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Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search For What Saves Us

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  312 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
Rebecca Parker was a young minister in Seattle when a woman walked into her church and asked if God really wanted her to accept her husband's beatings and bear them gladly, as Jesus bore the cross. Parker knew, at that moment, that if she were to answer the woman's question truthfully she would have to rethink her theology. And she would have to think hard about some of th ...more
Paperback, 257 pages
Published November 18th 2002 by Beacon Press (first published 2001)
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Aug 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-things-ever
This amazing book makes a move towards a theology that actually makes sense. Compellingly honest, bold, and beautifully told, the story of these two women is remarkable.

A must-read, even if you aren't 'religious'.

Warning: This book may make you consider becoming a liberal Methodist. Just sayin.
May 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
This was recommended by one of my theology professors, responding to my reflections about the redemptive value of suffering, the doctrine of atonement and patriarchal hierarchies/God-talk -- all of which leave me feeling estranged from mainstream church thinking.

Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker raise the same troubling questions, out of their experiences of suffering.

"We were convinced Christianity could not promise healing for victims of intimate violence as long as its central image
Jun 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: feminists, liberal Christians
Shelves: theology
What is fantastic about Proverb of Ashes is that while it is a theological work, it is theology written out of women's experiences. It's a truly feminist work in that the authors bring to light questions with traditional conceptions of redemption(e.g. that our suffering is what brings us closer to God) by reflecting on their own life's sufferings. It's about 2 faith journeys written with a theological lens. The introspective work both the women put into the book is phenomenal. Truly recommended ...more
For me, personally, this is probably the most important book I've read in the last five years.

Some will say that absolute obedience to God doesn't carry danger, because God is good and does not ask us to be violent. But this defense requires us to be certain that we are always right in understanding what God asks of us. We are fallible. The Bible, some argue, provides an infallible revelation of the will of God. But the Bible is a complex, multi-voiced document. Its teachings can be harmonized o
Luke Hillier
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is not at all the book I expected it to be, and in a lot of ways I think it was actually much better. I went into it expecting a pretty distinctly academic, scholarly examination of the various atonement theologies that exist, a subsequent critique of them, and then the presentation of one that works. It sounds as though the co-authors also began this project with similar intentions, before realizing that in doing so they would be sucking the life out from what they hoped to create, and als ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I could not recommend this highly enough. These two women turn everything about pain, suffering, Christ, and the the cross on its head in the best way possible. It is the autobiographical tale of both authors, but anyone who has experienced pain or loss, abuse or trauma, can find themselves within the stories of Nakashima-Brock and Parker. I'd like to give a copy of this to every single person I know and two copies to every pastor and seminary student.
Aug 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: god-stuff, for-lts
This book is so important for anyone whose ministry involves those who have suffered abuse (which really is anyone who encounters other human beings). I think it's a perspective we badly need to consider (although I don't come to precisely the same conclusion as the authors).
Jo Fisher-kretzler
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A truly remarkable book although emotionally wrenching to read.
This book blew me away. This is theology that STARTS from the stories of people's lives and draws spiritual meaning out of that, rather than starting from abstract principles. You go, feminist theology practice! I was really moved by the authors' courage and compassion (toward themselves and others) as they explored some difficult questions. Also, it helps that the book is really well written (I could not put it down! didn't expect a theology book to be such a page-turner).

I didn't expect to ide
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Sometimes salvation is possible."
M Christopher
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: theology
I neglected to post a review of this book when I first finished it because my feelings about it were so conflicted. Two weeks later, I'm no better off, which I guess means something.

On the one hand, I want to congratulate the authors for what they accomplish with this book. Through their unflinching honesty about their own lives, loves and the damage done to them, they expose a number of serious problems, not only about society in general but also about the Christian subculture and the pivotal t
Maria Longley
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a difficult one to rate. This was not an easy read. Drawing on a wide range of intimate stories the abuse recounted is horrendous to read. But thankfully it goes beyond that too. This is a feminist book looking critically at the concept/theology of atonement and other theological issues through the lens of the real violence experienced in this world.

Messages of redemptive violence/suffering are not helpful to people stuck in the middle of violence affecting them. This book was a real ey
Elisa Winter
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Elisa by: Rev. Linda Anderson
Very Simply Saved My Life. Or began the process of making me see I had to save my own life. Judeo-Christian tradition teaches us, and perhaps especially women, that suffering, and suffering in silence, is redemptive; it's what "good" people do. See the best in people, forgive people. Don't make too much of a fuss if you're treated badly. And that all may be true to a point. However, there comes a time when you MUST see that your continued suffering is NOT redemptive, that you've lost chunks of y ...more
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A few years ago I was working on a Lenten sermon series when my friend Kathy McCallie loaned me her copy of this book. I skimmed through it pretty quickly, but it had a deep impact and kept sending me back to basics on key issues of salvation and atonement. This is one of those books that when many people read it, it changed their views.

I was glad to finally read carefully through my own copy. It is a profound book and a type of theology that we should see more of. Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebec
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that came along at exactly the right time in my life. Nakashima Brock and Parker are unflinching and deeply personal in their examination of violence and Christianity. While I find their theological conclusions incomplete, I love their honesty and vulnerability in revealing the ways they've experienced faith as deeply bound up in violence against women and children and also in healing from it. Granted I'm probably unusual in how much time I spend thinking about Christi ...more
Just A. Bean
Mar 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japanese, christain
The book is front-loaded with theology, but then follows the lives of the authors as examples of what that looks like in real life. I could have used more theology and less storytelling, overall, but it was an interesting read. Trigger warnings for absolutely everything.

I think this book is important to read, especially in relation to the way the dominant Christology can be abusive and damaging. I am not, at the end of the day, in complete agreement with Brock and Parker, but I'm also keeping a
Ruth Everhart
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a brave, bold book. It is unusual in form -- a braided memoir, by two eloquent theologians. Both are women, and both have endured trauma. Their experiences cause them to question current theologies about the atonement, and whether the notion of redemptive suffering is necessary and helpful, especially to women who have been victims.

This book uses memoir as an hermeneutic, so it doesn't arrive at neat answers. I must confess I was hoping for some! I can imagine this fact will frustrate m
Laura Engelken
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really am all about the story... the story of people's lives. The authors Parker and Nakashima Brock use their own stories to illumination transformations in their theology - explaining why the idea of salvation coming through the death of Jesus on the cross is abusive and harmful. The two trade chapters back and forth telling their story (I believe Parker is the far superior storyteller) and have invaluable insights to share. Highly recommended read for all!
Alan  Marr
Feb 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
To what extent does our "learned theology" shape our life?
Or is it the other way round? To what extent do our life experiences shape our theology?
These women write about how they reframed their faith in the light of their experiences of abuse and prejudice.
They re-examined the ideas of "sacrificial love" and "atonement" in the light of these experiences through theological reflection upon their life experiences.
The book rang a lot of bells for me.
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Two theologians address the theology of atonement by each recounting their personal experiences of violence. Is violence redemptive in any way? If not, what is? I paid special attention to Rebecca's very painful story, how she has come to terms with it, and how it has changed her understanding of Christian theology. This is a gripping account of the psychological effects of a specific atonement theology.
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
In order to better appreciate the role of suffering in religious life, we need to know the limits of suffering and what is redemptive and what isn't. An indictment of the gross misunderstanding of suffering that ends up condoning domestic and other forms of violence, Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker lead us through a christian theology of healing and love, rather than a theology of violence and hate.
Apr 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hope
*Deep breath* So. This is a lovely book. And by lovely I mean incredibly painful and searingly honest. I am, as a friend suggested I might be, a little disappointed in the failure to more clearly articulate the piece of intellectual/theological discourse that this book touches. But I also know how sometimes the truest way to say something isn't with words neatly organized into facts and ideas, but with the messy reality of narrative. Mad props to the authors for taking this on.
Jul 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Such an extremely powerful book. Rebecca and Rita have very different stories, their own tragedies. They come together and produce a moving book. At times, it is hard to get through, but the end product is as rewarding as heart-wrenching. The book is dedicated to rethinking religion and the ideals it portrays and inspires the reader to reevaluate their beliefs. As someone who is not religious, I found the book extremely interesting and moving.
Crystal Karr
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've been reading this book for a few months. At times it is emotionally difficult to read but it is beautiful. When it came to the final section of the book and Brock and Parker presented their atonement theology it was stunningly beautiful.

It was an affirmation of what I've been feeling/thinking and I'm grateful for their ability and courage to write Proverbs of Ashes. Bravo!
Nov 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredibly moving, insightful, and creative book that challenges redemptive suffering in Christianity using personal story of both authors. I love that Rita and Rebecca do serious theology through personal story. If you're not into theology but don't like the notion that "Jesus died to save you," then this is a great book that challenges that notion in dominant western Christianity.
Nov 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite theology book ever. The authors weave their very different backgrounds and personal stories into a compelling argument for a holistic theology based on love instead of violence. All theology should be done this way.

It's an easy read and offers much to ponder.

Jessica Wicks
Sep 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Women trapped in cycle of violence by their religion
This was a wonderful book speaking to traditional Christianity's concept of redemption through suffering and how that does not serve women in violent relationships. The authors offer both inciteful and well thought out discussion of a new interpretation of very old messages.
Apr 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ministry
Very cool book. Great insight into christology and suffering. With focus on stories and real life insights, very helpful. Really recommend this for people who work with those who have been abused or been through trauma. Really good book.
Jun 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Two professors of theology and their personal journeys and thinking about violence and redemptive suffering--their view on how the theological emphasis on Christ's suffering has historically (and probably largely unintendedly) normalized violence against and suffering by women.
Dec 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Written by two theological scholars -- Rita and Rebecca discuss an alternative vision of Christianity. They lament the inadequacy of how Christian tradition has interpreted the violence that happened to Jesus.
Lots of interesting thoughts on feminism, Christianity, violence and theology.
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“I realized the preserving a relationship at all costs was not as important as affirming the human right to be free from abusive treatment.” 6 likes
“Women are culturally conditioned to care for others, but not ourselves. We believe that having needs, feelings, ambitions, or thoughts of our own is not good. In this self-abnegation, we enact a culturally prescribed role that perpetuates sexist social structures. The needs and thoughts of men matter, but not ours. Christian theology presents Jesus as the model of self-sacrificing love and persuades us to believe that sexism is divinely sanctioned. We are tied to the virtue of self-sacrifice, often by hidden social threats of punishment. We keep silent about rape, we deny when we are being abused, and we allow our lives to be consumed by the trivial and by our preoccupation with others. We never claim our lives as our own. We live as though we were not present in our bodies.” 4 likes
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