“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?
Editor’s Note: A national study of women in leadership among evangelical nonprofit organizations has been launched by Gordon College. The advisory board for the study is co-led by Emily Nielsen Jones of the Imago Dei Fund and D. Michael Lindsay, President of Gordon College. This essay is adapted from an interview with Emily Nielsen Jones about why this study matters which can be read in its entirety at http://www.gordon.edu/womeninleadership/interview.
I grew up in an evangelical setting, and have been very familiar with gender role ideology that affirms women’s human equality yet still circumscribes women to a “role” at the margins of decision-making. Nonetheless, I was always inspired by the culturally radical way Christ treated and honored women as well as Paul's proclamation in Galatians that in Christ, there is no distinction between slave and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile. So at this stage in my life, I have become increasingly aware of, and distressed by, how some religious-based ideas are contributing to the dangerous mix of cultural ideas, norms, and humanitarian problems that continue to wreak havoc on the bodies and souls of girls and women around the world. That’s primarily why our foundation, Imago Dei Fund, began using a “gender-lens” to guide our decisions.
An autographed photo of Jimmy Carter sits on our piano. A friend of ours wrote to Carter and told him that he was one of our sons' favorite presidents, and would he please send them a signed photograph. When Keith gave our sons the Carter picture last Christmas, my 8-year-old actually teared up.