McCullough, Donald W. 1949-
McCULLOUGH, Donald W. 1949-
PERSONAL: Born May 10, 1949, in Ellensburg, WA; son of John Howard (a minister) and Ione Dorthea (Isaac) McCullough; married Karen Jensen (a homemaker), June 19, 1970 (divorced, 1998); remarried; children: (first marriage) Jennifer Lee, Joy Marie. Education: Seattle Pacific College (now University), B.A., 1971; Fuller Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1974; University of Edinburgh, Ph.D., 1980. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Presbyterian.
ADDRESSES: Home—825 Val Sereno Dr., Encinitas, CA 92024. Office—c/o Author Mail, Brazos Press, Baker Book House, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516.
CAREER: Ordained Presbyterian minister, 1974; pastor of Presbyterian church in Seattle, WA, 1974-78; Solana Beach Presbyterian Church, Solana Beach, CA, pastor, 1980-94; San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Francisco, CA, president and professor of theology and preaching, 1994-2000. Adjunct professor, Fuller Theological Seminary, beginning 1981.
Waking from the American Dream: Growing through Your Disappointments, InterVarsity Press (Downers Grove, IL), 1988, published as The Power of Realistic Thinking: How to Cope When How-to Books Fail, 1992.
Finding Happiness in the Most Unlikely Places, Inter-Varsity Press (Downers Grove, IL), 1990.
(With Maxie D. Dunnam and Gordon MacDonald) Mastering Personal Growth, Christianity Today (Sisters, OR), 1992.
The Trivialization of God: The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity, NavPress (Colorado Springs, CO), 1995.
Say Please, Say Thank You: The Respect We Owe One Another, Putnam (New York, NY), 1998.
The Wisdom of Pelicans: A Search for Healing at the Water's Edge (memoir), Viking Compass (New York, NY), 2002.
The Consolations of Imperfection: Learning to Appreciate Life's Limitations, Brazos Press (Grand Rapids, MI), 2004.
Contributor to magazines, including Christian Century, Christianity Today, Presbyterian Survey, Reformed Journal, and Christian Herald.
SIDELIGHTS: Donald W. McCullough once told CA: "My first book, Waking from the American Dream, has to do with unfulfillment in life. The 'American dream' tells us that we can have it all—wealth, success, love—if we think positively and work hard. Eventually, however, we awaken from this dream and find ourselves filled with a restless longing for more. What we really need, although usually we don't realize it, is God. The Christian faith speaks to our emptiness and offers a genuine hope beyond the positive thinking that afflicts our culture. My central conviction is the ancient confession 'Jesus is Lord.' In all my writing I seek to understand what this confession means for our lives at the end of the twentieth century."
In his 1995 work The Trivialization of God: The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity, Mc-Cullough explores the differences between modern, humanistic interpretations of God and the unpredictable God that is portrayed in the Bible. McCullough points to Western society's emphasis on individualism and control of one's surroundings, as well as the "silence of God" in the face of modern genocides, as the reasons behind this "domestication" of God, and suggests that believers seek repentance and the Word of God to create a true, not a self-centered, faith. Christianity Today contributor Christopher A. Hall noted that the author "has written a perceptive, timely book." Although "at times its analysis is sketchy and underdeveloped," the critic continued, "McCullough's central theological thrust … hits its mark. We have forgotten what God is like. McCullough revives our memory, and for this he deserves our thanks."
In Say Please, Say Thank You: The Respect We Owe One Another, McCullough presents thirty-six anecdotal chapters that illustrate reasons why people need to be considerate of each other. From the need for patience to accepting each other's differences, Say Please, Say Thank You illustrates why a return to manners would benefit society. Wall Street Journal contributor Digby Anderson noted that the book illustrates "a laudable sentiment, but it doesn't go far enough….Ifone seriously wants better manners, one has to take on the enemies of them and show why their criticisms are misplaced. Manners today need better advocacy than mere yearning." Armin Brott, however, wrote in the Washington Post that McCullough's book is "a charming, insightful, and very funny look at the importance of simply being nice and at how incredibly easy it is to forget how."
In the year 2000, McCullough himself seemed in need of spiritual guidance: an extramarital affair from 1994 became public, leading to his censure by his religious superiors and forcing him to leave the presidency of the San Francisco Theological Seminary. This public revelation of a private sin—one he had already repented and for which he had sought forgiveness—forced McCullough to re-evaluate his life and the place of his faith in it. He found particular consolation while walking the beaches near his California home, and he shares these discoveries in the 2002 memoir The Wisdom of Pelicans: A Search for Healing at the Water's Edge. A Christian Century writer noted that while McCullough's memoir could have been self-serving and full of excuses, instead it is "a gutsy account of one who seemed to have lost everything, including his faith." A Publishers Weekly reviewer similarly praised McCullough for being "self-aware without being self-conscious" and noted that the author is a "master of language" who is able to draw from his seaside observations without becoming clichéd. The Wisdom of Pelicans, the critic concluded, "is a beautiful work of Christian pastoring, told from the trenches, not from the pulpit."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Christian Century, December 4, 2002, review of The Wisdom of Pelicans: A Search for Healing at the Water's Edge, p. 30.
Christianity Today, January 8, 1996, Christopher A. Hall, review of The Trivialization of God: The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity, p. 44.
Publishers Weekly, September 21, 1998, review of Say Please, Say Thank You: The Respect We Owe One Another, p. 63; June 10, 2002, review of The Wisdom of Pelicans, pp. 57-58.
Wall Street Journal, October 2, 1998, Digby Anderson, "Civility under Siege," p. 1.
Washington Post, November 8, 1998, Armin Brott, "Family Issues," p. X10.*