Esther was raised in a home grown fundamentalist Christian group, started by her paternal grandfather. “Self ordained,” he began a Bible study in his home which came to be known as The Assembly. It included a hyper-literal interpretation of the Bible and very strict rules. It was later described at a cult, not because of the beliefs but because of the group's behavior and method of control. There was also a preoccupation with end of the world theology.
Esther describes her experiences growing up in the group, attending their own elementary school and camps, corporeal punishment, attending public high school (with the assignment to save them) and seeing many rather normal Christians, panic attacks, awareness of unaddressed spousal abuse within the group, “biblical” marriage, motherhood, apocalyptic hysteria after 9/11, she and her husband researching abuse in the group, leaving, and the search for real Christianity.
Becoming healthy is an ongoing process. Reexamining her beliefs to find a more balanced way of living has been a far greater task than she imagined. The Assembly was her faith, her family, and her friends. It is taking time to learn how to give and receive grace and how to live with freedom.
I am so glad that Esther did not abandon her Christian faith altogether when she came out of a warped version of it. In A Conversation with the Author she emphasizes that she is not critiquing the orthodox beliefs of Christianity but the way in which those beliefs were practiced, a harsh and graceless mindset.
As an evangelical Christian, I don't like it when Christianity goes wrong. This is an excellent book showing the effects when it does. I recommend this book. There is a great discussion guide so this book would be good for reading groups and church leadership groups to read.
You can read a sample chapter here.
Elizabeth Esther is a popular blogger and advocate. She and her husband live with their five children in Santa Ana, CA. You can find her blog at www.ElizabethEsther.com.
Convergent (an imprint of Crown Books, a division of Random House LLC), 224 pages.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.