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Book Review: Is It My Fault, by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Overview

Is It My Fault that is an educational resource for battered women and Christian leaders who want to learn more about ministering to abuse victims and survivors of domestic violence. It’s a short book that presents a lot of useful, accurate factual information about what domestic violence is, how abusers think, and the effects of domestic violence. There is a detailed appendix and a lot of resources for women who are considering breaking away from their abusers.

My Thoughts

The factual content of this book as it relates to domestic violence is detailed and accurate, though not comprehensive. It’s a good resource to have if you don’t know very much about domestic violence or if you are wondering whether or not you may be in an abusive relationship.

  • The book’s introduction functions as a “roadmap” help the reader find the most relevant sections as quickly as possible. This is a huge help for someone who might be in danger. The appendices contain a list of resources for getting help, and a “safety plan” form that may help victims plan a successful escape.
  • There’s also a list of recommended reading that may help elucidate some of the points this book is vague about.

Most of the information in the first third of the book can apply to any domestic violence situation, regardless of whether the abusers are male or female, and the book does point out that “domestic violence” covers a lot more than just violence toward women by their romantic partners. With that said, the book has a marked bias toward male-female partner abuse, and it assumes that the abuser will be male.

I don’t have a problem with that, per se. Statistically women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence, and more perpetrators are male. There need to be books that specifically address violence against women, and thereneed to be books that can educate church leaders about both the needs of female victims and the pervasive misappropriation of Scripture to justify partner abuse. Domestic violence is a sin, and this book makes that clear with solid, well reasoned, scripturally-based argument.

I do have a problem with a book that presents itself as a general resource on domestic violence and then makes only token references to male abuse victims and never talks about abuse perpetrated on women by other women. There is a whole other dynamic of social stigma attached to being abused by a woman, and a “general” book about domestic violence should address that issue. The book does spend some time discussing child abuse and the effects of witnessing violence, but there is no mention at all of elder abuse, and the content that deals with emotional or verbal abuse is an afterthought. There’s hardly any discussion of passive aggressive abuse tactics, and there’s no space given to strictly passive aggressive forms of abuse or why they’re so damaging.

The Christian/biblical portion of the book is a mixed bag. The authors are quite adept at explaining cultural context and historical relevance, and there are some useful discussion about whether or not the the Bible advocates subjugation and abuse of women. Unfortunately, they gloss over any difficult passages with token comments about cultural relativity instead of actually engaging the problems or offering additional reading that might do so. The book also seems to argue that patriarchy and abuse of women is the direct result of the fall, instead of a collateral effect. I’m not entirely clear on that point, because this is another issue that the authors try to hand wave away.

Overall

This book is a valuable factual resource, and I recommended in that capacity, but it’s incomplete. The theology doesn’t entirely stand up to critical examination, and if the authors wanted to write a book about wife battery, they should have just done so, and not tried to pawn this off as some sort of general reference it that clearly isn’t.

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