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The Mutuality of Care [Paperback]

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Item Number 136182  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   224
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.02" Width: 6.04" Height: 0.71"
Weight:   0.88 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 30, 1999
Publisher   Chalice Press
ISBN  0827223242  
EAN  9780827223240  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
"The Mutuality of Care sets the goal of introducing a different way of thinking about and practicing care. [SteinhoffSmith] contends that care is contextual, emerging from reflection on the ongoing communal practices and experiences among the suffering... Through the use of case studies, SteinhoffSmith seeks not only to understand the reality of care, but to change it by improving its practices."

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Often thought-provoking and sometimes just plain provoking!  Apr 17, 2001
It was very difficult for me to decide how many "stars" to give this book. I should start by saying that Dr. SteinhoffSmith and I are worlds apart theologically and politically (and if you think politics wouldn't matter in a book such as this, the author makes sure you realize that in his estimation politics are crucial in the subject of care). Although I have never met Dr. SteinhoffSmith, I have known something of his reputation, having lived in Enid, Oklahoma about the same time he did and now living in Tulsa where he teaches at Phillips Theological Seminary. This book is the text for one of the classes he teaches at the seminary, and I happened to find it on sale for a buck, so I decided to pick it up, and I found myself rather fascinated with it, even though there were many points of disagreement, some of which I will make clear.

SteinhoffSmith's basic premise is this: the usually accepted model of a professional counselor or pastor, with all the knowledge and power invested in him, condescending to counsel a person in need causes suffering in that person because said person is regarded as fundamentally defective and their participation and agency in the healing process is being denied. The author proposes mutuality in care, where both the "counselor", with his or her strengths, gifts, weaknesses, and needs, and the "counselee", also with strengths, gifts, weaknesses, and needs, can teach and learn from each other in the care relationship. To simplify, they function in a mutual friendship rather than an unequal professional/layperson relationship. This basic premise makes a lot of sense, and really struck a chord in me as being very workable and very desirable. The meat of this book, to me, is in the case studies presented by the author (much of the theorizing, with discussions of "cracks" and "triads" and the like is a little difficult to understand, so if you just read the case studies and the accompanying analyses, I think you will sufficiently get the point).

SteinhoffSmith's personal stories are very instructive (even though he squeezes many pages worth of significance out of what must have been about a one- or two- minute discussion with a student about "counseling skills"). His efforts at building a "community" of poor African-Americans, many who were disabled or chemically dependent, resulted in a revolution of his thinking about care (the "mutuality" aspect). The transformation of his relationship with one particular person, Johnny C., from a helper relationship to a friendship, is very touching and instructive. Other case studies not involving SteinhoffSmith directly are helpful in this discussion as well.

However, I have some fundamental problems with this book. One seemingly small annoyance that irritated me to no end was his use of the word "christian" in the lower case, as sort of a political statement being part of a group that has been historically arrogant and abusive to various groups. The author needs to come to terms with his liberal self-hatred, because it's really tiring. All other religious groups are capitalized, I guess because none of them have ever in their history been arrogant or abusive to anyone. Another problem area for me is his interpretation of the encounter between Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman. I believe Jesus was being "playful" with the woman and was indeed testing her faith by his statement that the children's food should not be fed to the dogs. I have problems with a Jesus that is portrayed as simply irritable, cruel, and flat-out wrong, and he needed this woman to turn the tables on him, beat him at his own game, and teach him a lesson. My christology does not allow for the "man without sin" to sin. Apparently SteinhoffSmith's christology does, because he keeps referring to this story over and over again. Finally, his fictionalized case study of Christ Church is rather problematic for me. He makes up a character, Les Nodale, who, if I was a pastor and he was a member of my church, I'd be afraid to preach anything at all with the fear of offending him. Preaching about sacrifice is portrayed as almost sinful because of Les Nodale's experiences. Well, I may not have agreed with the sermon either, but it was just one sermon by a guest speaker, so, hey, I don't mean to be insensitive, but just blow it off. I've heard many sermons that have disturbed me, but I moved on. Another sermon by his pastor about tithing also bent him out of shape. As the coup-de-grace, he gets offended that Christians (excuse me, christians) are invited to partake of the Lord's Supper to the exclusion of everyone else. With the symbolism of Christ's body being broken and his blood being poured out for the forgiveness of sins being the basis of communion, it would take a deconstruction of that very basis to encourage those who could not accept or understand ("discern the Body of Christ" if you will) the meaning of the Lord's Supper to participate. Inclusivism based on political correctness rather than Biblical witness is shaky ground on which to stand when it comes to the church.

In summary, SteinhoffSmith has written a book that can be valuable in care-based settings, but is rather dangerous theologically. I would like to see another author take his premise and develop it in a more evangelical fashion, rather than setting the whole issue in a milieu of liberation theology and political correctness.

Exciting!Revolutionary!Profound!Warm!  Apr 11, 2000
The Mutuality of Care is one of the best books on pastoral care I have ever read! SteinhoffSmith's main argument is that ministry is more than a "spiritual" endeavor. I work in a prison. This book has helped me to view my work as care. This care is more than just reading a sermon or praying a prayer. Sometimes a person has to buck the system. This bucking is as much an endeavor of ministry as anything else. SteinhoffSmith's book brings this out in a graphic way. He calls into question the medical profession as well as the criminal justice system. Within the context of the argument of the entire book- it makes sense!I have had enough dealings with criminal justice professionals to question if I was all alone out there in dealing with this systemic problem. SteinhoffSmith gives a macro context. In the mainline ministry-too often we ministers lack this perspective. Sometimes we might even fear it! SteinhoffSmith boldly challenges us to just get beyond our own petty little worlds and view the macro. SteinhoffSmith not only deals with the macro but also with the micro. He talks about a group he started with his wife and kids and some fundamentalsit african-americans. He really invested himself in this group. But there was an argument over a literalistic interpretation of the Bible and SteinhoffSmith lost his African American supporters. He was devastated at first. He goes on to recount involvement with one of the group members who was a substance abuser. He would have to take the guy to various treatment centers around Oklahoma. In the traveling his interlocutor viewed SteinhoffSmith's involvement as an act of friendship. SteinhoffSmith saw himself as more of a professional minister. SteinhoffSmith condescended to the man. However, the other person just enjoyed the rides and the chance to get to know SteinhoffSmith better Eventually SteinhoffSmith realized he had made a friend rather than just interacted professionally. The argument of the book is that we professionals should pursue our professions seeking freindships rather than just clients. Roy has been a friend to me. He is tough...but very caring. Read this book! Pass it on to other people! If you can't afford a copy-email me at I will send you one. sincerely, Dave Mervine-Kirk

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