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 the choices she was making in her own life.
When Rita Nakashima Brock was a young child growing up in Kansas, kids taunted her viciously, calling her names like “Chink” or “Jap.” She learned to pretend that she did not feel the sting of scorn and the humiliation of contempt. The solitude and silence of her suffering-decreed by both her mother’s Japanese culture and her father’s Christian heritage-kept the wound alive.
It was the gap between knowledge born of personal experience and traditional theology that led Rita Brock and Rebecca Parker to write this emotionally gripping and intellectually rich exploration of the doctrine of the atonement. Using an unusual combination of memoir and theology in the tradition of Augustine’s Confessions, they lament the inadequacy of how Christian tradition has interpreted the violence that happened to Jesus. Ultimately, they argue, the idea that the death of Jesus on the cross saves us reveals a sanctioning of violence at the heart of Christianity.
Brock and Parker draw on a wide array of intimate stories about family violence, the sexual abuse of children, racism, homophobia, and war to reveal how they came to understand the widespread damage being done by this theology. But the authors also undertake their own arduous and unexpected journeys to recover from violence and to assist others to do so. On these journeys they discover communities that begin to give them the strength to question the destructive ideas they have internalized, and the strength to seek out an alternative vision of Christianity, one based on healing and love. Proverbs of Ashes is both a condemnation of bad theology and a passionate search for what truly saves us.
“A searing indictment, personal and experiential, pastoral and theological, of the most unfortunately successful idea in the history of Christian thought.” —John Dominic Crossan, author of Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography
“Poignant and provocative. . . . Brock and Parker have written a book of both sorrow and hope, and a blueprint for deeper thinking about the things that matter most.”
-Rosemary Bray McNatt, author of Unafraid of the Dark
“Parker and Brock unveil their own deep pain and suffering to build the book’s backbone. They blend self-disclosure with serious theology to underscore their outlook.” —Cecil S. Holmes, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Provocative. . . . The authors weave theological reflections with deeply moving personal accounts of abuse and trauma, including their own experiences.”
-The Other Side
“[Readers] cannot help but be swayed by the book’s searing passion and profoundly literary style (a remarkable achievement in a coauthored work). Brock and Parker have thrown down a gauntlet that cannot be ignored.”
“You don’t have to be a Christian to applaud the courage and vision of these two devout women who boldly propose that human sacrifice has no place at the heart of Christianity. Their gospel of presence and restoration is good news for everyone.”
-Judith Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery