In this column I'd like to highlight several books from recent years which I intended to review personally, but due to the press of getting the magazine out the door did not have the leisure to write about. A little too old for a fresh review, these books haven't yet been remaindered, so you can probably still find them.
First is David Keck's Forgetting Whose We Are: Alzheimer's Disease and the Love of God (Abingdon, 1996). His mother's early-onset Alzheimer's forced Keck to put his theology to the test. Reading this book shortly after my father-in-law's long bout with this disease was ended, I was too deeply affected to write about this book at that time.
Keck found that contemporary theologies of a liberationist bent were of little help to the families of Alzheimer's patients. Such approaches define theology as praxis and require Christians to act for their salvation/liberation. That is no comfort to those whose dementia leaves them without the capacity to act. By contrast, classical theologies emphasize that it is God who acts on our behalf.
Similarly unhelpful were theological voices that echo the individualism of our age. Alzheimer's patients lose their sense of self, and it is only in the collective memory and the common prayer of the community that they find their Christian identity. Classical theology emphasizes that communal context. Current theologies also play down the soul, locating the person in the body-mind unity. But when body and mind deteriorate, where is the person? Classic theologies help Alzheimer's families by locating ...1
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