Friday, April 23, 2010

The Episcopal Church as Abused Wife

In their excellent book Proverbs of Ashes, authors Rebecca Ann Parker and Rita Nakashima Brock take on atonement theology and how it can be twisted to encourage folk to continue in abusive relationships because pointless suffering is supposedly "redemptive."

In one of many examples of tolerating the intolerable, the book recounts the harrowing story of a wife convinced by her priest to return to her violent husband, who then stabs her to death in front of the couple's toddler.

Suffering? In the extreme. But redemptive? No fucking way!

Parker and Brock go on to make a case for faith in salvation despite such suffering, so go read it. You will not emerge unchanged.

Expanding our view from individual to institution, is it possible that the Episcopal Church as a whole has bought into abuse at the hands of the Global South goons? Have we swallowed the notion that suffering such fools is "redemptive?" Are our leaders acting the part of the good submissive wife, soon to be gutted with a butcher knife?


  1. I read the book on your recommendation. I consider myself fortunate that I am not prone to nightmares.

  2. Hi EB. I haven't read the book, and I've thought about the abusive spouse analogy myself, but there is another possible reason for hanging in - to stick it to the other side and to have a place at the table and have a voice, even if they don't want us there.

  3. Hi Mimi,

    EXCELLENT point! By remaining at the table until they physically expel us, we continue to speak truth to power and bear witness to grace. And once expelled, we can boldly move forward with a clear conscience, knowing that we did indeed turn the other cheek.

  4. Have you read any of James Alison's stuff?
    Difficult reading (for me) but worth the work. He (following R. Girard) speaks about the atonement as ending ALL violence: physical emotional spiritual.
    I think to continue to stand firm and pray, for them and for us. And try not to see it as "them and us". But I do.
    Maybe they will hang themselves.
    At least, I hope.


“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words "make" and "stay" become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.” ~ Tom Robbins