Behind the Book: Elaine Heath

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Dear Readers,

I wrote this book because, as a survivor of abuse, I wish something like it had been available for me to read when I began my own process of intentional healing. While there were a number of valuable therapeutic resources that did help me, I could not find any books that offered a healing and liberating interpretation of the Bible that was especially focused on the experiences, much less the wisdom, of survivors of sexual abuse. Nothing that I read suggested that survivors have a perspective on biblical interpretation that is sorely needed not just by other survivors, but by the entire church. Because no one told me I might have wisdom precisely because of my experience, I couldn’t properly honor my own story as a triumph of God’s power. It took so much longer to heal from the shame than it needed to! If I had been taught what is in this book, what a difference it would have made in coming into freedom and wholeness and in rejecting other forms of oppression in my life.

The evangelical books I read that addressed healing from sexual abuse seemed mostly oriented toward the brokenness of survivors, and survivors’ need to heal. Books focusing on sexuality in general tended to define sexual virtue in terms of chastity and lifelong monogamy with a heterosexual spouse. Conversely, sexual sin was defined as promiscuity, adultery, fornication, homosexuality, and divorce. I could not find any resources that named what I knew to be true: sexual abuse is not only a sexual sin, but is the worst sexual sin. I encountered the opposite problem in theologically liberal resources: a feminist critique of Scripture that rejected its authority because of its “unforgivable patriarchy.” For some of these books the Bible was nothing more than a religious artifact that contributed to the subjugation of women, children, and the earth.

My healing from abuse has been deeply embedded in my vocation as a theologian, pastor, and spiritual companion to others. Because I had the privilege of studying in diverse theological streams–evangelical, mainline Protestant, and Catholic–I gradually discovered many treasures from all these traditions that helped to open the Bible’s wealth of healing wisdom to me. Over the years, as I have served in ministry with other survivors, I have witnessed the healing power of the Bible in their lives, too.

This book is grounded in two commitments: first, the Bible can be a powerful source of healing for survivors of abuse. Second, survivors who are healing have essential theological wisdom that the whole church needs in order to be the people God has called us to be in this world.

With a prayer of trust that God is in the process of healing all wounds,

Elaine A. Heath