David Ensign is a writer, filmmaker, and part-time pastor at Clarendon Presbyterian Church in Arlington, Va.
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When Theology Intensifies Trauma
“IT HAPPEDN ON a Sunday night, even though I’d been a good girl and gone to church that morning.” From that opening, Ruth Everhart’s Ruined begs the question: If the sovereign lord of the universe wills you to suffer unspeakable pain, what choice do you have?
Find your voice, and find a better God.
Ruined is a powerful memoir of suffering, survival, and theological imagination. In the age of Donald Trump, it is also subtle yet keen political critique. With unflinching and deeply personal honesty, Everhart takes the reader through the valley of deepest shadows with eyes wide open to the horror of a home invasion and sexual assault she and four Calvin College senior housemates survived in November 1978. The assault ruined more than the author’s sense of what it meant to be a “good girl”; it also ruined her image of God.
Her strict Calvinist upbringing in the Christian Reformed Church taught that nothing happens outside of the sovereign will of God. Yet the assurances of the catechism came up short in the face of the horror and violence Everhart and her friends experienced.
In the aftermath, as days stretched to months, she was left struggling to understand how her rape could be part of God’s will or if it was the punishment God brought upon her for the sin of being a fallen woman. When, against the odds, the rapists were eventually sentenced to lengthy prison terms, she was left wondering: If God was responsible for that “justice,” did that also mean that God was responsible for the crime in the first place?