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Proverbs of Ashes : Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us Paperback – November 18, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Your maxims are proverbs of ashes!" Thus spoke Job when his friends spouted pious platitudes in the face of his considerable suffering. Brock, a Harvard theologian, and Parker, a seminary president, echo Job's cry in this deep theological study of suffering and its role in the Christian faith. The two women became friends in graduate school and continued to meet after graduation, discussing their personal lives and how their experiences shaped their theology. "We were convinced Christianity could not promise healing for victims of intimate violence as long as its central image was a divine parent who required the death of his child," writes Brock. The two authors take turns communicating their views, sharing deep and painful traumas (such as Parker's childhood sexual abuse, estranged marriage and abortion) as they weigh the concept of "redemptive suffering." Too many Christian women, they argue, have remained in abusive situations because they have been taught that their suffering is necessary for spiritual growth. The authors are serious theologians, confidently challenging such explicators of the faith as Anselm and Abelard, Wesley and Whitehead. Readers may not agree with Brock and Parker that the fundamental Christian doctrine of Jesus' atonement is inherently dangerous and destructive for Christians, especially women. But they cannot help but be swayed by the book's searing passion and profoundly literary writing style (a remarkable achievement in a coauthored work). Brock and Parker have thrown down a gauntlet that cannot be ignored.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Brock (director, Fellowship Program, Radcliffe Inst., Harvard Univ.) and Parker (president, Starr King Sch. for the Ministry, Graduate Theological Union) have written an intensely personal and provocative book. They aim to show that the theological assertion that God required the death of Jesus to save the world sanctions violence. This is not a theological text but more of a dual memoir in which the authors alternately tell the stories of their lives, emphasizing the violence that they have encountered. Basing theology on their own experiences is not a problem, but on balance, the narratives swamp the theological arguments presented here. The most telling indictment of the harmful effects of traditional Christian views comes from their stories of women who have stayed in abusive relationships because they felt that the church taught them to accept suffering passively, if not gratefully. A first step in an interesting but unfinished theological project, this is recommended for larger public libraries and academic libraries with religious studies and women's studies collections. Stephen Joseph, Butler Cty. Community Coll., PA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Save
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; New edition edition (November 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807067970
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807067970
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rita Nakashima Brock is the co-author of "Soul Repair: Recovering from the Moral Injury after War" with Gabriella Lettini(Beacon Press, 2012),a research professor and codirector of the Soul Repair Center at Brite Divinity School, Ft. Worth, Texas. She is the author, with Rebecca Ann Parker, of
"Proverbs of Ashes" and "Saving Paradise". She lives in Oakland, California.

Photo Credit: Yen Lin Studios, 2011.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In "Proverbs of Ashes", Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker challenge the traditional Christian theology of atonement. As the liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez wrote, "Theology is reflection, a critical attitude. The commitment of love, of service, comes first. Theology follows; it is the second step." (Gustavo Gutiérrez: Essential Writings, James B. Nickoloff ed.) Brock and Parker examine their lives and the abuse and violence they and others have suffered. Their theology has roots in autobiography. If this sounds radical, remember St. Augustine's "Confessions."
Brock and Parker find the costs of present atonement theology exorbitant. They ask: what sort of god requires his son to die to redeem others' guilt? (I use a small-g god to indicate god as a human concept which arises out of our lives, as did the idea that Jesus died for our sins. St. Anselm thought it up in the twelfth century. That doesn't make it wrong. That makes it debatable.) What sort of son would submit? What sort of human being feels redeemed by such a death? Does this theology twist god into being an abuser? When a woman is sent back to her abusing husband who then kills her, how many murderers are there?
In telling their stories of the descent of violence, one generation to the next, and the struggle to understand and contain it, and the descent of love, one generation to the next, and the struggle to embody and inflame it, Brock and Parker work the idea of atonement into something closer to its original meaning: at-one-ment. They find they cannot leave God behind. (Big-G God.) It's God who gets them through. Their stories are hard and demanding. Theirs is a scathingly honest, no punches pulled, gut level theology.
This issue is not angels-on-pin-head academic.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of the most important books I have ever read in my life. It is a searing personal and theological indictment of the Christian theological view that Jesus was sent into the world to suffer and die for us and that by this event, we are redeemed eternally.
I have never understood how an act of cruelty, violence and human sacrifice could be in any way redemptive and it is because of my inability to do so that I have never been able to become a Christian. This book, in a magnificent blend of personal life/ minsterial experience and theological rigor, challenges the notion of substitutionary atonement in a clear, concise and compelling fashion.
As a woman raised in a predominantly Christian society, I found much theological and personal healing in this book - it works strongly at many levels, the theological, feminist and societal, in its analysis of the relationship among Christianity, gender and violence. It comes from the hearts and minds of two Christian women who love God, Jesus and their faith very much, but are not willing to accept or excuse the poisonous wound at its heart.
Words are inadequate to convey the true depth and importance of this work; I can only urge you to read it and hope it may have a profound positive effect on your life as it has had on mine.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a provocative book by two feminist theologians who shared their personal stuggles of early sexual abuse and the effect it had on their adult lives. The honesty of each is gripping. They also make a very credible tie between abuse and violence being tolerated in religious circles because of existing patriarchal beliefs and language in the Bible and religion. It is very insightful and a comfort for women who have felt abused by the Church at worse or not supported in efforts to end abuse in their lives. An eye-opener for those who have yet to be educated about the problem of language in referal to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit - A consolation for those who have.
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Format: Hardcover
I won't describe this book, as it has been adequately described by the preceeding reviews.
I will, however, repeat that this is a "must read" book IMHO. As a psychotherapist and seeker, I found this book to be very important in my own thinking toward Christianity and suffering.
For any therapist who works with childhood sexual abuse, Chapter 5 "The Unblessed Child" alone is worth the price of the book.
I would, however, like to address a point raised by a reviewer below, who criticized the book for not answering the questions that it raises. I think this is unfair criticism. The issues of suffering and violence are vastly complicated, and it is my opinion that by raising the questions and examining them in light of Christianity this book provides a great service.
Given the educational levels of the authors, I felt somewhat daunted when I began the book. To their high credit, the authors have taken complicated, emotionally charged information and have made it very accessible. I applaud the authors' courage at being willing to step forward and to tell their own stories, and to explore how their own life experiences have impacted their theology.
I look forward to hearing more from both of these authors.
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Format: Paperback
In Proverbs of Ashes, co-authors Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker tell the powerful stories of their lives and create a new theology that reflects their reality. They begin with experience; the terrible and beautiful experience of living life as women. They share tragic stories of abuse, racism, neglect, shame, and despair. Through these experiences, they come to realize that the Christian image of a suffering, self-sacrificial Jesus who brings redemption through a gruesome death is, to say the least, inadequate. In this traditional view of atonement, God is a violent, abusive Father who requires the submissive, obedient destruction of his Son. Brock and Parker reject this image in search of a God and a Savior who can provide redemption and healing for their broken lives. They envision new possibilities in which God is Presence who mourns and inspires passion and salvation is love that encompasses and heals.
The honesty of this powerful little book was refreshing. I felt a sense of relief as I read it. The way in which these two women talked about dealing with pain and despair was new for me, and it was strangely comforting. Despair and sadness are not shameful emotions. They are not something to ignore or "overcome"; but something we must embrace with an attitude of love. I deeply resonate with this idea, and think this truth has the ability to heal hurt in women's lives.
Another major contribution of this book is the idea of God as Presence. Far from demanding blood in reparation for disobedience, God as Presence completely rejects violence. This is a God who surrounds us when we experience pain, and helps us survive through the aftermath of traumatic events.
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