Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Spiritual Maturity as a Moderator of the Relationship between Christian Fundamentalism and Shame

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Spiritual Maturity as a Moderator of the Relationship between Christian Fundamentalism and Shame

Article excerpt

The current study examined spiritual maturity as a moderator of the relation between Christian fundamentalism and shame. One hundred sixty four Christian-identified participants (141 women) were recruited through social networking sites. Participants completed the following measures through a secured website: the Revised Religious Fundamentalism Scale (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 2004), Spiritual Assessment Inventory (Hall & Edwards, 1996), and The Shame Inventory (Rizvi, 2010). Hierarchical regressions were used to examine the moderation effects of spiritual maturity on shame for Christians who scored both high and low on the fundamentalist spectrum. Results revealed that two components of spiritual maturity--awareness of God and realistic acceptance--moderated the relationship between Christian fundamentalism and shame. Christians scoring high on fundamentalism and high on these dimensions of spiritual maturity experienced low shame. Conversely, Christians scoring high on fundamentalism and low on these dimensions of spiritual maturity experienced high shame. Implications for mental health clinicians and clergy are discussed.

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Psychologists and religious clergy serve individuals from a variety of cultures and diverse religious backgrounds. Considering that nearly 80% of Americans identify as religious (Kosmin & Keysary, 2009) and 88% report being spiritual (Idler et al., 2003), spirituality and religiosity are critical concepts to explore and understand in order for psychologists and clergy to better serve individuals with mental health concerns. In consideration of the more than three-quarters of Americans who identify as Christian (Kosmin & Keysary, 2009; Meacham & Gray, 2009), the focus of the current study was on exploring how Christian beliefs impact the emotion of shame. The relationship between religion and shame has historically been confusing and complex, needing further study (Luyten, Corveleyn, & Fontaine, 1998). The research goal was to describe a pathway relationship between religious beliefs--particularly for Christians along the spectrum of non-fundamentalist to fundamentalist beliefs--and shame by examining spiritual maturity as a moderator. Examining how fundamentalist Christian culture might impact mental health and treatment is an important part of gaining multicultural competence when working with this population (American Psychological Association [APA], 2002).

With the ultimate goal of expanding the research base to strengthen multicultural competence among helping professionals, this study examined the relationship between fundamentalist Christian religious beliefs and shame. Fundamentalist Christianity is particularly important to understand as little research has been conducted on culturally competent interventions for this population that makes up a significant subset of Christianity (Aten, Mangis, & Campbell, 2010). Fundamentalist Christian culture descends from a unique history of cultural and religious influences dating back to the late 19th century that have shaped how these Christians have come to think about and practice their faith (Hood, Hill, & Williamson, 2005). Such thinking is unique to fundamentalist culture and should be considered distinct from other Christian traditions. This research provides insight into a unique subset of the Christian religion for which there are no prior studies addressing how the construct of shame may be related to fundamentalist Christian beliefs. Specifically, this study addressed whether spiritual maturity influences the relationship between fundamentalist Christian beliefs and the construct of shame.

Fundamentalist Christian Beliefs

The current study specifically examined Christian fundamentalism, as this group is not well understood from a clinical perspective (Aten et al., 2010). One factor contributing to this lack of understanding is an unclear distinction between Christian fundamentalism and other forms of Protestant Christianity, including the broader category of evangelicalism, of which fundamentalist Christianity is apart. …

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