“My escape from fundamentalism in search of faith with a future” is Elizabeth Esther’s bittersweet account of being raised in a highly legalistic and abusive “Christian” cult led by her family. As a child, she was forced to preach on street corners and was incessantly beaten down by a doctrinal perspective that emphasized the wrath of God, salvation by works, and outward appearances. I am amazed by the author’s ability to share her story with such honesty and humor despite the horrific circumstances of her upbringing. She illustrates the painful dilemma faced by survivors of abuse: whether to remain captive to those in control or to risk going out into the unknown. She had planned her escape for years and finally desired a better future for her children, who were the motivation she needed to break the cycle and choose freedom. I was pleasantly surprised that she and her husband confronted the leadership (her grandparents) and left The Assembly together, considering that brutal male domination was the driving force behind their extreme hierarchical family and church structure. That they escaped the pervasive violence and deception as a young family and then walked the slow road of healing is truly amazing. What a message of hope to others who may have grown up in similar circumstances and are experiencing post-traumatic stress like the author did. I was touched by her open heart to God after the spiritual, mental, and physical abuse she had suffered at the hands of those claiming to speak for Him. She ended up turning to the Catholic Church, where she encountered the proclamation of God’s love for the first time. Her new relationship with Jesus was rooted in grace and eventually led to a restored relationship with her parents. It was curious to me that she entered a religious tradition with shadowy reminders of her past, as well as the potential for cultish belief and practice, but her expression of faith in Christ gives God the glory for her remarkable story.
Required Federal Trade Commission disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book by the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest appraisal.