This week, I’ve been reading Proverbs of Ashes by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker. Brock and Parker take on the subject of violence, and suggest that the Christian tradition provides a fertile breeding ground for acts of violence; they argue for example that if God was willing to kill off God’s son Jesus, what does that say to a child who’s being abused by her/his parents? –it says, do what Jesus did, accept the suffering, and all will be well.
But do not imagine that this is a Christian-bashing book. Both Parker and Brock have stayed within the Christian tradition. Rather, they are trying to retell the Christian story so that it becomes less destructive. In that respect, they remind me a little of the great Universalist Hosea Ballou. 200 years ago this year, Ballou wrote A Treatise on Atonement, in which he pointed out that a God of love would not kill his son in order to atone for something. It strikes me that what Brock and Parker are really doing is updating Universalism, finding anew that God is love.
And if you have no interest in discussions of God or Christianity, the book is still worth reading. The personal stories in the book are absolutely riveting — this is one book of theology that truly is a page-turner. And even if you’re not Christian, the stories give you a sense of how violence has become endemic in our culture. Highly recommended.