Theology

“Lies Women Believe” review: 243-281

Y’all should celebrate at the end of this post because we did it! We finished the Lies Women Believe review– this is the last week. Speaking of which, if you have any ideas for which book I should do next, I’m open to hearing them. Next week will be a break of sorts, since I’ll be reviewing Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood by Nate Pyle, which I’m excited about sharing with you.

But, let’s get this over with, shall we?

The last section of the book– “Walking in the Truth”– is divided into two chapters. The first one, “Countering Lies with the Truth,” explicates the process that Christian women are supposed to use when they encounter one of Satan’s lies, something that Nancy has not explicitly spelled out for us yet. Unfortunately, this process isn’t even remotely innocuous. It’s poison.

We have seen that the progression toward bondage begins when we listen to Satan’s lies … Once we permit Satan’s lies to gain an entrance into our our minds, the progressions continues as we dwell on those lies. If we do not immediately reject deceptive ways of thinking, but allow ourselves to entertain them in our minds, we will begin to believe them. (244)

What this does is make it impossible for women to evaluate what they’re being told by Nancy and other conservative Christians. If they’re exposed to a new idea– an idea they haven’t heard in full before, say like a biblically-based argument in favor of marriage equality– they are required to immediately reject it before they could even begin to give a new idea the engagement and attention it might deserve. Nancy is point-blank telling us that a knee-jerk dismissal is the only possible reaction to anything they’ve been told is wrong, and if they don’t, they will believe it.

That last bit is especially pernicious. It is possible to fully hear out an argument, fully investigate it, and still conclude that you don’t agree with its premises or conclusions. But conservative Christians can’t risk anyone going through a process of listening and engaging, because much of that culture is based on smoke and mirrors that won’t stand up to honest examination.

For the length of this book, Nancy has never really explained what she thinks “The Truth” is– she just sort of assumes that we get it, and it is likely that many of her readers don’t need to be told what it is, since “The Truth” is this nebulous and yet somehow self-evident idea that everyone just intuitively gets.

However, this chapter makes it clear what Nancy means by it: the Truth is Bible verses taken out of context and layered with conservative evangelical interpretations that function as adages for Christians. When she says we’re supposed to counter Satan’s lies with “The Truth,” she means we’re supposed to quote Bible verses to ourselves (246-47). However, like many other evangelicals, she’s incapable of admitting that it’s not that simple, that these verses come loaded with the way conservative Christians have been applying them (sometimes extraordinarily badly) for the last fifty years. Because, of course, they hold to the “plain meaning of Scripture” and deny that, in fact, no such thing exists.

Nancy rounds out this chapter with a personal story on how she herself overcome a series of “lies,” and how she used the Truth to eventually forgive a person who had wronged her.

I knew I could not wait until I felt like forgiving– that I had to choose to obey God, and that my emotions would follow sooner or later. There on my knees, with my emotions still battling, I finally waved the white flag of surrender. (249)

Reading this, it suddenly hit me why I’ve had a problem with conservative Christian definitions of “forgiveness,” and it’s because this model of forgiveness is just gaslight yourself into ignoring your feelings that a particular person is unsafe. That’s what it takes to “restore relationships” in many Christian circles: someone does something wrong to you, they “seek forgiveness,” and you are obligated to let it go and continue exposing yourself to someone with a demonstrated willingness to hurt you regardless of what your instincts say.

The last chapter is a rehash of all the things Nancy’s already said, so I won’t go over them again. The “Resources” section recommends the now-defunct Exodus International, the book A Full Quiver, child-rearing books that advocate abuse like Shepherding a Child’s Heart, and offers no resources for sexual abuse victims that are widely recommended by professionals (not even The Wounded Heart).

Final conclusion on Lies Women Believe: it teaches concepts that can and does result in murdered women, recommends resources that advocate child abuse, and expressly forbids women from seeking other avenues of help. Every copy should be burned and Moody should issue an apology for ever publishing it.

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  • LNae

    First!
    Congratulations on finishing the book, you no longer have to suffer through it for the rest of us.
    Also, the last line was perfect.

  • Ahh yes, I love your conclusion. Spot on. Thanks for taking the time to review this hideous book. I’ve loved reading your thoughts as it’s helping me through my journey of healing from this kind of monstrous advice. My eyes got really big reading the part about conservative Christian’s version of forgiveness. IT’S SO TRUE. I basically gaslighted myself for years with unsafe people and environments thinking I was doing the right thing. It wreaked havoc on my emotional health of course. But thanks to a therapist, loving friends, and writers like you, I’m healing and taking care of myself. Seriously, thank you Samantha. What you do is important.

  • HypercubeVillain

    This book was clearly an arduous experience, even limited to the excerpts you provided; I thank and applaud you for getting us through it!
    It’s scary how Christians are often goaded into immediately rejecting any new/different ideas altogether; it’s such a manipulative way of maintaining the status quo/iron grip.
    And that last paragraph: when the effects of books like this are summarized so bluntly & honestly it just hits me like a brick.
    Looking forward to your Man Enough review, though the title alone wouldn’t seem very hopeful.

  • Amanda Morrow

    Congrats on yet another stellar review! The way you untangle these books, and refute both the obvious and the subtle points… it’s just wonderful. You do fabulous work. Next book suggestions… just going off of books I was directed to read as a cult member, ideas: Love and Respect, Lady in Waiting, The Search for Significance, Calvary Road, You May All Prophesy, Waking the Dead, The Master Plan of Evangelism, They Shall Expel Demons. If you were to do another vote thingy, I would SO love to see Love and Respect get torn to shreds. Or any of them, really. 🙂 Can’t wait to read your next review.

    • I’d actually be interested in seeing someone take on Crazy Love by Francis Chan. That book made me think I had no faith at all :/

      • That’s a really intriguing idea.

      • I second this suggestion. I only read a few chapters and I think that was my feeling too. Must be why I couldn’t finish it! I heard Chan speak once and he was reeeealy intense about faith (and a very dull speaker).

        • Did you get to the lukewarm chapter yet? That’s what did it for me – “Lukewarm Christians do this, devoted Christ-followers do this.” Basically it was twenty-ish pages of how you’re lukewarm if you’ve ever not witnessed to an unbeliever, skipped a bible reading, or held any opinion that is not 100% Evangelical Approved.

          • I can’t remember! Probably blocked it out. But that sounds familiar and it’s the rhetoric I grew up with. It’s enough to make people sick from the anxiety it produces.

          • Oh definitely. I’ve had “salvation anxiety” for some time now.

      • Amanda Morrow

        Definitely. I haven’t read that one… the small group my husband and I go to was going to read that book this summer, and after two meetings, people got busy with their summers and small group just stopped for a few months… but from the first couple chapters, my impression was his schtick is basically “you’re never a good enough Christian, especially if you think about anything other than spreading the gospel”. rather intimidating and impractical.

  • The more I read these reviews of books I’ve somehow instinctively run from reading, the sicker at heart and more lost I feel. Books like this almost killed me, add the child of a woman deceived by them. And I know many women who love and recommend books like them. My church teaches Shepherding A Child’s Heart and the one by the author’s brother every other year! I tried going two years ago, and was so uneasy I left, and its had social repercussions, as has our hard-line stance against spanking. I love Jesus. I want to go to church. But between this kind of thing, and their complete willful cluelessness over mental illness and trauma survivors, I can’t do it to myself anymore.

  • Glenn Katherine

    Congratulations on finally finishing that monstrosity.
    I can’t say I agree that it should be banned; after all, if it and books like it were banned, then people like you would have a harder time picking apart and exposing all the damaging things people like Nancy believe, and they would likely stick to their own isolated communities where they wouldn’t be questioned or challenged. Which means that people trying to escape from that sort of thinking wouldn’t have access to takedowns like yours, and would have to stumble through learning how to reject that sort of poisonous thinking without any sort of guidance. The book should definitely come with a warning sticker, though: warning, the advice contained in this book is not endorsed by the APA or the AMA, and following it may result in serious harm.

  • Jackalope

    “Reading this, it suddenly hit me why I’ve had a problem with
    conservative Christian definitions of “forgiveness,” and it’s because
    this model of forgiveness is just gaslight yourself into ignoring your feelings that a particular person is unsafe.
    That’s what it takes to “restore relationships” in many Christian
    circles: someone does something wrong to you, they “seek forgiveness,”
    and you are obligated to let it go and continue exposing
    yourself to someone with a demonstrated willingness to hurt you
    regardless of what your instincts say.”

    This! I am a fan of forgiving, in so far as it means not allowing the other person to continue destroying my life with what they did. And I’m also a fan of reconciliation, IF the circumstances are right. Was what the person did just a part of us all being jerks sometimes? Are they actively trying to stop being a jerk? If I say, “That’s one of my trigger areas,” do they apologize and make an effort NOT to trigger me again? Then sure, reconciliation. But if they don’t, if they show no signs of wanting to change, or don’t care that Thing X is a big issue for me because *reasons*, and keep pushing that button, or if what they did was too dangerous to let me be able to trust them again (and I get to define what was too dangerous, not anyone else), then I may choose not to let them keep trying to tear me to pieces, and that’s MY choice.

  • Did anyone hear that apparently Nancy is getting married? This book makes me wonder about the kind of person she’d choose as a life partner…

  • Melody

    Looking forward to the Man Enough book review. I googled it and it promises to be a nice counterargument to the Wild at Heart book. I disliked the one-dimensional view of men and women that book portrayed like many of such books do. This idea that all (cis) men or women should fit into some sort of specific mold. The interesting thing is that Jesus himself doesn’t quite fit into this real Christian man mold either! How about that…

  • I get so hungry for intellectual rigor among people of my faith. Being a Mormon it’s interesting to note the similarities and differences between my native culture and what you describe. Culturally, we definitely have the same problem with rejecting novel ideas outright and holding to “the Truth” by quoting scripture verses to ourselves, stripped of context.

    We also have problems with sexuality, forgiveness/putting up with abuse, and concepts like mutual respect. I always enjoy reading your perspectives on these things.

  • “If they’re exposed to a new idea– an idea they haven’t heard in full before, say like a biblically-based argument in favor of marriage equality– they are required to immediately reject it before they could even begin to give a new idea the engagement and attention it might deserve. Nancy is point-blank telling us that a knee-jerk dismissal is the only possible reaction to anything they’ve been told is wrong, and if they don’t, they will believe it.”

    Oh my goodness, yes. This is exactly the problem. It doesn’t matter what kind of logical/biblical justifications one can give to support their argument, if we know from the outset that it goes against “the truth” then we have to reject it. And if you consider the evidence and decide you do believe it, well clearly you’ve been led astray.

    I think this is an example of poisoning the well?

    And thank you so much for doing this series, Samantha. The stuff in that book is mostly stuff I’ve heard before, and seemed completely normal back when I was part of that culture. But now I see, wow that stuff is dangerous.

  • Joe Olachea III

    Fundamentalism can’t make room for questions. That’s why the fundamentalist culture is fear based. Because once people start asking the “wrong”questions, they start finding the “wrong” answers.

    http://godsfoolishness.blogspot.com/2015/10/evangelicalism-questioners-and-seeking.html

  • Ysolde

    A fascinating journey through what seems to be complete filth that somehow has sold copies and continues to be sold. I would anti-recommend the book to anyone who ever asked.