A guest post by author and Geneva College professor, Rutledge Etheridge III.
I’ve had the privilege of reading and recommending some truly excellent books. I don’t think I’ve ever read or recommended a more important book than this one. It’s excellent, from the writing style, to the careful, cogent thought that comes flowing gently through it. Yet that style serves content that may be — and I’m sure already has been — life-saving. The book is, Not Forsaken: A Story of Life After Abuse, by my friend, Jennifer Michelle Greenberg.
Jennifer’s book is radically biblical. It has a special place in its heart — dedicating many of its pages — to those who’ve suffered abuse from church leaders; whether that be the abuse itself, or the coverup of abuse that is itself a hellish assault on victims.
The book is eminently practical. It not only eschews but exposes the shallowness of pop psychology as well as more carefully considered but still deeply damaging schools of thought. It provides a means of help in which victims may seek shelter and sanity.
The book is profoundly personal. As the title tells us, this is one person’s survival story. It’s meant to serve as a window into the heart of other survivors so the reader can have some semblance of sight from their perspective. It’s meant for those still in the throes of dehumanization through the words and deeds of others and desperate for help.
Jennifer does not presume to speak for every victim, but she speaks to common dynamics, both physical and emotional, active among trauma sufferers. She speaks as well to issues of trust, relationships, steps for survival, and forgiveness.
On that last one, she does NOT peddle much less does she push the reader into naïve, victim-destroying notions of forgiveness; the kind of terroristic platitudes and pressures which are criminally taught in some Christian churches and whose abusive nature is amplified because church leaders slanderously attach to them the name and commands of Jesus.
As a Christian, she explains carefully why and how the abuse she endured has driven her to the Savior rather than caused her to resent and reject him. Again, no clichés. Nothing cheap at all. She handles her subject matter, and her readers, with such sincere, credible, truly Christian care.
One warning about the book, which Jennifer herself gives: Though gentle and discreet in her prose, Jennifer’s book necessarily deals with abuse. As such, certain passages may serve as triggers for abuse victims. So, handle with care. If available and possible, read it with a trusted and competent counselor, pastor, or confidant who can work through the material with you. Medicine which heals us can be hard to take in, and must be taken in the right doses. Such is the case with the life-giving work Jennifer has done in this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Church leaders, especially pastors, and those aspiring to be such; seminary presidents and faculty members; college professors and chaplains and ministry students: Not Forsaken should be required reading for you and for the educational institutions with which you are affiliated.
Jennifer’s book serves every reader well, but God places ministers of his word under special scrutiny and holds them to an amplified accountability for how we handle his word and the people to whom we minister (James 3) – thus the utter, Jesus-defying horror of abuse within the church. Please read this book – class requirement or not!
Also, be on the lookout for Not Forsaken: A Shepherd’s Guide, which will be available as a free download on Jennifer’s website on August 19, 2020. It’s a study and practical how-to guide especially for church leaders, leading us to carefully and credibly minister to abuse victims.
Praise God for this sister in Christ and her work, through which the Savior’s love shines so powerfully and brightly, especially for those whose lives feel lost within indescribable, dehumanizing darkness. Jesus is the light of the world, and this book lovingly guides its reader’s hearts to Him.
There’s a great two-part podcast interview with Jennifer, conducted by RPTS President Barry York and RPCNA pastor Kyle Borg which you can find at the 3GT site; Part 1: Not Forsaken, and Part 2: Abuse and the Church.
About Rut: Pastor Rutledge “Rut” Etheridge III is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Geneva College, and the author of God Breathed. Rut speaks frequently at youth retreats and theology conferences. He and his wife, Evelyn, have five children. He loves music, the ocean, martial arts (he’s a blackbelt in Gosoku-ryu karate), basketball, coffee, and more coffee. Read more at www.RutEtheridge.com.
About God Breathed: Self-made truth is the air we breathe in our day, which past philosophers hailed as the Age of the Lonely Self. You feel it when the silence falls around you and the whispers start within you: that growing, gnawing isolation, that deepening detachment from the world, from others, from yourself. God Breathed will help you understand and courageously doubt the popular dogma that God cannot speak, that the Bible is not only inaccurate but impossible. It will help you break out of the soul-suffocating confines of self-made truth. Within the pages of God’s book is the true you, just waiting for you to arrive. God Breathed will help you get there.