Book Review: Am I Beautiful?

“Am I Beautiful?” by Chine Mbubaegbu has been sat on my “to read” pile of books since I attended the launch event for the book last year. I consider Chine to be a friend and I deeply respect her and her work at the Evangelical Alliance. Chine’s book is written for Christian women, exploring what beauty is, some of the ways beauty has been distorted and the many consequences of these distortions on women’s lives.

 

The book is well-written and deeply honest. Unlike some Christian books, Chine doesn’t present herself as some perfect human being that us mere mortals could only dream of imitating, she tells deeply personal stories about her journey of understanding beauty, sharing her life with the reader in a healthy, positive way. She includes some critique of the societal pressures on women and uses Bible passages to explore a Christian perspective on each aspect she explores. Each chapter ends helpfully with a prayer, questions for reflection and a challenge to the reader; this makes it easily transferable to a small group setting.

 

I’ve never been focussed on beauty, either having it for myself or observing it in others. I grew up odd, never fitting in. Being beautiful wasn’t an aspiration or a desire of mine so the book didn’t speak to me personally. As I read, I felt like an outsider; not identifying with the struggles of going without make-up or mirrors, of being conscious of how I looked in relation to others. I spent a long time hating myself, through most of my formative years and into adulthood I hated myself. Not how I looked, but everything about who I was. I cut myself, starved myself and on occasions took overdoses. Yet, my struggles were not related to feeling not beautiful, but rather feeling utter self-loathing. Rooted in experiences of abuse as a child, teenager and young adult, I didn’t so much see myself as ugly but rather as utterly unlovable. Reading the experiences of Chine and other women didn’t resonate with me, but they did inform me and give me a deeper understanding of the lives of so many other women.

 

As I read I realised that the depths of my hurts forced me to face them head on. The consequences of abuse left me shattered and unable to function. I was forced to face the demons which tried to destroy me. I couldn’t live until I did. This book showed me that the terrible price so many women and girls pay is not total dysfunction, but rather a level of functionality that is a façade. That women as a class are being conditioned to be constantly dissatisfied with themselves and each other, often not to a degree that destroys them totally, but leaves them feeling gradually eroded. Their lives are subtly distorted, not enough to feel the need for intervention, but too much to live totally free.

 

The book showed me how so many of my friends and the women I interact with are feeling. The ways they are always paying to have something stolen from them each and every day. It left me feeling grateful to my parents who wouldn’t let me watch television, wouldn’t allow me to fit in. Trained me early to feel comfortable walking against the whole of culture.

 

Though this book didn’t speak to me directly, I know so many women it will help. I am so grateful to Chine for baring her soul and taking the time to write this book. After reading it, I immediately wrapped it up and posted it to a 15 year old Christian girl I know. Each chapter that I read I thought of women and girls who would benefit from reading it and I’ve already begun recommending it to people I know. For those struggling to answer the question “Am I beautiful?” this is a brilliant book to read!

 

You can purchase the book here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Am-I-Beautiful-Chine-Mbubaegbu/dp/1780780605

 

Pedagogy of the Oppressed Notes

On a few occasions over the last few years Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paula Freire has been recommended to me as an important book to read. I finally got round to buying it and have dragged myself through it over the last couple of weeks. I say “dragged” not because the book was awful or said anything I didn’t agree with, but because it was practically unintelligible. Paulo Freire wrote the book almost 40 years ago and it is considered an enormously significant book in work to educate oppressed people. The issue with the language is, I think, a combination of it being:

a) Translated from Portuguese (Freire was from Brazil)

b) Written nearly 40 years ago

c) Based on Marxist political theory (which I have never read before)

Benjamin Ellis suggested it would be useful to provide my notes on the book, and so here they are! You may find the Wikipedia entry useful and also this is a useful clarification of some of the terms in the book. If you would like to read the book for free (approach with great trepidation!) you can do so here.

Okay, so here are my notes:

The first stage of a pedagogy of the oppressed is the revealing of oppression & reflective action taken to transform the world. The second stage is permanent liberation which requires steps to be taken to remove all myths about the system (e.g. poor people are lazy, women are emotionally weaker, men are naturally violent etc.) The goal of anti-oppressive practice is to enable both the oppressed and the oppressor to become fully human.

The steps we must take in addressing oppression are:

1. Critically recognise causes of oppression/dehumanisation

a) Gain realisation of the oppressed’s dependence on the oppressor

b) Understand that fatalism is conditioned, not inherent in oppressed people.

c) The oppressors are the subjects, the oppressed are the objects

2. The oppressed must overcome their fear of freedom and the risks

3. We must recognise the oppressed are hosts of the oppressor consciousness, which they internalise through the oppressor’s tactics.

4. Understand that oppression is not a closed state; hope & transformation is possible

5. A moment of perception & volition is needed

6. Oppression will increase once recognition of the oppression occurs

7. It’s important to differentiate between systematic education & educational projects

8. Remove ambiguity and inspire confidence in the oppressed’s own ability

9. The oppressed must begin to see the oppressor’s vulnerability, in order to abolish feelings of the oppressor’s omnipotence

10. The process must be intellectual, while including action, activism & reflection

11. The oppressed must accept responsibility for bringing about change (not because they are to blame for the oppression, but because change will never come from the oppressor). “It’s essential for the oppressed to realize when they accept the struggle for humanisation they accept total responsibility for it.”

12. Move from a belief that the situation is limited and unchangeable (a limit situation) to a the situation as an opportunity for action and change (a limit act)

13. Through the oppressed realising their object status and discovering their ability to act, the oppressed become “subjects in expectancy”

14. The next step is for the oppressed to become “beings for themselves” instead of being objects used by the oppressors.

15. It must be understood that oppressors use the following mechanisms:

a) Conquest

“Cultural conquest leads to the cultural inauthenticity of those who are invaded; they begin to respond to the values, the standards, and the goals of the invaders…the more the oppressed mimic the invaders, the more stable the position of the oppressor becomes.” For the oppressed to reject the myths of the oppressor becomes “an act of self-violence.”

b) Divide & conquer

c) Manipulation

d) Cultural invasion

16. Revolutionary leaders cannot use the above methods. Instead they must use these mechanisms:

a) Cooperation: Seeing themselves “co-authors of liberating action”

b) Unity for liberation

c) Organisation

d) Cultural synthesis: “In cultural syn¬thesis, the actors become integrated with the people, who are co-authors of the action that both [parties] perform upon the world.”

16. The oppressed stop conforming to the oppressive system and in so doing they begin to objectify reality, as subjects/actors in the world.

17. Revolutionary leaders achieve unity with the oppressed by enabling the oppressed to recognise and identify with the “why” and “how” of the oppressors. This process is called de-ideologising.

18. This cannot be done by releasing the oppressed from one false/mythological reality to be bound to yet another system that is not co-created with them. Dialogical action with the oppressed makes it possible for the oppressed, by perceiving their current conformation to an unjust system allows them to begin transforming it.

19. The “consciousness of being an oppressed class must be preceded (or at least accompanied) by achieving consciousness of being oppressed individuals.”

20. Those who are witnesses and revolutionary leaders must have:

a) Consistency between their words & actions

b) Boldness urging all to confront the current unjust system, knowing it is a permanent risk

c) Radicalisation (as opposed to sectarianism)

d) Courage to love

e) Faith in the people (the oppressed)

21. “It is quite true that without leadership, discipline, determination, and objec¬tives—without tasks to fulfil and accounts to be rendered—an organisation cannot survive… This fact, however, can never justify treating the people as things to be used. The people are already depersonalized by oppres¬sion – if the revolutionary leaders manipulate them, instead of work-ing towards their [transformation], the very objective of organization (that is, liberation) is thereby negated.”

23. ” The dialogical theory of action opposes both authoritarianism and license, and thereby affirms authority and freedom. There is no freedom without authority, but there is also no authority without freedom”

24. “Revolutionary leaders must avoid organizing themselves apart from the people.”

25. “Revolutionary leaders commit many errors and miscalculations by not taking into account something so real as the people’s view of the world: a view which explicitly and implicitly contains their concerns, their doubts, their hopes, their way of seeing the leaders, their perceptions of themselves and of the oppressors, their religious beliefs (almost always syncretic), their fatalism, their rebellious reactions.”

The correct method of addressing oppression lies in dialogue. Dialogue includes:

1. Co-intentional education

2. Teacher/student

3. Problem posing education vs banking education

4. Demythologising

5. Love, humility & faith in people

6. Hope

7. Critical thinking

8. Awareness of the oppressed’s situation

9. The people’s thematic universe (their full experience of the world)

10. Critical consciousness of the oppressed, also known as “conscientisation”

11. Using the abstract to make visible the concrete

12. Using relevant cultural tools e.g. newspaper articles, blogs, adverts, music videos, social media interactions, TV programmes, films etc.

13. Both the facilitators and those receiving the information are “actors in intercommunication”

14. A recognition of the oppressor’s need to “absolutise ignorance” in the oppressed

15. Empirical knowledge transformed into knowledge of the causes

16. Making the oppressed aware of the methods of “oppressive cultural action” enacted by oppressors.

17. Understanding that “salvation can be achieved only with others”

18. Understanding that “when the oppressed are almost completely submerged in reality, it is unnecessary to manipulate them.”

19. Understanding that in true organization, the oppressed are active in the organising process of challenging oppression and the objectives of the organization are not imposed, but jointly agreed.

20. “The dialogical theory of action opposes both authoritarianism and license, and thereby affirms authority and freedom.” “Authentic authority is not affirmed as such by a mere transfer of power, but through delegation or in sympathetic adherence. If authority is merely transferred from one group to another, or is imposed upon the majority, it degenerates into authoritarianism.”

21. A social structure is not defined by solely the fact that it remains the same, or by the fact that it changes, It is in the relationship between permanence and change.

22. It is necessary to trust in the oppressed & their ability to reason.

Understanding the oppressor/oppressed relationship

1. The oppressors perpetuate and perpetrate their power and control though reducing & alienating the oppressed and by convincing the oppressed that any flaws in the system are a lie.

2. When an oppressor’s right to oppress is taken away they will feel oppressed.

3. The oppressed may admire & aspire to become like the oppressor

4. The oppressed internalise self-deprecation and end up believing themselves incapable of knowledge.

5. The boss lives within the peasant, betraying the boss means the oppressed betraying themselves.

6. The oppressed must enter the struggle for liberation as people not as things.

7. “An oppressor class cannot think with the people & neither can they let the people think for themselves.”

8. “In Brazilian political terminology, “massification” is the process of reducing the people to a manageable, unthinking agglomeration.”

Problem-Posing Education includes:

1. Recognising that “the student is not empty, the teacher is not full”.

2. “Education must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction…so that both are simultaneously teachers and students.”

3. “The teacher’s thinking is authenticated only by the authenticity of the students thinking.”

4. “Affirming men and women as beings in the process of becoming.”

5. Oppressive education: “the means used are not important; to alienate human beings from their own decision-making is to change them into objects.”

6. “Those who have been denied their primordial right to speak their word must first reclaim this right and prevent the continuation of this dehumanizing aggression.”

7. “Dialogue cannot exist, however, in the absence of a profound love for the world and for people.”

8. “At the point of encounter there are neither utter ignoramuses nor perfect sages; there are only people who are attempting, together, to learn more than they now know.”

9. “The dehumanisation resulting from an unjust order is not a cause for despair but for hope, leading to the incessant pursuit of the humanity denied by injustice.”

10. “The revolutionary’s role is to liberate, and be liber¬ated, with the people – not to win them over.”

11. “In order to communicate effectively, educator and politician must understand the structural conditions in which the thought and language of the people are framed [as diaologue].”

12. “Come to perceive [that breaking free from oppression is] the frontier between “being” and “being more hu¬man”, rather than the frontier between “being” and “nothingness”.

13. “Even if the people’s thinking is superstitious or naive, it is only as they rethink their assumptions in action that they can change.”

14. “Humankind emerges from their submersion and acquire the ability to intervene in reality as it is unveiled.”

15. “Leaders who deny reflective praxis to the oppressed thereby invalidate their own praxis.”

16. The leaders must always mistrust the ambiguity of oppressed people and mis¬trust the oppressor that has become “housed” in the oppressed. But they must totally trust and believe in the potential of the people. They cannot treat the oppressed as mere objects; they must believe that the people are capable of participating in the pursuit of liberation

Glossary

I thought it may be useful for me to define some of the words/terms I had to look up…

Praxis is a complex activity by which individuals create culture and society, and become critically conscious human beings. Praxis comprises a cycle of action-reflection-action which is central to liberatory education. Characteristics of praxis include self-determination (as opposed to coercion), intentionality (as opposed to reaction), creativity (as opposed to homogeneity), and rationality (as opposed to chance).” (Source)

Dialogical Method:The dialogical approach to learning is characterized by co-operation and acceptance of interchangeability and mutuality in the roles of teacher and learner, demanding an atmosphere of mutual acceptance and trust. In this method, all teach and all learn. This contrasts with an anti-dialogical approach which emphasizes the teacher’s side of the learning relationship and frequently results in one-way communiques perpetuating domination and oppression. Without dialogue, there is no communication, and without communication, there can be no liberatory education. (Source)

Pedagogy: The method and practice of teaching, especially as an academic subject or theoretical concept.

Marxism: Marxism is a worldview and method of societal analysis based on attention to class-relations and societal conflict, on a materialist interpretation of historical development, and on a dialectical view of social transformation.

Conscientização: Conscientization is an ongoing process by which a learner moves toward critical consciousness). This process is the heart of liberatory education. It differs from “consciousness raising” in that the latter frequently involves “banking” education–the transmission of pre-selected knowledge. Conscientization means breaking through prevailing mythologies to reach new levels of awareness–in particular, awareness of oppression, being an “object” in a world where only “subjects” have power. The process of conscientization involves identifying contradictions in experience through dialogue and becoming a “subject” with other oppressed subjects–that is, becoming part of the process of changing the world. (Source)

Axiological: Of or relating to the study of values.

Anthropocentric: Regarding humankind as the central or most important element of existence, especially as opposed to God or animals.

Existential: Relating to existence.

Solipsistic: The philosophical theory that the self is all that you know to exist.

Subjectivism The doctrine that knowledge is merely subjective and that there is no external or objective truth.

Psychologism: A tendency to interpret events or arguments in subjective terms, or to exaggerate the relevance of psychological factors.

Contradistinction: Distinction made by contrasting the different qualities of two things.

Concomitant: A phenomenon that naturally accompanies or follows something.

Ideational: Being of the nature of a notion or concept.

Obviate: Remove (a need or difficulty).

Milieu: A person’s social environment.

Contemporaneous: Existing at or occurring in the same period of time.

Epiphenomena: A secondary effect or by-product, in particular.

Etymology: The study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.

Open Letter to Stormie Omartian

Dear Stormie Omartian,

I have just read your book, “The Power of the Praying Wife” and I felt I must write to share my horror at the message you are sending out with what you have written.  Please do not mistake me as someone who would say this lightly.  I read your previous book, the Power of the Praying Parent, and found parts of it extremely helpful when I was going through a terrible time in my life.

 

I would like to share a bit more about that time with you, as I hope it will give you some background into my concerns with your book.  It was 6 years ago, almost exactly and I was living in a hospital with my 2 and a half year old daughter and three month premature baby son.  My son’s prematurity was caused by an assault from my husband, who had abused me sexually, emotionally, psychologically, socially, financially and sometimes physically for four years.  I come from a Christian family and have been committed to God my whole life, although this commitment was almost completely destroyed by my husband’s satanic and evil attempts to destroy everything I was.  In a nutshell, that was where my life was when I was given your book, the Power of the Praying Parent.  It was a great comfort to find practical ways of praying for my children, especially my son, in a situation where I could do nothing else, but watch as his life swung between life and death on an hourly basis.  So I thank you for the help you gave through you authorship of that book.

 

What has concerned me so greatly about the book I have just read, the Power of the Praying Wife, is that if I had been given that book 6 years ago, I would have invariably returned to my husband and would be dead now.  I would like you to understand that, I am not being dramatic or over-imaginative.  If I had returned to my husband, I WOULD BE DEAD NOW.

 

Instead, I am very much alive!  My son is a perfectly well nearly 6 year old and my daughter is a beautiful well adjusted 8 year old.  I have gone through many hours of counselling and serious spiritual battle to get to the place where I am now: divorced from my first evil and abusive husband and married again to the most wonderful, Christian man who loves, cherishes and respects me with everything he does.  I am healed and whole and restored because I was able to escape, unlike the many women every year killed by a partner or former partner.

 

I am not a one off case, please understand this.  At least one out of every three women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime — with the abuser usually someone known to her.  That would suggest a third of the women reading your book are also experiencing abuse similar to mine.

 

I feel it is important to share with you my specific problems with your book.  I hope you will appreciate this is quite a long letter as I hope to list the many reasons your book would have led me to return to my abusive ex-husband and how throughout it perpetuates the values of abusive men and encourages women to accept and even embrace abusive behaviours.  I will do this by going through the issues one by one.  Thank you in advance for listening to what I have to say.

 

The Power
In the first chapter entitled “The Power” your first assumption is all women reading your book have some power that they are at liberty to give up to their husband.  Potentially a third of your readers will be abused and without power, to suggest they are to give up this power, is more than just a problem.  It is an impossibility.

 

In your second page of this chapter you state, “A husband can hurt your feelings, be inconsiderate, uncaring, abusive, irritating or negligent.  He can do or say things that pierce your heart like a sliver.”   At this point you have included abuse as a potential sin a husband is perpetrating against his wife, abuse can never be tolerated and at no point do you validate the  reality that this is wrong and that he should be held accountable for this sin.  In fact I would say that in my position as a domestic abuse awareness trainer, all the behaviours you list could be described as abusive, if they are partnered with a desire to have power and control.

 

You go on to say that “Many difficult things that happen in a marriage relationship are actually part of the enemy’s plan set up for its demise”  At this point you seem to negate any personal responsibility on the part of the husband for his behaviour.  I am not denying that the enemy isn’t involved in the situation, but it is only through personal responsibility for our choices that we can move forward.  As Paul says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”

 

You state that we can say “I will not allow anything to destroy my marriage”  but if we live in a world of free will and our husband is choosing to abuse us, without stopping, we cannot stop him.  In fact, by giving us free will God has stated that even He can’t stop our husband abusing us.  If we could stop abuse by prayer alone, surely sex trafficking would no longer be a problem, when actually more and more girls and women are being trafficked and raped multiple times on a daily basis.

 

You state “You can submit to God in prayer whatever controls your husband – alcoholism, workaholic laziness, depression, infirmity, abusiveness, anxiety, fear or failure – and pray for him to be released from it.”   This seems to suggest the abusive husband is the victim in this, he is being controlled by the abuse.  As a professional domestic abuse trainer, I would like to clarify that abusive men control their victims, they are not controlled by their choice to abuse.  They abuse because they want to and because they can.  The only way a man will stop abusing is if he accepts 100% responsibility for his behaviour, maintains regular accountability and develops compassion and empathy.

 

You go on to mention “God’s position on divorce”  using the verse from Malachi, “God hates divorce”  to suggest that God is against divorce and we are “grieving him” if we do divorce our husband.  I feel you are offering a rather simplistic understanding of this passage and God’s word  as a whole when you say this.  I would suggest that the reason the passage says God hates divorce is because He Himself went through the pain of divorce in His marriage to Israel.  He had to abandon His beloved due to their inability to love Him and recognise the great love He had for them.  You have said you did not want to grieve God by divorcing your husband, but what about how your husband had been grieving God by his treatment of you.  What about God’s love for you and His desire for you to be everything you can be?  In fact to abused women, you are saying here, “your life is less valuable than your marriage.”  When satan tempts Jesus in the desert, he says, “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.”   Jesus’ response is, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”   We are asking women to put God to the test when we do not see the terrible danger they are in and help them to safety.  Maintaining separation and divorcing an abusive man is nothing short of heroic for many women and we need to celebrate their victory, as God does , rather than condemn them with individual verses taken out of context.

 

You go on to describe your husband’s behaviour in a way I would define as abusive, “The biggest problem I faced in our marriage was my husband’s temper…He used weapons that left me crippled or paralysed.”   At this point I would point out to you that he chose to do this and nothing you did  caused him to.  You were too valuable to be treated this way.  You seem not to acknowledge this and rather blame yourself for his behaviour, “I’m not saying I wasn’t at fault – quite the contrary.  I was sure I was as much to blame as he, but I didn’t know what to do about it.”

 

If I had read your words six yeas ago, it would have convinced me my husband was right, I was responsible for the abuse.  It was my fault and it was up to me to go back to him and change myself to make him able to treat me well.  I now know that is the ultimate lie abusive men tell.  It makes us believe we have some power, that we can change things.  And yet we have no power, it is an illusion and it keeps us trapped, unable and unwilling to believe someone is choosing to treat us in this way

 

You say that when you got to the end of your tether with your situation, “…because I came to God in total honesty about what I felt, He allowed me to thoroughly and clearly envision what life would be like if I left Where would I live, how would I support myself and care for the children who would still be my friends, and worst of all, how would a heritage of divorce affect my son and daughter.”

 

I have not read a more clear description of how I felt when I was living in a hospital with my children.  Completely hopeless, knowing I would be seen as a failure, losing all that was important to me and most of all letting my children grow up without a father.  It was a terrible picture that I saw.  But in my case God did not show me it.  It was the devil, trying to convince me back to an evil, life draining existence where my children could go on to be emotionally and potentially sexually or physically abused.  You have described the feelings every woman I know who has experienced abuse has gone through, and for many these feelings lead to them going back to their abusive husband, where they  and their children are being continually abused.  There are worse things for children than a heritage of divorce, ask any child who has witnessed their mother being beaten or belittled.

 

You felt God was calling you to stay and I am not denying that God may have said that.  It breaks my heart however that women who read your book will go back to a life of abuse rather than a life of freedom after reading your words.

 

You go on to talk about the results you saw as you began to pray, you say, “Little by little, I began to see changes occur in both of us.  When Michael became angry, instead of reacting negatively, I prayed for him.”  Although I don’t doubt God’s transforming power, I find it interesting that your husband’s change related to your changed response to him.  For some men who want to control, as long as things go their way, their behaviour is much more acceptable, obviously this is not the case with many perpetrators, but if every time I behaved unacceptably people adapted their behaviour, I would probably be nicer to be around, not because I had changed but because people were pacifying me.  It happens with 5 year olds, if you give them everything they want, they stop having tantrums, because they don’t need to.

 

Later in the chapter you go on to say “You have to decide if you want your marriage to work, and if you want it badly enough to do whatever necessary within healthy parameters, to see it happen.”   You seem to assume we all know what healthy parameters are.  I would suggest that throughout the world you will find many different thoughts on what healthy parameters are.  You have so far suggested you are as much to blame for your husband’s abuse as he is, that exposing children to abusive men is preferable to a legacy of divorce and that pacifying abusive men is a suitable way of enabling God to change them.  I would consider all of those outside of healthy parameters.

 

You say that ”A wife’s prayers for her husband have a far greater effect on him than anyone else’s…”  but then go on to say that, “… I’m not convinced we should depend on our husbands to be the sole providers of [prayer] the best thing for our marriage was for me to have women prayer partners with whom I pray every week.”   It appears from your words that a wife’s prayers are the most effective, but a husband’s are less effective than having prayer partners.

 

His Wife
Now moving onto the second chapter, “His Wife”, in which you begin by saying, “[You must] maintain a pure heart.  It must be clean before God in order for you to see good results.”   This makes me feel extremely uncomfortable; like prayer is some sort of formula, get the heart right and the blessing flows.  But what about the many pure hearted people who never had their prayers answered, what about the children who pray that sexual abuse will stop and the thousands dying of AIDS who pray they will be healed, who continue to suffer and die.  Where does the formula go then?  It is interesting that Jesus answered the rebel’s prayer on the cross when he had not maintained a pure heart:  “’Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’  Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.’”

You go on to say, “This whole requirement [of a pure heart] is especially hard when you feel your husband has sinned against you with unkindness, lack of respect, indifference, irresponsibility, infidelity, abandonment, cruelty or abuse.  But God considers the sins of un-forgiveness, anger, hatred, self-pity, lovelessness or revenge to be just as bad as any others”   I would like to point out that you start by invalidating the truth of this pain by saying “when you feel your husband has…”, you seem to be suggesting he may not actually have done these things, it is just our perception of what he has done.
Where is your understanding of a God of justice here?   You do not at any point condemn the behaviours you have listed or validate those of us who have been treated in those ways.  In fact you seem to only condemn the response to those behaviours.  Also, please could you explain how we are to forgive when the abuse continues, Jesus said, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, `This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’”   The cost of forgiveness is great and requires us to truly feel the pain of what has been done to us.  The ability to do this in an abusive environment is impossible.  When we are being abused we are in survival mode and do not feel the true pain of what is happening.  Forgiveness is not an act of consciously forgetting what has happened, this is actually denial, which involves being dishonest to ourselves and others, something unlikely to be supported by the Spirit of Truth Jesus talks of, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…”

You talk about it being painful for us to die to ourselves in our marriages, “…this kind of pain leads to life.  The other alternative is just as painful and its ultimate end is the death of a dream, a relationship, a marriage and a family.”   I would beg to differ, for some women staying in their marriage will lead to ACTUAL death, not metaphorical death, not relationship death, actual real death and for some of the women, their death will be the first time they have experienced peace in a long, long time.

At this point you may be about to point me to your one sentence on safety in the book, “(In fact, if you are in any kind of physical or emotional danger, remove yourself immediately from the situation to a place of safety and get help.  You can pray from there while your husband receives the counselling he needs)”   This bracketed sentence is your one and only attempt at ensuring safety for those reading your book, when statistically at least 25% of those reading it will be experiencing physical abuse.  As a qualified and trained professional in domestic abuse issues I would like to state that this is NOT enough.  You have already listed abuse at least three times as a thing a husband can be “released” from if the wife is willing to pray and be changed for him.  I would also say, as someone who has experienced physical and emotional abuse, I would not have defined myself as emotionally or physically abused.  Most of us women who have experienced it think it is unique to us and in order to survive in an abusive situation, we will minimise the abuse and our level of danger, as will our husband.   He will say that he ‘only’ slapped us or ‘just’ broke our leg and we will believe it really is unimportant.  The sentence you have written is unlikely to enable any woman whose husband is assaulting her to recognise herself in it.  Especially with all you have said previously about it being our fault too, and that we must change to enable our husbands to change.

Later in this chapter you talk of Queen Esther as an example of a truly godly wife.  You describe how she did not, “…run in and scream, ‘Your hoodlum friends are going to ruin our lives.’  Rather she prayed first and ministered to him in love, while God prepared his heart.”   I would like to challenge your idea of Esther as a loving wife.  In reality she was a sexual slave procured by the king to satisfy his desires.  Her waiting was not about love, it was about absolute fear; if she approached him and he refused her, she would die.  Rather than using Esther as an example of a loving wife, she is more suited to the description of a courageous woman, willing to be martyred if there was a possibility it would save her people.

Further through this chapter you begin to look at creating a home.  You state at the offset of this section, “I don’t care how liberated you are, when you are married there will always be two areas that will ultimately be your responsibility: home and children”   You may be under the impression this is true, but in fact this is a complete lie and is based on nothing more than your own personal situation.  I am married to a wonderful Christian man, who is a full time stay at home dad who does the majority of the housework and child-care activities.  I do not in anyway feel more responsible for those areas than him, however I endeavour to share responsibility with him for our house and children.  I am the only financial provider in the house and my husband and I are truly able to live out these roles, without the world collapsing or our children being scarred for life.

You go on to say, “Even if you are the only one working…you will still be expected to see that the heart of your home is a peaceful sanctuary…you will also be expected to be sexually appealing, a good cook, a great mother, and physically, emotionally, and spiritually fit.  It’s overwhelming to most women, but the good news is that you don’t have to do it on your own.  You can seek God’s help.”   As I read this again, I am shocked at your lack of understanding.  The reason that it is overwhelming to women is because it is completely unacceptable and no person, male or female, should be continually pushed to achieve the unattainable.  We do not need God’s help to do everything you have listed, because we are worth too much to have unrealistic expectations thrown at us at every turn.

These expectations are continued as you say, “My husband may not look in the cupboard for a light bulb or a battery for months.  But when he does, he wants it to be there.  Nor does he want to come home late from work one night and find there is no bread for a sandwich.”   My question to you is, why can’t he buy batteries, light bulbs or bread for himself?  He is a grown man and capable of doing these things for himself, just as we are capable of doing things for ourselves.

You go on to say, “Part of making a house a home is allowing your husband to be the head so you can be the heart.  Trying to be both is just too much.  God placed the husband as the head over the family, whether he deserves it or not and whether he rises up to take his position or not.  It’s God’s order of things.”   How can you say this?
Look at what happened with Deborah, “And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory over him.” Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me.” “Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honour in this venture, for the LORD’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh.”

And what about God’s attitude to Saul?  “But Samuel replied, ‘What is more pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice?  Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.  Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshipping idols.  So because you have rejected the command of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”
God does not give rights without responsibilities.  Those who do not uphold the position God gives them do not maintain that position.  When Barak would not lead, Deborah took over from his authority.  When Saul dishonoured his position, God removed it and gave it to David.  Men who abuse or dishonour their wives, do not maintain their place as head.
I would also say that you are misunderstanding what it means to be the ‘head’.  It is not an authoritative word; it does not mean to be the chief over the home or the elder of the home.  In fact, “…the emphasis of Ephesians 5 is not on the authority of husbands, but on their obligation to love their wives as they love themselves. In fact, the only mention of authority in marriage is found in 1 Corinthians 7:3-7, where Paul gives husbands and wives mutual authority over one another’s bodies.”

You go on to talk of how we should let go of our expectations of our husbands.  You use the following story to illustrate this, “…my husband called from work and said he wanted me to prepare a certain chicken dish for dinner.  I went to the store got the food, prepared the dish, and when he came home, he walked in the door and said bluntly, ‘I don’t feel like chicken tonight, I want lamb chops.’…I realised it was healthier for both of us if I rearranged my expectations”   I would like to clarify for you that this wasn’t a case of too high expectations on behalf of yourself, it was a case of male privilege on behalf of your husband.  He believed that you as his wife, was there to serve him and he could do what he liked.  This is a form of domestic abuse.  I would say to you and any other woman whose husband was behaving in such ways that you are worth far more than this.  You are not a glorified slave, you are not a possession for your husband to use as he wishes, you are a human being, made in the image of Almighty God, and as such, you should expect more from him and should not allow him to devalue you in this way.

You say “It is interesting that God requires the husband to love his wife, but the wife is required to have respect for her husband…I assume no woman would marry a man she didn’t love, but too often a wife loses respect for her husband after they’ve been married awhile.”   Please do not assume women do not marry men they do not love.  Throughout the world there are many girls and women sold into marriages with men they will never be able to love.  The culture into which this verse speaks is one where women were bought and sold as possessions.

You go on to use Queen Esther as an example of this lack of respect.  “All [the king] asked of [Queen Vashti] was that she put on her royal clothes, don her royal crown, and make a royal appearance for the people he was entertaining.  She declined, knowing full well it would be humiliating for him…She not only wronged her husband, the king, but the people as well.  Unless a wife wants to lose her position of queen of her husband’s heart, and hurt her family and friends besides, she mustn’t humiliate her husband no matter how much she thinks he deserves it.”

Let us clarify a few things here.  It is believed that the king was asking Vashti to “to appear wearing only her royal crown.”  This theory is supported by the statements that the king was very drunk  when he made the demand for his wife to “show the people and the princes her beauty “.  Suddenly this changes the situation from Vashti being disobedient into her refusing to be sexually abused publically for the pleasure of the king.  Rather than vilifying Vashti for her disobedience, we should be celebrating her heroic act of standing up to the king and his abusive ways.  Far from modelling disobedience to the people of the land, as the king suggests; Vashti was standing up for her position as queen, much like Mordecai, later in the story, stands up against Haman, because of his commitment to God.
His Work

As you talk about a husband’s work you state, “…a man’s identity is very often caught up in his work.  He needs to be appreciated and he needs to win, and his work is often a means of seeing both happen.”   Rather than challenge this view, you use it to encourage women to pray for their husband’s to find purpose.  But this view must be challenged.  It must not be acceptable for a man (or indeed a woman, as this is a human problem, not a male problem) to get their identity from their job.  Our identity must first and foremost be found in God, and it is only when this happens, that we will be able to find our purpose.

His Sexuality
In this chapter of the book you make many factual statements that are in reality only assumptions and myths about men and women.  You state that “…for a husband, sex is pure need.  His eyes, ears, brain, and emotions get clouded if he doesn’t have that release…there is a far greater chance of settling the other issues if sex comes first.”   This is an assumption, it is not based on any biological fact.  Men can concentrate and focus on things other than sex and to suggest otherwise is to do men a great disservice and push women into accepting sexual abuse in order to resolve issues.
You at no point in this chapter discuss rape.  You do not mention that it is illegal, you do not explain that sexual abuse, violence, coercion or manipulation is wrong and instead you put all the responsibility on the woman for satisfying the man’s needs, while enabling the man to do nothing to support or honour his wife.

You go on to say, “Sexual problems are quite common because many women don’t have a clear grasp of what God’s view is on the subject…Unless we’re fasting or praying for weeks at a time, or are experiencing physical infirmity or separation there is no excuse not to engage in it regularly.”   I would say most Christian women and men are very aware of this view and I would suggest that this is, in part, why 13% of American married women have experienced rape by the current husband,   and why in the UK, the most common rapists are husbands, ex-husbands, or partners.

You go on to explain that God’s perspective is that “…our body is to be used to comfort and complete the other person.  Something is built up in the man and the marriage when this need is met by his wife.”   You do not however state that the same is so for the wife when the husband, ‘comforts and completes’ her.  You squash men’s and women’s sexualities very neatly into two boxes which do not fit the majority of people.  What of the women that have higher sex drives than their husband, what of those men or women who have been sexually abused?  It is very dangerous to use stereotypes as facts or to assume men and women are in fact biologically opposites.  This is not the case.  To not ask within your book why women are not interested in sex with their husbands is very dangerous.  Maybe they have brokenness that needs healing, maybe their husband has raped them on a regular basis, maybe they need their husbands to give them love in other ways, before they feel able to give of themselves in a sexual way.

Your solution to sexual problems in the marriage are as follows, “When your husband  communicates to you what he has in mind, as only a husband can do, don’t roll you eyes and sigh deeply.  Instead say, ‘Okay, give me fifteen minutes’…  During that time, do something to make yourself feel attractive…Comb your hair.  Wash your face and prepare it with products that make your skin look dewy and fresh.  Put on lip gloss and blush.  Slip into lingerie you know he finds irresistible…While you’re doing this, pray for God to give you renewed strength, vitality, and a good attitude.  Hopefully, when you’re ready, your husband will find you were worth the wait… He’ll be happier and you’ll both sleep better.  This is a small investment of time to see great rewards in your marriage.”    For many women, this advice is a push towards accepting sexual abuse, towards further unhappiness.  Please do not say that we will sleep better as a result of this.  Potentially we will sleep worse, much worse.  I say this from a place of experiencing sexual abuse on a daily basis from my ex-husband.

You briefly mention the situation of a woman who is being sexually neglected by her husband, saying, “…if he is content to go month after month without sex, then something is wrong.  If there is no physical problem hindering him, maybe he’s having deep feelings of failure, disappointment…prayer can help reveal what the problem is and how to solve it.  Get professional help if you need to.”   I would like to know why this is your advice for a man struggling sexually, whereas your advice for a woman is just to get on with it and make the man happy.

Your parting thoughts in this chapter are this, “If you don’t think highly enough of yourself to take care of your body, do it as an act of kindness for him.”   This is yet another unacceptable comment.  How is it right that a “fearfully and wonderfully made” creature of God should be advised by you to make effort with themselves ‘in an act of kindness’ to their husband?  It is not!  If any woman does not value themselves, this needs to be supported and the reasons for it considered and support given to enable her to move forward.

His Affection
You use an example of a couple named Patti and Tom to talk through the issues of a husband who is not affectionate.  You explain how Tom was affectionate only during sex and at no other time and how Patti was finding this incredibly hard.  As she prayed and submitted herself more to God, Patti became sure she deserved more affection and approached Tom, leading to transformation because of Patti’s prayer.  “Tom proceeded differently this time.  He took his problems to his own prayer group of men, who instantly rallied around him.  They decided to not only support him daily in prayer, but also to keep him accountable to show some form of affection to Patti each day.”   This worked and Tom became affectionate and Patti became much happier.

Throughout your book you focus on the wife’s prayers for her husband and the power they have, but in this situation it was the accountability of Tom’s prayer group that enabled him to change.  Why not have a wider focus in your book?  Not only is accountability mentioned regularly in Proverbs (11:14, 15:22, 24:6, 27:17), Jesus makes it clear what we should do with believers who continually ignore the accountability of other Christians, “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.  But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.  If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”

Why does your book not focus on this teaching at all?   Why is the focus on the wife and her responsibility to bring about change?  What about Jesus’ teaching about those who are sinning taking responsibility, about those who are around that person not enabling them to continue with their sinful behaviour, but instead challenging it and being willing to provide consequences if necessary?

In this chapter you again box men and women with no factual basis to do so, “Affection isn’t at the top of a man’s priority list because men often see sex and affection as being the same.  A woman’s greatest need is for affection.”   I can assure you my greatest need as a woman is not for affection, and my husband’s greatest need is not for sex.  I do not know many women or men who fit into the boxes you have given them and for those who do fit into the boxes you have given, this doesn’t make their behaviour acceptable.  When my husband and I first married, any time we had an argument, he would say the reason he had behaved in a certain way was ‘because he was a man, and that’s what men do.’  I will not accept this.  If it is because of who he is that is one thing, if it is because he is a man, it is as unchangeable as his genitals.  If it is because of who he is, his history, background, experiences and personality, they do make him who he is, but they are changeable and if he loves me and I love him, we will work to change the parts of us which hurt the other, and with God’s power working within both of us, we have done and will continue to.

His Temptations
In this chapter you address a man’s ‘temptations’, you talk of a friend, “…whose husband had numerous affairs before they finally divorced.  I questioned her choice of ‘friends’ but I never questioned her godliness or commitment to pray.”   It is interesting that you blame her friends, who I am not saying are blameless, but the constant factor is this woman’s husband.  It is important to understand that this is an abusive tactic, an abusive man will attempt and potentially succeed in seducing our friends.  This not only means we lose any confidence we have, but also that we have no friends and are isolated from those who could have supported us.  I know this to be true as my ex-husband regularly employed this tactic on my friends, some did say no, while others didn’t.  I do not absolve women who have relationships with married men of any responsibility, but I would not be surprised if your friend’s husband was abusive.  I recently spoke at a church where a woman spoke to me afterwards and disclosed that until I spoke about the abuse I had suffered, she had never realised that her nearly 40 years of marriage had been abusive and she wanted to cry, finally her pain and brokenness over all that time had been validated.

His Mind
In this chapter you talk of the attacks of the enemy on a man’s mind, “I finally realised that all men have an enemy who wants to undermine what God desires to do in their lives.  Women have that same enemy, but men seem to be more vulnerable to his attacks in certain areas.”   I feel you are undermining men’s abilities to fight off the enemy and elevating women to a higher plane, where they are less likely to be unable to resist the enemy.  This is blatantly untrue and is not in anyway factually based.  It again reinforces the need for women to take responsibility for men, when men in fact need to take responsibility for their own lives.

His Fears
This chapter talks of praying for a man’s fears.  “Men are often susceptible to [fear] because without even realising it they get attacked by the ‘what if’s’.  ‘What if I can’t make enough money?’  ‘What if something happens to my wife and children?’  ‘What if I get some terrible disease?’  ‘What if I’m overpowered or threatened?’  What if I can’t perform sexually?’  ‘What if no one respects me?’”   I would suggest to you that this type of fear for men comes from the thing you call ‘God’s order of things’.  While men are pushed into the man box of having to be in charge, earn the money, achieve, make the decisions, be the head, they will feel this fear, because your interpretation of the Bible means that men, without any capability to do so, are expected by God to be in authority, purely because they are the owner of a penis.  I believe the best way to stop men having this type of fear is to challenge the theology and tradition which puts such high expectations onto men.

His Purpose
You write in this chapter of a praying for a man to find his purpose.  Towards the end of the chapter you address the issue of a woman’s purpose saying, “Whatever God has called your husband to be or do, He has also called you to support it and be a part of it…For some women this means creating a good home, raising the children, being there for him, and offering prayer support.  Other women may take an active role by becoming a partner or helper.  In either case, God does not ask you to deny you own personhood in the process, God has called you to something, too.  But it will fit in with whatever your husband’s calling is.”   I know you are saying that God has a purpose for me, but the emphasis you give is that my calling is secondary to my husband’s.  It is always going to be part of my husband’s calling to raise the children and create a good home, in partnership with me.  Sometimes it is the woman who is called first and the husband who is to support her, and although you do not condemn this, you do not mention it either.

His Choices
This chapter is about men’s choices and how we need to pray for them to enable them to make better choices.  You again make very stereotypical comments about men, “We have to remember that all men think they are doing the right thing.  ‘Every way of a man is right in his own eyes.’ (Proverbs 21:2)”    I think you will find the word man is this verse is actually about men and women, “People may be right in their own eyes, but the LORD examines their heart.”   This is not about men, we all like to think we are making right choices.

His Priorities
Yet again in this chapter you stereotype men, “Men have many different ideas about what their priorities should be…if you want your husband to place you as a priority over work, children, friends and activities, you need to do the same for him.”   Of course we should prioritise our husbands, if we want them to prioritise us, but what about when we do this and he still places other things above us.  You do not really give an answer to this.
His Fatherhood
You quote your husband in this chapter saying, “We get so caught up in doing what we do in our work that we’re afraid we haven’t done enough with our children.  Or we’re afraid [we] haven’t done well enough, or we’re missing something.  It becomes even more of problem with teenagers.  We fear we can’t communicate with them because we’ll be perceived as old and irrelevant.”   I would suggest to you and your husband that this isn’t a specifically male concern.  It is something that concerns me and I think most parents.  We are concerned that we don’t get the balance right, but that isn’t something to do with our gender, more to do with our humanity and love for our children.
You go on to say, “Thoughts of failure and inadequacy are what cause many fathers to give up, leave, become overbearing from trying too hard, or develop a passive attitude and fade into the background of their children’s lives…Mothers get overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy, too, but only the most deeply disturbed ever abandon, ignore, or hurt their children.”   Again you seem to be making a factual statement based not on reality but on your own perception.  Men leave due to selfishness, not inadequacy, it is an excuse to justify hurting, abusing, neglecting or leaving your children.  The reason men leave is because society has accepted men doing so.  If a woman leaves her children she is vilified, if a man does, it is just another absent father.  In contrast, single fathers are seen as heroes, whereas single mothers are looked down upon and seen as failures; yet another example of women being responsible for men’s failings.  Also in this chapter you miss out completely on the fact that there are men who abuse their children, and nowhere in the book do you suggest women leave to protect their children, I would go as far to suggest that your book is likely to convince women who are being abused to stay, putting their children into further danger and causing them further damage.

His Emotions
In this chapter you write of Don who, “used anger to control his family.  Each family member was so concerned about his temper that they lived their lives on tiptoe doing his bidding out of fear, not love.”   This is defined as abuse.  As most professionals working with situations of domestic abuse can tell you, abuse is not about anger, it is about control.  Although you talk of how Jenny, Don’s wife, saw transformation when she prayed, after she, “learned she not only didn’t have to tolerate his anger, but going along with it was disobedient to God…”   there are many women who are not so blessed.  Abuse is unlikely to stop through prayer alone.  You state that, “The best gift a wife can give in secret to calm her husband’s anger is to pray for him.”   I would say this is dangerous advice for anyone in an abusive situation, controlling others by behaving in a way that appears angry will escalate and to advise people to pray, rather than find safety is completely irresponsible.
You say at the end of this chapter, “Don’t stand by and watch your husband be manipulated by his emotions.  Freedom may be just a prayer away.”   Men who control others by behaving in a way that appears angry are not being controlled by their emotions, they are controlling others by the way they behave.  The man who is abusive is not the victim, those around him are.  It is important to understand that men who choose to behave in these ways do so because they believe women are inferior to men, something your book has reinforced over and over again.  If we are to stop abuse, we must challenge it.  Slavery did not stop through prayer alone, it was through action, prayer, political intervention, hard work and massive sacrifice on the part of many courageous people that it ended.  We will not stop abusive or unhealthy marriages through prayer alone.  Although everything Jesus did was committed to prayer and He spent much time praying, He was always involved in practical action and challenge.  Prayer is impotent without action.

His Obedience
In this chapter you spend time looking at how to pray for a husband to become obedient to God.  As you go through the chapter you say, “If you husband’s disobedience to God’s ways has already brought down your house in some manner, know that God will honour your obedience and He will see that you will not be destroyed.”
If this was true, why are women who have been obedient to God for years continually being abused by their disobedient husbands?  Some to the point of their death or the death of their children?  When you have stated so strongly that divorce involves disobedience to God, you are advising women to stay in abusive relationships, waiting to be murdered in their obedience.
In summary I would ask you to consider what I have said.  I and my children are some of the ones God rescued, but many, many women will not be rescued, especially if they read your book and the many dangerous statements it makes.

Thank you,

Mrs GLW