Proverbs of Ashes: “What If This Is Not True?”

Proverbs of Ashes: “What If This Is Not True?” January 7, 2014

I am tired of the ways Christian theology is used, over and over and over to justify and enable abuse. Tired is the right word to use there.  I was angry. I was outraged. I was determined to find a new way of thinking about Christianity that was freeing, rather than oppressive.

But right now, as I deal with some health problems and personal issues, I am just tired. I feel exhausted, hopeless, powerless as I see more and more people use Christian theology to silence those who would speak out against abuse. I find that it isn’t only fundamentalist churches doing this. More liberal Christians, and even some folks in social justice circles that are not specifically Christian evoke the messages I heard growing up–that submitting to abusive people, letting them wound us, sacrificing pieces of who we are in the name of unity and community, will lead to life, rightness, restored relationships.

So I picked up a book that several people have suggested I read: Proverbs of Ashes by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker.

I have just begun this book, but it is healing to hear others question the narrative of sacrifice that some folks claim is the only way to look at Christ and the cross:

Christianity had taught me that sacrifice is the way of life…To make sacrifice or to be sacrificed is virtuous and redemptive. But what if this is not true? What if nothing, or very little, is saved? What if the consequence of sacrifice is simply pain, the diminishment of life, fragmentation of the soul, abasement, shame?…What if the performance of sacrifice is a ritual in which some human beings bear loss and others are protected from accountability and moral expectations? (pg. 25)

The messages I’ve received my entire life, and continue to receive, about what Christianity is and what a Christian does make it hard to want to fight to hang on to Christian theology.

I am not interested in sacrifice that means killing parts of who I am, with no hope of those parts ever resurrecting.

I cannot practice forgiveness that doesn’t allow me to set up boundaries or cut off unsafe or unhealthy relationships.

I don’t want to love if it means I can never be angry at injustice. If it means I must bow my head and submit to the will of those who would hurt me and others.

But I’m not the only one who is tired of abusive interpretations of Christian theology, and I’m not the first person to seek out new possibilities. Already, Proverbs of Ashes is giving me hope to hold onto–hope that Christianity can be liberating for survivors.

I will likely blog more about this book in the future. Until then, back to reading!

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I look forward to hearing more as you work through this book.

  • I am looking forward to your reflections. Even though the theology you speak of is foreign to me and my church, I am drawn to know more about it.

  • Y. A. Warren

    Thank you, Sarah,for sharing your frustration. I, too, am tired, down to the marrow of my bones, not to mention my spirit. I have come to the belief that many “Christians” are not following Jesus as their christ.

    I have written extensively about my spiritual journey through the desert left behind when the ocean of my spiritual upbringing dried up for me. In a nutshell, I have come to believe that the problem is in the deity worship piece of religion. This is, I believe, what Jesus referred to in denying Pharisee-ism.

    I believe that Jesus came as an example for how to create community “on earth as it is in heaven.” The militaristic, monarchical model for “Christianity” has nothing to do with the way Jesus lived his life. It is, however, what the Jews expected in awaiting a messiah.

    It is easy to concentrate on and sell the sensationalism of the last three days of the life of this Joyful Jewish Jesus, pretending that we would allow the same to be done to us to make our points. It is much more difficult to look at and imitate the life of this responsibly compassionate man from a good Jewish family, groomed for centuries in how best to help their son create and exemplify a new way for humanity to live.

    I put my focus on Pentecost when The Holy Spirit that was manifest physically in Jesus was freed for all of us to access at will. I judge what I feel I am being led to do by looking at the life of Jesus to see if the actions would seem consistent with what he would do.

    If you are interested in more of my musings, you can find them at and carries my book, “We’re Already Eternal.”

    Blessings on your journey.

  • Rebecca Crise

    Theories of atonement or that Jesus died for our sins is only one way to look at the mystery of the last week. I humbly suggest reading Marcus Borg, John Crossan, Davod Lose, Shelby Spong for a different take. blessings, r+