to survive academically, healthily supporting and competing with each other. I think most of us knew that we could survive and discover what we were there for and what it takes to make a good doctor. In the first half of my professional life I made an all-out effort to be a scientific doctor and psychiatrist. Gradually, I had to admit that there is no scientific basis for most of psychiatry. Like many of my psychiatric colleagues, I turned to philosophy, linguistics, and literature to understand my specialty. Among my earliest discoveries was that Freud, in spite of many nominations for a Nobel Prize, achieved unanimous recognition as a writer and artist, not as a doctor or scientist. Initially, he was almost deified by some followers but he was quietly held in contempt by much of the scientific community. I think his great contribution was listening to patients.

To complete my psychiatric training I wrote a serious criticism of my residency training institution. My professors idealized psychoanalysis without providing me with psychoanalytic training or making certain that the training I got was adequate for the therapy of my psychiatric patients. I was not accused of being at fault for that, but I certainly left my training feeling that my incomplete personal analysis was entirely my fault. I began my best personal psychoanalysis with the best psychoanalysts available, and I continued that endeavor for the next twenty years. In the meantime I continued my psychiatric training by studying the history of psychiatry, philosophy, and science. I discovered something called moral psychiatry, practiced by spiritual men who were not obsessed with changing their patients. They believed that mentally ill people responded to care and respect. This attitude is always supported by narratives in literature, history, and philosophy. In medical school and hospitals, however, no attention was given to the nature of man beyond normal and abnormal anatomy and physiology.

Philosophers talk about the mystery of life and the big questions. The big questions are those questions that cannot be answered. But hardly anyone in medicine knows about the big questions. In medicine we hold onto the fantasy that there are scientific answers to all the problems of human beings. I think Hegel believed that reason and science could and would answer the big questions if we could and would accept his system for analyzing them.

My own reading convinces me that humans collect data from the world about them and then use narratives to organize their data and explain how the data exists. I think it may have been Descartes who asked seriously, what can humans know? Kierkegaard and Kant accept the premise that there are things we humans cannot know. Kant says some things have to be accepted a priori.

In psychiatry, we make observations and collect data about the patients we meet, but the data can only be explained by a narrative that is not very helpful in a human interaction, especially if one hopes to affect the one we call a patient. I found that I could be with my patients and accept and respect them. All of us, me, my patients, and their loved ones, felt better as a result of this interaction.

Irvin Yalom[1] helps me to understand things that worry all humans: human life comes with loneliness, with freedom, without meaning, and with the final problem, death. If we can accept the ubiquity of this, the human condition, and the fact that the world goes on very well without us, we can give our attention to the little things that make life a joyful experience.

Often, if we can abandon those activities that make life unpleasant for ourselves and other people, we can improve a small part of our world and the world of others. These simplicities turn out to be good goals for psychotherapy.

After I accepted this existential basis for psychotherapy, I began to feel that I was doing good psychotherapy—both I and my patients felt better.

How does a successful psychiatrist and psychotherapist live within the dogmatic theology of the Christian religion? My friend Charlie Roper loves to say I was his great experiment to determine if the scientist and theologian could live together in one body. Actually, ninety-nine MDs are ordained Episcopal priests. Probably all of us kind of merged into both professions without any awareness that we were doing something unusual.

In my history, Mama always took me to church and Sunday school. At age six, my first recitation was John 3:16. When I was a sophomore in college, I spoke in the pulpit on continuing with God in college. (I still have that manuscript, and I had the audacity to entitle it Sermon #1.) However, I was not called to the ministry, and my father would have rejected me if I had made that decision. (His widowed mother had married a Primitive Baptist elder, and her children hated him.)

I did not get called to any profession for a long time. Sarah Bain Ward, my most influential high school teacher, saw something authentic in me when no one else did, and she said that in college I should major in premed until I got interested in one of the sciences I liked. Much to my surprise, at the beginning of my fourth year of college, I found myself dissecting a cadaver in medical school. Medical schools love their reputation for being the most demanding professional study. I thought I was a conditional medical student, as I had been a conditional premed student.

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