Book Reviews -- By: Matthew S. DeMoss
BSac 174:695 (July-September 2017) p. 361
By The Faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary
Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness. By Kathryn Greene-McCreight. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2015. xxiv + 216 pp. $18.99.
Greene-McCreight is associate chaplain at The Episcopal Church at Yale University, priest affiliate at Christ Church in New Haven, Connecticut, and a biblical and theological scholar. This volume is an updated version of the original 2006 publication. Much of the content remains unchanged, but a new “Afterword” is particularly helpful, as the author reflects on the book, her own story, and feedback from readers.
In the foreword to this edition, Justin Welby captures the strength of this work: “Kathryn Greene-McCreight does not set out to provide solutions but writes one of the most profound and eye-opening reflections on the grace and love of God, and above all on the nature of human relationships, that I have had the pleasure of reading” (p. ix). I first added this book to the required reading for my anthropology course when a student, a practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, recommended it with the unqualified endorsement that every student at Dallas Theological Seminary should read this book. Re-reading it in this second edition confirms his commendation.
The author tells her story but with a focus on something bigger than herself. She walks the reader through her struggle with bipolar disorder to show how the great figures of the Christian tradition, and especially the Scriptures, “helped, supported, and encouraged me in my illnesses” (p. xiii). She concludes, “After all, this book is finally not about my own mental illness but my theological reflections on mental illness” (ibid.). One reader told her that “he understood the book to be an extended prayer. He said he found reading it to be a devotional experience. I take this to be the highest compliment anyone has given me” (p. 174).
Readers who have experienced mental illness will resonate with her story, particularly when she discusses the stigma and judgment that sometimes is directed toward the mentally ill, especially from those who reject the value of counseling and medication. Readers who love those who struggle and do not know how to help will find her story illuminating, as she lovingly describes the turmoil her illness created. Readers who enjoy biblical and theological exegesis and application will appreciate the profundity of her insights into the biblical text and the heartfelt way she expresses her love for the Word of God and how the Scriptures have spoken love and support to her, especially in times of dark...
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