The Abuse of Power: A Theological Problem

The Abuse of Power The Abuse of Power Abingdon Press

James Newton Poling

Abingdon Press, 1991

In his groundbreakingly honest book, Poling, a professor of pastoral theology and pastoral counselor, considers the long history of sexual abuse in Christian culture and its deep ramifications personally, socially, and theologically.

He explains how this tragically damaging yet long-dismissed aspect of our society has been upheld by the patriarchal roots of domination over women and children, the biblical texts used for its justification, and the power of religious authority figures, as well as the blame placed on the victim. Instead Poling suggests we examine the issue from a perspective of the vulnerable and the weak, "the least of these," in Jesus's words, rather than the tradition of male power and entitlement and find a place in the church as a community and theologically to support those recovering from sexual violence.  Poling realizes that the issue of violence and domination extends even beyond issues of feminism to include race and class and sees clearly that assumptions about the bible and about God have created, ironically, another world of subjugation and violence.  He is truly a compassionate witness to those suffering from sexual abuse trauma and is candid about his own struggles as a pastoral counselor to perpetrators and with the complex miasma of theology, identity, and our relationships with one another. Those who are survivors of sexual abuse or other abuses of power will find understanding and empathy. Those who are in positions of power in the church will find it necessary to read for their own illumination for themselves and in order to help those survivors who come to them for help and comfort.

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