This is a book about domestic abuse and the pastoral response to it. It is a highly emotional book, with extensive personal accounts of abuse suffered by both men and women in a church context, including the experience of pastors’ wives. In the words of one commentator, “it gives us the data and tools we need to dig our heads out of the sand and help those in danger”.
It has to be said at the outset that the timing of the book may change its impact. It comes at the very moment that domestic abuse, including psychological abuse and controlling behaviour, has become a criminal offence in Scotland, and is about to be legislated against in England and Wales. While it is not a panacea, the existence of a criminal offence alters the position of the victim, the police, and others who might wish to intervene in the situation.
There are of course degrees of abuse, and much may be carried out in secret. Accordingly pastoral help will still be appropriate, and the book will be useful to ministers and others involved in understanding and counselling. It would be wise to read along with it, say, John Steley’s little book on narcissism.
A sort of appendix to the book deals with marriage and divorce problems in a Christian context. This focuses mainly on the wife who is the victim of unreasonable behaviour, and it comes to the tentative conclusion that in such circumstances divorce may be legitimate and Biblically sanctioned.
The book is the opposite of a textbook. It is anecdotal, a bit scrappy, and subjective. But it is the product of a caring mind and heart, and it draws attention to a real and often hidden problem.
Donald Mackay, Knox Church, Perth