The word is out, we are about to lose the spiritual imperative in school chaplaincy.
At the very time we have a steep decline in the mental health of adolescents and a steep rise in adolescent suicide, are we about to remove what remains of the spiritual dimension of school community life? Who knows if the remaining vestiges of special religious education will also finally have the skids under it.
State President of the Australian Education Union Leanne Wright said that ”Even the new and revamped chaplaincy scheme is still flawed. Professional school psychologists is what we need.” And again she said, ”We disagree with the whole chaplaincy program. What schools desperately need is professional mental health staff.”
Today’s adolescence are in emotional crisis because they have an unrecognised spiritual need.
Adolescent therapist Michael Carr Gregg said, ”Today’s adolescents are spiritually anorexic.” Secular and values-free education does not prepare one for a rich and fulfilling life. it was Victor Frankl the Austrian psychotherapist who said” if we no longer know what we ought to do we will no longer know what we want to do, and we will find ourselves in an existential vacuum, the clearest evidence of which is boredom.” Sound familiar? There is a nihilistic attitude amongst the current crop of adolescence and it is producing a whole range of life threatening and risky behaviours. No wonder there has been a rapid growth in the numbers of children leaving the state education system to go to the mushrooming independent and Christian schools network.
Out of fear and ignorance secular educators are currently committed to the process of removing the sacred from the everyday experience of most students .
There are now non religious chaplains in the police service.
Maybe It’s time for us to remind ourselves of what the spiritual underpinnings of chaplaincy should be, and to distinguish them from the ideological underpinnings of evangelicalism .
Abraham Maslow said “People with hammers see all problems as tacks.” If the only Christian ministry style you understand is proselytising you are going to be a problem in the state school system. According to the Australian constitution taxpayer’s money quite rightly , cannot be used for the propagation or proselytising of any particular religion. However taxpayer’s money has always been made available for people to do what the government can’t do, that clearly needs to be done.
We can now demonstrate spiritual development to be a valid human need .
Just as money goes to provide services for the health and well-being of the lonely the aged and the homeless, we can show that a generation is in trouble unless it can find a way for its interior world to be developed.
The challenge current school chaplains need to meet.
The challenge to the Christian faith, and particularly evangelicalism, is that its followers often see their task as the propagating of a certain set of theological propositions. There is a clear need for the transition to a more pastoral focus. Their traditional paradigm has created a question in the mind of some politicians about their capacity to make a promise like, “We will facilitate hope In young people’s spirits and also help mentor them to find their vocation and purpose.” For both the evangelicals and the politicians there has often been a gap in thinking.
Where do the spirit and soul meet?
If we had a clearer understanding of where the spirit and soul meet, we could show too many therapists use psychological techniques to deal with spiritual problems. On the other hand too many pastors and chaplains are inclined to use spiritual techniques to deal with emotional problems.
We are told the Word of God can divide between the soul and the spirit, and can even reveal the source of our unhealthy attitudes. If this is clearly understood well-trained chaplains should be able to make a real contribution around such questions as bullying.
With a clearer understanding of soul and spirit we could make a case for the special role of spiritually orientated chaplains, and the unique contribution they have to make in the shaping of a well rounded empathetic and humane individual.
We can now show the tie up between authentic spirituality and emotional resilience.
Psychotherapist Victor Frankl has also shown “It’s amazing what people will put up with and manage if there is a purpose in the pain.” Research carried out in Detroit Michigan examined the coping strategies of 1,556 married people. Participants were asked what coping resources they used to deal with the most stressful event or situation that occurred in the previous year. A list of resources was presented and fifty five per cent of respondents indicated that spiritual coping techniques were used either sometimes or often, when dealing with stress.
It was also found spiritual resources were used most often in dealing with more serious challenges like critical illness and death but fascinatingly, less often when having to deal with minor problems.
Well facilitated Christian spirituality can be shown to create a positive worldview, providing hope and coherence. It can be demonstrated that healthy spirituality can provide meaning and purpose, psychological integration, hope and motivation, personal empowerment and social support – the very things that every adolescent is in needs for the journey to becoming a contributing citizen and a healthy adult.
The significance of spiritual attachment.
Psychologists Lee Kirkpatrick and Phil Shaver found that individuals who felt securely attached to the Divine Being reported much greater life satisfaction, less anxiety, depression, and physical illness. And one for the atheists: In another study Kirkpatrick discovered that those who were ‘God avoidant’ tended to have a weakened sense of symbolic immortality.
It was General Douglas MacArthur who said “It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”