Summer breaks are an excellent time to do a bit of reading, and I was lucky enough to stumble upon Elaine Storkey’s excellent book “Scars Across Humanity”, which she launched and spoke on in Oxford at Just Love last year. It’s absolutely brilliant, and so here’s 5 reasons to read it:
- It’s a vital issue.
The book surveys key facets of violence against women across the world, an issue whose significance is difficult not to overstate. Too often this is regarded as a secondary issue, or treated as only important in secular contexts, or simply forgotten about and ignored. We need to realise the central importance of this issue, both in the UK and beyond, and take serious action here, and getting informed is a crucial starting point.
- You’ll learn a huge amount
The book covers a vast range of material, from the various types of violence against women, to their causes, to the work which is being mounted against them in various ways, to the framework from which we should understand this issue overall. And yet, it’s very accessible- Elaine does an excellent job of distilling complex and broad issues down for outsiders, so that one can grasp these complex and wide ranging issues.
- It’s hugely powerful
I was going to write that it’s easy to read, but truthfully it’s often very challenging. That’s because the issues are devastating, and to think that so many of these issues are not relegated to history but go on day by day, while so many of us live in comfort is hard to bear. The stories recorded in here are very disturbing, some of the most disturbing pieces you’ll ever read- stories of infanticide in India, child marriage in Uganda, honour killings in Pakistan, rape and domestic violence in the UK. I can’t emphasise strongly enough how moving these stories are, and how necessary it is for them to be heard, and shouted from the rooftops: we must be a “voice for the voiceless” (Proverbs 31). I myself had the privilege of listening to survivors of prostitution earlier this summer- former “happy hookers” from countries where prostitution was legalised, who could testify that the conditions were no better, but that violence was as much a part of their story as elsewhere (Elaine notes the failure of the Dutch model). Elaine retells stories with sensitivity and compassion, and provides a rallying cry for action beyond this book, a cry we must heed.
- It’s intellectually rigorous
Elaine Storkey is a fine scholar, and I first heard her present this material at an academic conference earlier this summer (disclaimer: she’s super nice). The book itself is underpinned by a remarkable depth of thought, across sociology, exegesis, philosophy and theology. Her interaction with a variety of viewpoints is noteworthy- such as her trenchant critique of evolutionary psychology, and her reflective response to feminist theory. The bibliography is also excellent, and I myself have worked through the footnotes on wartime sexual violence, which were remarkably easy to access, happily (yes I actually read the footnotes!)
- It’s theologically rich
Elaine situates the book within a theological framework, ending off with an examination of the role of Christian theology, and given her history of excellent work on the relationship between gender and the Bible, it provides a fitting finale. The broken world which is demonstrated throughout this book is deep, one accounted for by the radical depravity of human nature which Christianity teaches. And with that radical depravity is hope, in a Jesus who emphasised the equal worth of men and women, with who died for the sins of the world and through that death conquered sin and death, allowing us to see his victory in the resurrection. This hope is a “sure and steadfast hope”, a “hope that will not disappoint”, and this hope is a crucial motivator for the work of restoration which we must pursue.
Go forth and read!