Tiffany Yecke Brooks
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 252 Pages | Published May 3, 2022
Tiffany Yecke Brooks wrote Gaslighted by God for those who have experienced spiritual abuse from the church, which she describes as “repeated blows, the kicks while you are down, the salt in the wound as you try to do what God has asked of you.” She argues that the modern evangelical church is hurting its own people by creating a simplified “one size fits all” interpretation of God and faith. Brooks describes her own experiences, as well as a broad range of conversations with those who experienced that no matter how hard they prayed or worshipped, God was either absent or inflicting hurt. She responds by reconstructing traditional views of God, offering new interpretations that fit our modern lives and provide support for the times when we feel abandoned by God or even that God has become the adversary.
Brooks describes how churches often respond to crises of faith with pat answers, relying on stereotypes and closed-minded views to describe how faith “should” work. She thoughtfully redesigns traditional approaches, explains how they were formed (and often illustrates ways they were mis-formed) and applies them to specific situations. Sometimes, for example, words are changed in translation, creating a potentially harmful interpretation. In Luke 10, where Jesus visits Mary and Martha, Martha spends the day trying to prepare for Jesus while Mary sits and listens to Jesus talk. Jesus tells Martha “something along the lines of ‘You are distracted by many things, but only one thing matters.”’ The word translated from the Greek as “but” has multiple meanings—it can also be “and” which lessens the sting of Jesus’ words and removes the sense of judgment toward Martha, and those who more easily identify with her.
Too often, people use the name of Jesus to justify their actions; this creates a mistrust not just between an individual and the church, but also the individual and God. And when preachers insist that there is only one way to demonstrate a strong faith, individuals with different views and approaches may struggle in their spiritual relationship with God. At the end of a particularly difficult chapter, Brooks reminds readers “your humanity is worth more to God than a spiritual checklist.”
Brooks speaks directly to those who are struggling, but her writing would also benefit pastors or friends seeking to offer spiritual support. Gaslighted by God has many different opinions that could make for excellent conversation in a small group or for individual deliberation. It is, however, a hard read. It covers topics that churches often consider taboo, such as sexual assault and abuse. I highly recommend it for this very reason! It may help the church discover different ways to approach difficult topics and just may help some people along the way.
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