Episode 97

Today we are joined by psychologist, pastor, professor, podcaster, and the most interesting person you will meet today, the Rev. Dr. Vikki Gaskin-Butler. We talk about how womanism and what the psychology of religion has to offer at the intersection of class, race, and gender. Does religion actually make us better or should we spend our weekends at the gym instead? How do we raise emotionally children? How do we become emotionally healthy adults? Let's talk about it! 


The Healing the Human Spirit Podcast



Rev. Dr. Vikki Gaskin-Butler is a licensed psychologist (clinical and health psychology) and ordained clergy person. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Spelman College and her Master of Science and Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Florida. She also received a Master of Divinity degree from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

Today’s guest has served as a psychologist in university counseling centers, clinic director in an interfaith-based counseling center, and as director of a university psychology clinic. She has supervised numerous students in pursuit of psychology, mental health counseling, and social work degrees. She has led clergy consultation groups and served as a consultant with church/church-affiliated and secular organizations. In addition, she has served as a minister of education and an associate pastor in local churches.

Our guest draws on her knowledge of human potential from her experience as a psychologist and ordained clergy person to support the psychological, spiritual, and physical well-being of all people. Through her first-hand knowledge of life as a wife, mother, musician, professor, clinician, and minister, she has the insight to support the needs of adults, including performing artists, clergy, and health professionals.

In her words:  "My passion is to constantly move toward my own divine potential. Throughout this journey, I have experienced struggle, doubt, grief, joy, peace, and all of the emotions that make us human. These emotions and the experiences connected with them have made me more whole as I followed the thread of healing to freedom. These emotional experiences have also created within me a deep well of compassion for others as they journey on their paths to health and wholeness."


Support this podcast on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/DowntheWormholepodcast


More information at https://www.downthewormhole.com/


produced by Zack Jackson
music by Zack Jackson and Barton Willis 



This transcript was automatically generated by www.otter.ai, and as such contains errors (especially when multiple people are talking). As the AI learns our voices, the transcripts will improve. We hope it is helpful even with the errors.


Zack Jackson 00:04

You are listening to the down the wormhole podcast exploring the strange and fascinating relationship between science and religion.


Ian Binns 00:12

Our guest today is a licensed psychologist, both clinical and health psychology and ordained clergy person. She received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Spelman College and her Master of Science and PhD in Psychology from the University of Florida. She also received a master of divinity degree degree from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Today's guests who served as a psychologist in University Counseling Centers clinical director and interfaith based Counseling Center, and as director of a university psychology clinic. In addition, she has served as a minister of education and associate pastor in local churches. Our guests are all in her knowledge of human potential from her experience as a psychologist, an ordained clergy person to support the psychological, spiritual and physical well being of all people through her firsthand knowledge of life as a wife, mother, musician, Professor, clinician and minister. She has the insight to support the needs of adults, including performing artists, clergy and health professionals. We're very excited to welcome to the show Dr. Vicki T. Gaskin, Butler.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 01:15

Thank you. I'm so excited about being here. Welcome.


Ian Binns 01:18

Welcome. Welcome. Okay, so I've done my part. You guys. Go ahead. What? Zack, you have to edit that out.


Zack Jackson 01:28

Oh, yeah. Mike drop. He hands down. He's gonna go home now. Oh, you are home?


Kendra Holt-Moore 01:35

Yes. Oh, yeah. It's nice to have you at this Vicki. Um, do you and he in one or both of you want to share a little bit about like your connection? How did you meet? And how did we get, you know, how, how did we get to this moment where we get to have you on to talk to you and ask you about, you know, the work that you do.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 02:02

Okay, so I can tell you my said, and I think Ian should tell you his side as well.


Ian Binns 02:09

Sounds good.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 02:10

My husband introduced me to Ian via email. But before that, he told me about Ian. And he said, She's really cool. And he's doing some really cool stuff. And I know you'll be interested in it. And so he told me about your podcast, and you told me about the fellowship you had. And so then I started being nosy and looking around and try to find out who Ian was. And my husband said, Yeah, I told him about you. And y'all should get in touch. And I think you'll he'll, he'll be a good guest on your podcast, which I thought was great, because now I want all of you to be guest on my podcast, just just so you know. And


Zack Jackson 03:04

on your podcast. You want to plug your podcast,


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 03:09

I just started it's called Healing the human spirit. And it covers any topic, literally any topic that's salient for human beings. Because I I've said this a million times, but for me, as a psychologist and a clergy person. I use my dad's phrase that I heard him say when I was like in high school and middle school, inextricably intertwined. Psychology and religion for me, and spirituality are inextricably intertwined. And so the podcast is really about all kinds of things that affect our human spirit and how we can use any occurrences in our lives to help us heal. Whether those things are quote unquote, labeled as good things, bad things or in between.


Kendra Holt-Moore 04:06

When When could people expect the first episode?


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 04:11

Actually, the first episode happened a month ago because I launched before I was ready. And my husband was my first guest and he we talked about gosh, we talked about the Coronavirus, science, the Coronavirus and religion. So we talked about those three topics because he is a science educator and undergraduate degree in physics. So, we have lots of interesting conversations around,


Kendra Holt-Moore 04:42

I bet. And it's so fun to talk to people who cast those wide nets, which sounds like that's exactly what you're doing in your work and what the podcast is like, everything that matters for human beings and human flourishing, let's just tackle it all. So that's great.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 05:06

My topic though, is science and religion. So I'm gonna try not to be too heavy on that. science, religion and spirituality, oh,


Kendra Holt-Moore 05:16

we invite that.


Zack Jackson 05:18

I mean, heavy. I'm gonna jump right into that. That is literally what this podcast is about.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 05:25

So, I want to I do want to cover lots of other things, but that, as you can see, I'm here today with you. It's my favorite.


Kendra Holt-Moore 05:35

No, I'm excited to hear more about that. Um, and was there anything that you wanted to share about your meeting?


Ian Binns 05:43

Yeah, so, um, Vicki's husband, Malcolm and I have known each other for several years, since we're both science educators. And we got to know each other in one of our professional conferences, and just would stay in touch. And every time we see each other, we'd sit down and hang out and just talk and catch up and stuff. And then he became or was one of the finalists for the Dean position for my college, college education, and ended up getting the job. And when he came on the interview, I was actually we were going to be recording an episode while he was there. And he was really interested in the podcast again, because he knew about it. And then that's when he told me about Vicki and said, I think y'all need to meet because you guys have similar interests. And so when Vicki and I met, and we've only met like this one time, and, you know, I remember after I hung up, my wife was another room, and she knew that I was meeting Vicki, and she's like, Wow, you guys hit it off beautifully. I was like, Yeah, that was a lot of fun. So, um, so I knew we had to get her on. And yeah, as I said, Before, we were recording I think Vicki and I, once they move up here in a couple months are going to become good friends, because she just has a lot to


Zack Jackson 06:59

offer. Yeah, Ian texted all of us almost immediately. And like, like he had just met the president or something. And he's like, yeah, oh, my gosh, you have to meet this person. She's a wonderful.


Ian Binns 07:11

Now, so I was sharing some of the things you mentioned. And everyone was like, Oh, well, amen. We got to do this. And so. So yeah, and it was just neat. It was fun for me, you know, with Malcolm getting hired. And, you know, as my next Dean, to have a science educator, as the dean, but then to realize, you know, and I know that Malcolm is a person of faith as well. But then when he introduced me to Vicki, and your areas of interest and expertise, I just knew right away, we would get along. Well, so.


Kendra Holt-Moore 07:43

Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah, vier, it's exciting. Yeah. So So Vicki, I guess the first the first thing that I want to ask about your work is maybe more of a general question, just so you can say a bit and like, let everybody know, you know, what it is that you do? Generally? So do you just want to tell us, like, what it means to, to do this work as a clinician, like the kind of intersection of your various roles as a clinical psychologist, and, you know, your work in religion and spirituality? Like, what? What does that look like for you? What are your research interests? And yeah, anything that you want to share about that to get us started?


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 08:24

So when I was talking with Ian, I told him I call myself a womanist, psychologist of religion. And why is because I did my PhD in Psychology before I went to seminary, because I hadn't never had any intention of going to seminary. And if any of you know about some clergy people, it's like, never doing that. And for me, it was, I even know I grew up. I grew up in a religious family. In terms of, there are so many people who are clergy in my family that I would start giving you a list and there will be too many of them to name but I'm including my dad. And as a result of that, I figured there were enough clergy people in my family, so they didn't need me to be clergy. Nobody needed me to be clergy because they had a cover. So I wanted to become a psychologist, and I did and actually is partially from witnessing my dad doing his work. And, and I'll tell you, just a quick, quick story. I let's see, when I was in elementary school, I would go to work with my mom. As my mom walked next door to our house, literally, they built our house, behind the nursing home, the nursing home was our family on nursing home. And so when school was out, I go over there sometimes, but we were there every day, literally just about every day, except for weekends, and then sometimes on weekends at the nursing home. So anytime I could not go to the nursing home, I would go to work with my dad. My dad was the director of a, let's see, I think it was a day program. I think that's what they called it, it was the 70 day program for youth who had some kind of criminal background, they might have gotten in trouble be in it. And it may have been related to drugs as well. But it was a drug treatment program. But they also may have had some other offenses, right. And so I would go to work with him. And witnessing his work with those. They were all teenagers, they seem much older to me because I was in elementary school, but witnessing his work with them, made me want to become a psychologist. But I didn't have the language to know that that's what I wanted to be I didn't know it was a what's called a psychologist at that point. And because of that experience, and there's so much that goes into that, and if you want to hear it, I'll tell you later, but because of that experience, I watched my dad work with them, I watched them, and the way they communicate with each other and how my dad and other people who worked in the center facilitated that communication. And so even communication that would seem negative, or hostile, or whatever you call it, that wasn't good for an elementary school person. Then I also noticed that they were just very honest with each other. And they will walk away from those interactions, more connected with each other, not angry, not upset, not hostile, they were just more connected in. And I said, I want to do that when I grow up, I want to work with people to help them have those kinds of honest relationships where you can communicate freely, and not run away when there's some kind of difficult interaction. And so that's why I wanted to become a psychologist. Still didn't have the language for it at that point. And then I have to say that in my life, I the church was always such a part of life, just going to different things. But the church was more like a community center to me. And that our church was a Community Church that helped so many. They build apartments for low income housing, they had a credit union, there were all kinds of things that that church did, and I just noticed those things growing up and I thought this is really cool. This is what the church is supposed to be to help people. And for me I just had a good experience growing up learning all those Bible stories that some kids didn't care about, but I love them. And I really wanted to be like Solomon wise like Solomon and I was I still remember learning about the story of Solomon and the two women who were fighting over a baby and Solomon said Okay, cut the baby in half and I was like, Oh my gosh, you know, kids do this you know the suspense and then of course he did not the woman whose baby it was said no, don't do it. And the other woman say yeah, cut it in half. And Selma said, Okay, now I know whose baby it is. And I thought, oh, man, I want to be like that when I grew up. I just want it to be wise. What


Kendra Holt-Moore 14:27

follow up question. Have you ever had to threaten to cut in half?


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 14:32

No, I have not thank goodness. Thank goodness. And just for the record, I would not use that tactic. Find another way to figure it out.


Zack Jackson 14:47

That's kind of go in the nuclear option right away.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 14:54

But I was just impressed with that. So I thought okay, I want to be wise and those like those critical things just stuck with me throughout my life in training, and then fast forward all the way to becoming a psychologist. And I was in practice for about four, three, actually three years out of graduate school. And I was in this church and working with a group of women. And we had this group we all wanted to meet, we were all the same age, it was really funny. We were literally the same age, we were all like 30 to 32. And dealing with life and having children and all that stuff, and, and we had this group get together, and I ended up becoming the leader of the group, and bringing together resources that we would study together and all that stuff. And I've ended up being like the pastor of the group. And from that experience, that's when I decided to accept my call to ministry because I thought, okay, it's not going to be me just donating, quote, unquote, my idea was to donate my services to the church as a psychologist, but I also realized I could do the other stuff, too. And so I accepted my call, went to seminary, and then seminary, I learned that I was a psychologist. Can I say that because my friends are terrible. They're really terrible. If they're listening, y'all should know y'all are terrible, because I really terrible, they're my friends. But I had this aha moment in one of my classes as we were getting near the end of the process in seminary and getting closer to graduation. And I said, Oh, my God, I'm a psychologist. I'm a psychologist. And they were like, Yeah, we know, we've been getting free therapy this whole three years. But what I mean was, I, I've always known that I could do all the local church stuff, because I learned it growing up, it was a part of my life. And in my daily life, especially from, I don't know, almost birth, but a part of my life. So I knew I could do local church, I could run a church, I could do all those things. I could do parish ministry. But in seminary, what I learned is, I really I just would say the world is my pulpit. Because I, I look at the intersection of psychology and theology for me, and it helps me to really relate better to everyone, anyone and everyone I encounter. Even the people that might be difficult. And I mean, I was challenged in so many ways like the I think it was the Timothy McVeigh. All remember Timothy McVeigh that Oklahoma City. Okay, so I was in a class and we were talking about Timothy McVeigh and and we were wrestling with how does God feel about Timothy McVeigh? And he came away with it, like, Oh, God probably loves Timothy McVeigh. Even though he may seem unlovable to all of us, he did something very awful, awful, write something that was so harmful and caused so much pain. And we were like, okay, so if God loves Timothy McVeigh, God loves everyone. And then we went to lots of other historical figures that were pretty awful, and awful in my mind. But those are the kinds of challenging discussions we had in seminary, and those are the kinds of things that helped me to become a better psychologist and being non judgmental and more understanding, and more loving and more kind, kinder, just to help me figure out okay, often when people come in my office, they're in a difficult spot and they've had some really difficult experiences, and it's my job to help them to see themselves even though I don't necessarily say it this way, but to help them see themselves as God sees them, in my estimation. And so that's the work I do, I really try to help people see themselves for who they really are not by all the labels that are placed on them. So anyway, that was a really long answer.


Kendra Holt-Moore 20:25

Great answer. And I guess a follow up question that I have, immediately, you know, when, when you identify yourself as a woman, a psychologist of religion, like you've talked about the pieces of like, where the psychology comes in where the religion comes in for you. But can you talk a little bit about what it means to do that from a womanist? Angle? And just, you know, considering that there's probably many people who will hear that and not necessarily know what that means? Like, what is it to be womanist versus feminist? And how, like, how has your journey with that identity kind of unfolded?


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 21:04

Okay, so, also in seminary, I realized I was a womanist. And it was basically because of how I was reared by my mother, other aunts, uncles, you know, extended family, grandparents, all of that. And so, Alice Walker coined the phrase womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender. And so, I was taught by a lot of womanist scholars, and, and I can't say a lot of them, I read a lot of their work, but I was taught by a couple of them. And so theologians, African American women theologians, took on the label of womanism, or womanist, because they read the stuff which is interested in the stuff my dad read, and seminary was Black Theology, by James Cohn and others, he kind of was the founder of Black Theology. And so those women were Reading it. And they were saying, well, we don't see ourselves in this literature. And so they started to read and write and interpret scriptures, and life experiences from their own perspective and not trying to read themselves into what was being written in Black Theology and, and feminist theology. And so, I say, for me, I live in the intersection every day of race, class, and gender, which is what woman is do. And so for me, and woman, as we say, those three things help us race, class and gender help us to relate to many different people, who have many different experiences and our role, our job, if you will, is to use those experiences to help others. So living in let's see, living with both privilege and oppression, at the same time, puts me in a different space than some other people who don't necessarily have both privilege and oppression, they're really living with oppression. And so, as a womanist, my goal, my role is to help elevate others, whomever they are not excluding anyone. And so, how I do that, or how I've done that is, in psychology, one of the two of the ways in particular, because of the things I like to do on learn about, I was able to pull psychology of religion into my work with others, and multicultural psychology into my work with others. And a special piece of multicultural psychology actually, is religion and spirituality. And not I shouldn't say not too many, but some psychologists aren't that comfortable dealing with those two topics. So I really helped my students explore those things and are, you know, allow and in a enable my clients or patients to do the same. So Oh, no,


Kendra Holt-Moore 24:55

did I answer Yeah, no, I know. And I think it's, it's just helpful for people to hear because like the My first encounter with, like womanist scholarship was in grad school, and it's not, you know, I think that that's something for, for the person who's kind of on the outside of grad school in general, or, you know, just Reading, like totally different genres of stuff it, it just is, there's not a context, often I think, for people to know what that means, I think it's helpful. The way you frame that as being, you know, about, like, caring for people at the intersection of race and gender in particular, and classes you added. And, and I think that that's, that's interesting, too, like the, the intersection of identity as like a woman, a psychologist of religion, I want to ask you just about that a little bit more. Because a lot of my a lot of my own research is in psychology of religion. And so there's, there's a pattern in Psych of religion, just to kind of share for people on the outside. And I think we may have like, brought this up a couple times before, but a lot of the demographics of people who are studied in psychology research, I think, in general, but it also extends to like religion is it's the weird problem. It's that all a lot of the people the pattern is for them to be Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic. And so I'm, I'm wondering, like you, Vicki, are sort of situated in a way where, like, the stuff that you do, and I also, I tried to do a little bit of stalking of you on the internet and found your CV and, you know, the work that you do, and is really like resisting that pattern of weirdness the acronym of the weird in psychology research. And I just, it's really, it's really cool to see that it's like filling a gap in a lot of the pattern of like, who gets studied and who gets brought into work and research on psychology. And so I'm just wondering, like, can you speak to that a little bit? Like, how does that? What are the kinds of things that you notice in your own work that seems to like resist, maybe, like, wider patterns that you see in publications in psychology on, you know, on stuff that you do? Or like, you know, how is that how does that feel different? I guess.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 27:44

So. Excuse me, one thing I wanted to say, I just thought of it. So I'm going to answer your question. But yeah. It just occurred to me again, that when I told you, I did that group with the women in the church, and that led to my call. The funny thing was, the first book we use was written by a womanist. theologian, in which she translated the she's an Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible scholar. And so she translated these different passages in the Hebrew Bible, interpreted them and then wrote a book to get other people to think about that. And so they're that womanism, and


Kendra Holt-Moore 28:28

I'm more shadowing you becoming a woman.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 28:35

But anyway, so. So let me talk a little bit about training, because I spent many years doing training of students. And so where I find this intersectionality is when we look at who becomes psychologist, right. So now worked in a training program in clinical psychology. Most recently, I worked in a training program for mental health counselors, school counselors, a mental health and school counselors. And then, prior to that, have worked with students who were in clinical programs as well, or pursuing a social work degree or counseling psychology degree. So those are the so this is the frame of reference I'm thinking about. And what I found is for me as a womanist. It's It's my calling, if you will, to make sure that students are learning about how to work with all people. Not that we'll be experts at working with all people, but we do really need to pay it tension to the people who come into our offices, whether it's a zoom office, or whether it's in reality, you know, face to face, we need to be able to look at all of the cultural issues that surface, right. And what I know from my own training is I didn't learn that I taught it to myself, honestly. And that's how I became this person who does multicultural work, I taught it to myself, in graduate school, and as a result of that, then I did the work while I was in graduate school, I was hired to do that work, working with multicultural populations in graduate school, and then it just kind of follow me until today. And so I was engaged in the work before I knew it was called womanist work. And so that's a key thing for me in training that I really work hard at helping students understand as much as they can about the different factors that affect people that aren't necessarily taught in the textbooks, the the traditional psychology textbooks, and I'll say traditional, because in traditional texts, there's not a lot of cultural diversity that's discussed in the traditional texts. But then there's always the separate multicultural,


Kendra Holt-Moore 31:29

aka, white.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 31:34

Boy, and so many college students or, you know, middle class, you know, you just say that we're, and so. So that's one of the things I've done, and I, in terms of my teaching, that's one of the things I've enjoyed the most and also has been the most difficult at the same time. Because it's challenging when I'm the first person to bring all these things up, and somebody goes what, you me race does have an impact on health. Yeah, does a class has an impact on health? Yeah, it does. Physical health, yes, you know, those kinds of things. And so covering those kinds of things in my courses, that's been really fun for me, I'm really difficult, but I wouldn't have it any other way. And then the other side in terms of research, if you looked at one of the last things I did, before leaving USF St. Petersburg was working with a group, well, one of my colleagues, Jamie McHale, who is a zero to three experts, zero to three age expert, developmental clinical psychologist, but early childhood development, and do yoga, Bella, say he roped me into doing that work with because I was reluctant. I was like, I'm not an expert in zero to three. I'm not an expert, a zero to three. And he said, but you're the person I need to do this work because he was trying to develop co parenting intervention for first time parents of African American children. And first time parents together. And so again, that's woman his work, because most of the people involved in the study were low income, African American parents, and we work together to develop a curriculum and an intervention program to help them learn how to better co parent, their children. And I say children because often, they might have been having their first child together, but they had other children. And so one of the byproducts of the research was that not only did they do better with co parenting the first child together, but it also helped them with co parenting issues with other parents, you know, that they have been connected with previously. So it just pops up all the time. I don't really think about it. I just, I just live it.


Kendra Holt-Moore 34:18

Yeah. Yeah. No, that that makes sense. And it's, it makes a lot of sense to to hear you talk about how a lot of the methods that you, you know, draw on to do the work that you do. It ends up being self taught for a lot of people. And that's, that's interesting, and like, of course challenging because it's like, you have to kind of be the one to pave the way for that to be more of the standard. I'm curious about how, you know, I I noticed that it looked like this might have been I can't remember when this was but you you've done some, like research and presentation on like religious coping, is that right? And so it, you know, it doesn't have to be like, religious coping specifically, but like, what is your experience of religious identity with things like race and gender? And how to how do those things come together in your work, especially since you have this interesting background where you did do an MDiv. And that's, you know, that gives you a lot of valuable experience and exposure to literature and care for people. But you know, it's like a different way of applying that kind of training in in research. So just yeah, what could you tell us about that?


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 35:52

So, my work with religious coping, that was a long time ago. But I did teach psychology of religion for many years. And I have to say, my students want to ask, one student in particular asked me, How did I teach the course because I was a person of faith, and she knew it. Everybody knew it. But I taught it in a way that it taught it as a psychologist, really, I wanted people to understand that there are many different ways of looking at religion and spirituality. And it's not all helpful in terms of how it's applied, how religion and how spiritual things are applied, and people's lives. And so as psychologists, our job is really to help people utilize religion and spirituality in a way that's healthy for them. That's, that's our job. Our job is not to change people's religious beliefs, or any of that, to get them to believe or not believe any of that. It's really to help them understand the role of religion in their lives and figure out how it can be used to help them. And so. So my dissertation, oh, my gosh, I just laugh every time I think about what were my findings. So, in this when I was doing the research, I was in the space of oh my gosh, it's got to be this internal experience of the Divine that makes people you know, better people or makes them cope with life's difficulties. And then I laugh because what I found is what psychologists already knew, is that is not that not really bad internal thing. For the group that I study. It's not really that internal relationship with the divinity or with God, that matters most. It's really, these, it was called extrinsic social, religious coping. And what that means is, people go to mosques, people go to temples, people go to religious services of different kinds, or participate in religious bodies, not because of that, divinity. internal to the, you know, up, up relationship, it's the gathering around, it's the connection with other people that matters most. And with psychology, we call that social support. And that's one thing we know that work, social support helps people. So I did a dissertation to help us find out what


Zack Jackson 39:02

is there anything special then about, like, people who reach out to their religious organizations for that sort of support? Or do you see the same kind of coping being from book clubs and Zumba and CrossFit or whatever people are into?


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 39:20

Honestly, with the dissertation? Yeah, it's, it's the same. It's just that there when people are gathered around something, whatever that something is, so it could be the religious thing. It could be zoom, but it could be the book club. What matters is the connection with the other people. That's the that's, that's the biggest thing. And now for because okay, how do I say this delicately, because sometimes when people gather with religious groups or people, the last thing they talk about Religion, sometimes they do, you know, if it's if it's a Bible study, or you know, a religious themed gathering, but what we found is these, these people will connect with each other beyond that, and the religion, religion was the thing that brought them together to connect. But it's not necessarily the thing that keeps them connected. It can be those other things like the same people might be in book clubs and other things like that, too. But social support really matters. Now, I'm not saying that religion doesn't matter, because that's the thing that brought them together in the first place.


Kendra Holt-Moore 40:45

We're all watching the clergy person's facial expressions right now, like Zach.


Ian Binns 40:51

I just religion still matters by wish


Zack Jackson 40:54

that that wasn't. I wish that wasn't borne out in my experience so keenly, and the sort of thing that all US clergy people talk about all the time, where they're like, why are they even coming? When they don't care about this? They're here for the cookies. I'm like, Alright, so nobody comes to the Bible study. But 100 People come to the chicken barbecue. All right, then. Okay, this is we should just open a chicken shop.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 41:26

So you do like some organizations you have the chicken barbecue and Bible study together? Oh, there


Zack Jackson 41:33

you go. In the door, you have to quote a Bible verse in order to get your chicken that's that's how we do it. It's got to be Jesus. Oh, what is it Ecclesiastes 1019. Is that what it is? The food was made for laughter and whining gladdens the heart and money answers everything. My life first


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 42:07

answer your question Kim Jong


Kendra Holt-Moore 42:09

Yeah, no, I just Yeah, I and my question might have also been a little bit rambley. Because there's just so like, I love listening to people talk about like psych of religion stuff. And, and so yeah, like, just like anything that you want to share. I am curious about the class that you taught, or that you you taught or you do teach this still sometimes


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 42:32

I haven't taught it. I haven't taught it in five years now. I think Oh, yeah. How many years I'm trying to remember how many years it's been since I left, USA, three years, three years,


Zack Jackson 42:43

it's been at least five years, the past year.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 42:50

So psychology of religion, I approached it as. So we, we did a couple things. I'll use two different textbooks. One was on psychology and religion. And I can't remember the name of it. And I'm looking over here and I forget that's not my bookshelf and my other. But it's a very interesting empirical study of psychology and religion, right? You know, the empirical study. So I use that text. And I also used another text that was a psychology of religion and spirituality that, no, it wasn't empirical. It was really talking about a lot of Eastern religions, and how helping students understand the meanings of those religions, symbols and those religions, that kind of thing and how people utilize those religions in their day to day lives, right. But I also did something interesting where I threw in William James psychologist who wrote the varieties of religious experience and that the students, what is this rambling on and on and on? What is he doing? I used it because I wanted them first to see a psychologist who emphasize religion in a way that they perhaps weren't used to. And so and he had just had a lot of interesting life experiences moving all over the place moving back and forth from Europe to the United States and doing all this stuff. And then he was of course prolific in terms of writing and research and all that stuff. So anyway, I use that and I threw and stuff like that. Have you seen the video religious realist by Bill Maher? Yeah, I've


Kendra Holt-Moore 44:55

heard of it, but I haven't seen it.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 44:57

Okay, so I threw that a long time. I go, Yeah, it's old. But very good. I threw that in, I threw on stuff like What the Bleep doing? No, I threw in. See you. And if I was teaching it now I'd have them listen to your podcast too. But I put in a lot of different things to give them lots of different perspectives about religion, to help them understand that, whatever their way, is, is not the only way. Because inevitably, I'd have two camps in my class, every single class, the division, the people who are psychology, is it? What is this, the religion is the opiate of the people like this is ridiculous. And then I had the very religious students. And so I would try to get them to come toward center a little bit, just to move a little bit to understand the other side, I would, we would do debates on specific topics. And I would talk to them about the idea that what we're doing in this class is not to get you to change anybody else's mind. It's just to understand, try to understand others perspectives. And inevitably, they would do that many of them not all of them, because some of them would dig their heels in and say, You know what, that can damage your Gascon bowler, this religious stuff is just gone too far. I cannot, you know, this is awful. And I should also want call Jesus Camp heavy.


Kendra Holt-Moore 46:38

But I'm gonna have to write down all these things. You're saying? I'm teaching this class in the spring?


Zack Jackson 46:43

Yeah, I live that. Jesus Camp both in in the documentary and also living through stuff like that. Yes.


Kendra Holt-Moore 46:52

Yeah, it might hit too close to home for me to watch that. Yeah.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 46:57

So I will show all of those things. And we will have really rich discussions and relate it to the material we were covering in psychology of religion, especially on the empirical stuff, and then just looking at so what is it that? What is it about all of these things that helpful to the people involved? What's harmful? If you see it that way? Do they see it as harmful? Psychologically speaking, are they okay? I mean, and so we had lots of rich discussions about that. That was my absolute favorite class to teach.


Kendra Holt-Moore 47:35

Yeah, that's so fun. What did you what what? What was the topic that people that? What was the topic that students got most worked up about? Or what was like, the favorite topic of the class?


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 47:50

It wasn't a topic, but it was. It was the whole course. And I'll say it this way. Students were really upset with me that I could not say, the research definitively says this, oh, about anything, anything. Because I said, this is what we have, because psychology of religion is, it's still growing, right? But we don't have millions and millions of people studying this, right. But what we can say is, this is what we know, based on this research, and we went, I mean, we covered so many different topics, from clergy health, to religious attributions, and social psychology and all these different things. And, and they were just frustrated, because I wasn't giving them definitive answers. I said, this is the research we have. And you have to look at this research, and then look at the people you're with whom you're going to work, and figure out whether this research bears out or not. And it might not. And if it doesn't, at least you have a foundation to use to approach the people. And so that was the biggest issue. And on both sides, because students who were really religious, it didn't matter what their religious background was, because I had some diversity there. They really wanted me to just come down and say religion is great, it helps everyone and you know, because I'm a believer and this you know, particular faith tradition. And then the other who wanted me to just say, religion is awful, and doesn't help anybody else. Like Yeah, can't do that. So that was a big deal in Dallas. They were frustrated Oh,


Zack Jackson 49:51

we can approach our our like our theology or religion with that kind of mindset where you're like, here's what the here's what are this? Here's what scripture suggests, and here's how it bears out. And does that work in this context or not? And if not, like, what, where can we? How can we adapt? What can we do? Like, wow, what if that just that worldview that you just put forward, like apply that to our Faith Journeys? And I feel like we would all be so much more mature,


Kendra Holt-Moore 50:18

knows that we need absolutely



no ambiguity, no room for a gray. ambiguity is hard to preach? I'll tell you.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 50:30

Yes, it is. Yes, it is.


Kendra Holt-Moore 50:34

I think that's really I imagine that there were days that that felt especially challenging to you, as the faculty member, like teaching that class, but there's something so satisfying about those moments in class to where students, they know, they're not going to get a clear cut answer from you. And they're forced to sit in the ambiguity, and you can just see the frustration. But it's like a constructive kind of frustration of like, you get the point. If you can see why this is complicated. And that is like a job well done, I think to like, have a roomful of students frustrated.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 51:15

The one of the last time that I taught of course, then students would leave class and follow each other down the hall and then go find a place to sit and talk and talk about what we talked about in class and then come back the next week and say, you know, we talked about this and



I love that that's awesome.


Ian Binns 51:42

Yeah, I don't know how many professors could actually claim that right that they would see their students especially in that type of class walking now and then continuing the conversation. That's, that's really cool. So


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 51:55

that was always they didn't know it. They didn't know that was my goal.


Ian Binns 52:03

No, I have to be honest, and you can delete this. It is fun for me to sit here and watch you. Kendra asked these questions, especially as a So Vicki, I don't know if you picked up on this. This is Kendra's first post as an assistant professor, as faculty. This semester, yeah. This semester, this is her very first semester as faculty, so


Zack Jackson 52:26

she's planning your syllabi right now. Talking to you. Yeah. Yeah,


Ian Binns 52:30

it's really fun to watch her do this.


Kendra Holt-Moore 52:32

Yeah, like maybe I should email Vicki later, get some more tips.


Ian Binns 52:38

I will make sure you have her email. So


Kendra Holt-Moore 52:41

yeah. Um, yeah, no, I'm sorry, Carrie. I'm really excited though. Like I, I'm teaching psychology of religion in in the spring at, you know, 830 in the morning, so everyone who's registered for that class, like, wants to be there, I think because it's at 830 in the morning, and, and so I'm really excited, I think it'll be really fun. And it's fun to hear someone else who's taught this class, you know, reflect on that experience. Um, I, I'm wondering to just, you know, like, in talking about religion, and again, just considering like your, your roles and your experience in on the more like, spiritual, you know, MDiv side of that versus your experience with religion. As a psychologist. What do you notice, when, when, when people read, research or conduct research about religion, religion becomes a variable in a way that sometimes like you have to kind of, you know, we as researchers, we make decisions about how to simplify religion to fit as a variable that you can like, create, you know, find correlations with it with various other, you know, demographic factors or whatever. What are some of the challenges that you've noticed in, like simplifying religion in that way? And what what's something that you wish people knew about studying religion as a research variable, if that makes sense?


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 54:20

So what I noticed in especially in teaching psychology and religion is looking at the, the way religion was operationalize as you said, it's, it's, it's very difficult to operationalize that was actually one of the exercises we did in class. We looked at words like faith, what does that mean belief? What does that mean and those kinds of things. And what I would say is psychologists of religion should be clear about what it is they want to No. And so, if I want to know how religion affects no cardiac health, then that's too big. All right? What aspect of religion? Are you concerned about? Is it something's simple, like church attendance? Is it something like, I walk in a group with people from my church? We have a walking group or you know, that kind of thing?


Kendra Holt-Moore 55:36

I think it is a God.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 55:39

Yes. Right. Believing us What? What does it mean? And I think, and I also think that's just so hard to do, right? Because we're narrowing down something that's so big. But if you really want to answer some questions, I think it is important to operationalize, get it down to the, the more, the most specific thing you can think of that you really want to know about. Because that's what I noticed, makes the that's part of what leads to frustration with ambiguity. Because we could have 10 studies on how religion affects cardiac health, and they all operationalize religion differently. And so what do we really know, when we're looking at these 10 Different studies? Well, we know it, it's for the walking group, people, they walk with their, you know, friends from the synagogue, and they're good, right there, their health is really great. But then we also know, they probably eat more fruits and vegetables, like, external variables. Something else is going on there, too. So, um, so anyway, I think that's, that's one of the bigger things, and I that's a conversation that will I mean, in terms of research that's gonna go on forever and ever, I think, because we really have to, to keep working at it. And, yeah, just trying to understand what we really want to know. And that that's difficult, but I think it's, it does help in the study of religion when we get to those specific things. So does that answer your


Kendra Holt-Moore 57:28

question? Yeah. No, that's, that's a great answer. And I think, you know, like, what you're suggesting, too, about being very specific and narrow? I think part of that is also it's like the responsibility of researchers, I think, to to be transparent about that in their publications about like, what are we actually talking about? Because then, you know, we end up like, generalizing about religion, based on this, like, very specific oper operationalization of it. And so yeah, like, what you're saying it at all, that all makes perfect sense. Oh, God,


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 58:06

I just thought of, um, one of the things that I'm interested in and just read some about not a whole whole lot is just anecdotally, prayer can be a helpful thing, right? It can be. And so one of my colleagues said, he just looked at me with a frown. He was like, have you read this stuff? For it doesn't work. So I added that to the course. There was another study where prayer wasn't helpful. So anyway, but there, there's lots of books about how prayer is helpful. But it helps to define what's happening with prayer. Because sometimes people are praying in a way that increases their anxiety, and then it's not helpful. And then there are other times where they're praying in a way that makes them calmer and makes them less depressed, and you know, that kind of thing. And so, that I think, illustrates what I'm talking about, if we're gonna say we want to understand prayer, and its impact on people, what kind of prayer, you know, really be specific about that and, and try to understand how it can be helpful to to folks,


Kendra Holt-Moore 59:27

yeah, I think that's a great example. The, the research on prayer like that, that really does, like hit on that point. Well, I have a question that I think could be a good final question. And unless Zach wants to add something else, but I was gonna say, Vicki, as we wrap up, like what do you want to share? Or maybe like, or maybe we kind of did this in the beginning, so I don't know if this is gonna work. But Vicki, what is it that you want to share with us as wrapped up about, like, work that you're doing right now, anything that, you know, you're excited about that you want people to know about. Let this be a shameless moment of self promotion of what you do.


Ian Binns 1:00:14

Can I can I actually, maybe make that question a little more specific? So, you know, as I said at the beginning, you and Malcolm will be coming to Charlotte. So what is it? Building on Kendra's question? What do you hope to do? Once you move? What are your goals when you come to Charlotte? Yeah, that's a good one and start a new.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 1:00:43

So excuse me. I actually started working in private practice here, virtual private practice here in Florida, just a couple months ago. And so I plan to get licensed in North Carolina, and started private practice there. But the funny thing is, I only want private practice to be a part of what I do, I don't want that to be my daily, like everyday, all day, kind of work. I really like working with groups of people. So here, you will see how that pastoral kind of influence comes out of me. Because I like working, and doing things like workshops and retreats that focus on spiritual, psychological and physical well being. And so those are some of the things that I want to do. And it'll be under the guise of my private practice. I also have this other project that I'm working on, I won't give you the name of it yet. But it's, it's a news network, I want to develop an online news network. And the site itself has already been developed, we're just needing to populate it with stories and stuff like that. So I had to put it on the back burner for a little bit while I got my private practice stuff up and running. But I want to do that as well. Because I just, I think that there are many ways to reach people. And I want to try to reach as many people as I can, in positive ways. And so my, my new site will do that, as well as my website. So, um, one more thing, I'm also working, I won't start start start, I've actually started writing, but I'm gonna work on my first book, started working with the editor in January. Because we're doing something small, like moving right.


Zack Jackson 1:03:00

Here at some point, you're asleep, right?


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 1:03:03

Yes, exactly. So I have a lot of things going on. But this is the thing I always said, I am a person that I chose to become a psychologist because I get bored easily. So I need to be doing different things. Have my hands in different parts, I guess. And so my career I've done a lot of different things. But I feel like now, this is my time where I'm going to do all of the things that I believe I'm called to do at this point in my life, which is writing and doing retreats and workshops and consulting and that network thing on either side.


Zack Jackson 1:03:55




that's pretty Yeah,


Ian Binns 1:03:57

yeah. And podcasts. Don't forget your podcast.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 1:03:59

Yes. And the podcast. The blog and the podcast are on my on my it's got to be Dr. Vicki website is almost done. I just have to add a couple podcast episodes and then we'll make it live.


Zack Jackson 1:04:14

But in the meantime, it cool when people are done listening to this episode, they should search in their preferred podcast provider for the healing the human spirit podcast with and they should definitely subscribe to that and listen to the one episode that's up so far. Yeah. Exciting. Or maybe multiple guests.


Ian Binns 1:04:37

What would you say? Yeah, I said, I hear I hear he's a good guest. Your first guest he's alright now you said decent the first time. I did say decent, right?


Zack Jackson 1:04:46

This is your future boss here.


Ian Binns 1:04:48

You can keep that in because Malcolm will hear him like get that. Laugh he'll just laugh. I expect nothing less.


Kendra Holt-Moore 1:04:58

Well, it's exciting to hear everything You're doing Vicki. And we're really happy that you decided to talk to us today. So thank you for being with us.


Zack Jackson 1:05:08

Thanks so much. Yeah. Thank you.


Vikki Gaskin-Butler 1:05:12

Thank you. I'm so excited. I was really looking forward to this. And I have to say I was a little nervous. Oh God, what are they going to ask me? Will I be ready? Will I be ready? And what Ian, what did Malcolm my husband say to me, right before this, he says, Go have fun. And


Kendra Holt-Moore 1:05:36

absolutely, yeah, well, thank you. Thank you.


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