Luminaries / John Swinton / Mental Health, Disability, and “Banal Evil”

The Luminaries series is a collection of interviews with premier thinkers working in the theological academy and the church. In this Luminaries interview, I talk with John Swinton, the esteemed practical theologian at the University of Aberdeen, about his career prior to entering the theological academy, a theology of mental health challenges, the experience of time for those living with disabilities, and confronting the problems of both “radical evil” and “banal evil.”

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John Swinton is Professor in Practical Theology and Pastoral Care and Chair in Divinity and Religious Studies at the University of Aberdeen. For more than a decade John worked as a registered mental health nurse. He also worked for a number of years as a hospital and community mental health Chaplain alongside of people with severe mental health challenges who were moving from the hospital into the community. In 2004, he founded the University of Aberdeen’s Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability. He has published widely within the area of mental health, dementia, disability theology, spirituality and healthcare, end of life care, qualitative research and pastoral care.

Show Notes


Dr. Swinton’s new book, Deliver Us from Evil:

Jasmine Pearl Tea:


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.

———. The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Hull, John M. Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness.

Koyama, Kosuke. Three Mile an Hour God.

Luhrmann, T. M, and Jocelyn Marrow, eds. Our Most Troubling Madness: Case Studies in Schizophrenia across Cultures.

Swinton, John. Becoming Friends of Time: Disability, Timefullness, and Gentle Discipleship.

———. Deliver Us from Evil: A Call for Christians to Take Evil Seriously.

———. Finding Jesus in the Storm: The Spiritual Lives of Christians with Mental Health Challenges.

World Health Organization. International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.


(02:02) – Black tea (with coffee beans), Coke Zero, and (thoughts of) Scotch

(03:30) – From nursing to the theological academy

(07:18) – Distinguishing practical theology as a subdiscipline

(10:26) – Diagnostic descriptors as experienced by diagnosed persons

(15:32) – Problematizing the DSM

(20:31) – Describing the experience of mental health challenges

(24:24) – Living with mental health diagnoses in the West

(30:12) – Advice for those living with mental health challenges

(31:45) – Advice for churches trying to welcome those with mental health challenges

(32:59) – The “temporarily able-bodied”

(35:40) – The speed of Western time and the speed of God’s time

(42:20) – Living in God’s time

(44:47) – “You’ve changed”: personal identity amidst the changes that come with disability

(51:06) – Evil according to Paul the Apostle, Susan Eastman, and Hannah Arendt

(58:57) – Resisting evil


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