I don’t usually do book reviews but I’m making an exception in this case. Natalie Collins has made the transition from domestic violence survivor to a gender-justice specialist who is nationally known for the clarity of her insights into domestic violence, including into homes in which church and faith are a major component. This book demystifies the religious rhetoric which often muddies the water of domestic abuse. Every church leader should read it.

Out of Control is not an easy read; parts of it are downright gruelling whether you are a victim of domestic abuse or have never been. Nevertheless, it’s an outstanding book on the subject, and particularly for Christians for whom the subject is fraught and highly complex, to say the least.

Collins demystifies the subject, pointing clearly to the value with which every human being should be treated. She makes it clear that the religious rhetoric around submission of wives to husbands has enabled abuse not just in the past, but currently, behind the closed doors of homes in every aspect of society, including among the clergy. Her assertion of the dignity that should be afforded women within intimate partner relationships exposes the rottenness of the way in which church doctrine, and the ignorant misinterpretations of the Bible, has contributed to domestic abuse in various and sometimes horrific forms within Christian marriages, even in the 21st century.

Collins’ style of writing is confident, well expressed and sometimes quirky as she determinedly, but with humour, disavows us of any illusions we may have of the rights and wrongs of domestic abuse. She writes to the abused who know they’re being abused but have no idea of how to escape. She writes to the abused who do not know that the relationship they are in is abusive. She writes to those around an abusive relationship who, for various reasons, have little idea of the ways in which we can offer help.

Out of Control is especially helpful to those who espouse Christianity as their faith. There is much conjecture over this subject and there have been many church leaders and well-meaning Christians who have helped facilitate the cycles of abuse that women and children have endured, simply by misreading Scripture as a validation of a man’s right to do anything he chooses to his wife and children. Collins makes God’s opinion on this clear as she identifies the ways in which religious patriarchy has enabled and therefore perpetuated the ongoing and sometimes deadly abuse of the abuser’s family.

Her identification of the cycle in which abuse operates, and her explanation of the Biderman behaviours, which highlight the different kinds of strategies used by abusers in order to keep their victims from escaping, are tremendously helpful.

This is an empowering book. It’s empowering for women and children who have been brainwashed by religious rhetoric that being a Christian means forgiving, and forgiving means staying and continuing to be abused. It’s also empowering for those who have spouted said rhetoric under the mistaken guise of believing a doctrine that is completely opposite to a loving Father God’s perspective. The One who tells us His mercy is even greater than His justice, does not then require, as has been purported by many in church leadership, a woman to stay in an abusive relationship.

I admire Natalie Collins highly. I watched as she started all over again with a little, broken life and family. By the grace of God, she has not only become free and strong herself, but her experiences and the way she has worked through them continue to bring freedom to many women and families just like hers all over the world. Her calling is massive, because the need is massive. Rather than disappearing into a vortex of self-pity and brokenness, she has allowed her experiences to be used as fertiliser for the strengthening and wellbeing of many many others. She has, deservingly, become one of the foremost voices in Great Britain on the subject of domestic abuse and gender issues.

Do yourself a favour. Get the book and read it. You will find it stressful at times. It may take you a while to get through it… but read it. This book shines a light on false religious standpoints enabling the reader to help bring others to freedom. You will be enlightened, encouraged and hopefully, strengthened to be a catalyst for change in the area of domestic abuse.

Bev has been a senior church leader for more than three decades both in Australia and UK. Speaking internationally at churches and conferences, she is passionate about the need for strong, loving and effective Christian leaders to influence their worlds. Her insights into Church life and leadership have fitted her well to help churches and organisations transition well from one season to the next. She has a Masters degree in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary USA, writes for various magazines and is the author of two books – Speak Life and Shut the Hell Up, and Catalysts:You Can Be God’s Agent For Change. She has mentored scores of leaders. If you’re interested in engaging her to help develop your leadership gifting to the next level, you can contact her at bevmurrill@icloud.com

Bev is the founder of Christian Growth International, Liberti Magazine UK, Cherish Uganda,  Kyria Network for women leaders UK and Australia, and  Scarlet Women. She has transitioned many of these organisations to new leadership with great effect and is often consulted regarding the principles of a good leadership transition, regularly lecturing on leadership.

If you are interested in having Bev speak at your conference, church or leadership team, you can contact her on bevmurrill@icloud.com or via this website.