We are continuing our conversation about spiritual abuse with Sara Roberts Jones. Click here to read Part One.
What do you most want readers to come away with after finishing your book?
I wrote for two audiences:
- Those who went through an authoritarian Christian system. I wanted to validate what we went through, to show why we feel torn up and broken even though it’s hard for others to see it.
- Those who just see the shiny outside and don’t understand what it’s like to live in a highly restrictive, demanding system like this. They shake their heads when survivors are angry, reactive, and often leave the faith altogether. Outsiders shake their heads and say, “They shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Just take the good and leave the bad!” I hope my novel shows what is going on under the surface.
I did not write it for people still caught in the system. Even if they want to “get out,” my book will just put them on the defensive. The humor is too snarky and I focus heavily on women’s empowerment (which the patriarchal world considers a major threat to their system). While I tried to write each character sympathetically, I am not at all sympathetic to a Christian authoritarian/patriarchal worldview and didn’t pull my punches.
I love how you ended your novel with hope and recovery but it was not a tidy ending. All wrongs were not righted. Do you have any resources or suggestions for other people who may have experienced spiritual abuse themselves?
Find a good counselor—someone who understands spiritual abuse. My counselor was a Christian, but someone who understood not to say to me, “You should get into God’s Word and seek Him!” or “Follow these steps to recovery.” It was very healing to be able to talk to someone who was trained to listen, and who never took my words as evidence that I was sinning.
I share a list of books that have helped those struggling with spiritual abuse over on my blog. It can be found here.
What have you learned about God’s love and grace that you didn’t know when you were part of ATI?
Grace is not some “power to obey” that God hands out to people who are good enough. Grace is God himself—covering our sins, healing us, carrying us when we’re too tired to go on. It’s what kept me from walking away from him altogether. It’s a major theme of my novel: Grace means you don’t have to be good enough.
What are some of your favorite novels, or what are you reading currently?
I confess I haven’t read much at all during the three years it took me to write and publish this novel.
My husband recommended I read Wearing God by Lauren Winner. I’m going through it very, very slowly. She’s not my style at all, plus it’s basically a devotional book which I’m allergic to. But I gave myself permission to read it in small portions, and skim when I think she gets too wordy. It discusses less-noticed ways the Bible describes God—I’m reading about “God as clothing” right now. A refreshingly different approach to knowing God.
When I do read for fun, I’m a big Young Adult fan. I enjoy Diana Wynn Jones, Patricia Wrede, and Mary Hoffman (her “Stravaganza” series).
This blog post lists some of the books that directly influenced The Fellowship.
I’m always glad to pick up Jane Austen, P.G. Wodehouse, Dave Barry, and Patrick McManus.
Where can we find you online?
I’ve got several articles on RecoveringGrace.org.
On Facebook, Sara Roberts Jones Author.
And you can purchase The Fellowship on Amazon.