All I Once Held, Gaylynne Sword, Quoir Publishing, 2015
All I Once Held is officially being released today, July 1.
Many great books weave actual events into a fictionalized story line. All I Once Held is such a novel. From one vantage point it can be viewed as a tale of how people trapped in the clutches of religious control and abuse find a glimmer of hope. The author does not flinch before the disturbing realities life can bring when religious authority asserts itself with a vengeance. As Adrienne van Speyr pointed out, “it is not the business of the gospel to paint over and explain away the harsh and unappetizing aspects of life.” One dimension of All I Once Held that I found captivating was the attention to detail that marks the unfolding of Gaylynne’s narrative. I believe many will be helped in their journey toward healing by entering into the struggles of a couple whose story is so real that it is hard to believe it is fiction. — Jon Zens, author of 58 to 0 – How Christ Leads Through the One Anothers
All I Once Held can be obtained here.
WORTHLESS PEOPLE, Skeeter Wilson, Lens&Pens Publishing, 2013 (2nd edition), 156 pages.
Skeeter Wilson, the son of American missionaries, was born in British Colonial East Africa, along the edge of the Gikuyu lands at the conclusion of the Mau Mau war. He watched the birthpangs of Kenya as it became an independent nation.
I’ve known Skeeter since 1978, a few years after he came at the age of 19 to America. When we saw him in April, 2012, he gave us a copy of Worthless People. Dotty and I read it together. We loved it and read it again. It is a fascinating read, evoking both tears and laughter. What makes this book so powerful is the fact that what is written is born out of incredible life experiences.
Worthless People is available here.
CROSSING RIVERS, Skeeter Wilson
Skeeter Wilson spent his first nineteen years in Kenya. He had American parents, yet was mostly raised by an Africans. His stories flow out of this rich childhood and later re-visits to his tribal roots. In a penetrating and captivating way they deal with difficult internal tribal issues, and the thorny problems created by the external invasion of outsiders in the process of colonialization. Crossing Rivers is a fascinating and challenging venture into a culture unknown to Westerners, but well-known by an author with White skin but an African soul. It is about an African woman who does what is culturally taboo – after being abused by her husband, she leaves the tribe that adopted her, and returns to her birth tribe. — Jon Zens, author of No Will of My Own: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity and Personhood
Crossing Rivers is available here.
NO WILL OF MY OWN, Jon Zens
In light of the revelations concerning Bill Gothard, the Duggars, Doug Phillips and others, No Will of My Own shows how wrong the traditional notion is that females are to be blamed for any sexual misconduct — a notion rooted in the Early Church Fathers like Augustine.
In almost every religion around the world, the hearts, souls, and bodies of women are sacrificed on the altar of fundamentalism. In No Will of My Own, Jon Zens takes a sobering look at abuse within patriarchal Christianity. An important book. — Hillary McFarland, author of Quivering Daughters: Hope and Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy
There can be no doubt that the Christian patriarchy movement is growing and influencing mainstream evangelicalism, ushering in a new doctrine of father/daughter relationships that has no basis in the Word of God. Should we be surprised to see that such a system of control, domination, and spiritual abuse can foster an environment for potential sexual abuse as well? Thankfully, in No Will of My Own, author and women’s advocate, Jon Zens, has given us an opportunity to examine some of the fruits of this movement and has called us to action. I pray that the church will listen. —Karen Campbell, author and creator of Thatmom Podcasts at www.thatmom.com
Of the many chains that bind the human heart, perhaps the most grievous are those that deny personhood. Denial of one’s personhood is not only immoral; it is utterly antithetical to the work of grace God has wrought in the world through His loving plan of redemption. Whether the rationale for this denial is race, status, or gender, the result is the same: alienation in place of communion, abuse instead of healing, and misery in the place of wholeness. What Jon Zens does to expose the elusive lies and religious fallacies of patriarchy’s chains is commendable. The research, insight, and wisdom found in this small book is life-giving, and in his own indomitable style the author offers a strong and assuring hand to those whose lives need it most. – Dr. Stephanie Bennett, Associate Professor of Communication & Media Studies, Palm Beach Atlantic University
The Church has suffered from centuries of repugnant, ignorant, culturally biased, pagan, and misogynist values that misrepresent Paul. These values masquerade as faithfulness to the Scripture as a bulwark against the perceived encroachment of “liberalism” regarding gender issues. Jesus said: “By their fruit you will know them.” Jon Zens’ comprehensive work documents the aberrant and abusive fruit of fundamentalist patriarchy. Jon faithfully exposes the wide-spread, dark, and deeply disturbing hidden “under-belly” of gender-biased fundamentalism, which I have also experienced first hand. I pray that the Holy Spirit will set tens of thousands of daughters free through this book. -– Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, author of The Silent Killers of Faith: Overcoming Legalism and Performance-Based Religion, Monroe, NC.
In No Will of My Own, Jon Zens challenges us to examine a frightening, but logical and authentic end result of living under patriarchal Christianity. His conclusions are shocking, sound, and well documented. I applaud him for his courage and thank him for this invaluable resource. – Jocelyn Andersen, author of, Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery & the Evangelical Caste System, Florida
In No Will of My Own, Jon Zens summarizes the personal and material toll patriarchy takes on its most submissive participants. By robbing women of their voice and their personhood, so-called “Christian” patriarchy leaves them with nothing to submit with! These women are beautiful but passive, adoring but absent. This ideology’s appeal to men is obvious: it acts like a kind of domesticated pornography — a living portrayal of sexual dominance for the purposes of egocentric excitement and satisfaction.
Having studied the rhetoric of religious separatists and their attempt to woo others toward their ethic at all costs, I know well their metanarrative of Romance. Jon vividly shows this metanarrative’s destructive consequences. I hope every believer — both in the pew and in the pulpit — will read Zens’ evidence with their eyes wide open to the sinful consequences of male-dominated and Christless hierarchies. — Camille Kaminski Lewis, Ph.D., Independent Scholar, Author of Romancing the Difference: Kenneth Burke, Bob Jones University, and the Rhetoric of Religious Fundamentalism
No Will of My Own is available here.
— Jon Zens, July 1, 2015