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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: Othered by Jenai Auman 
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I still remember the initial days after reading Beth Allison Barr's "The Making of Biblical Womanhood," one of my favorite books in recent years and a transformative yet challenging book that I knew would also meet with resistance. Having had a few social media encounters with Barr, I'll confess to having become concerned about that response and wanting to do what I could to support her as a human being and as a writer.

I found myself feeling somewhat similarly as I wound down my time with Jenai Auman's "Othered: Finding Belonging with the God Who Pursues the Hurt, Harmed, and Marginalized," a profoundly engaging yet vulnerable work in which Auman recounts with truth and grace her experiences of othering as a Filipina woman and staff member at a church where she once found safety and mentoring before experiencing the abuse of power and authority while in her staff position.

In "Othered," Auman writes from a foundation of Jesus loving the outcasts and, in fact, recruiting a lowly group as disciples. Jesus healed the unclean, dined with sinners, and created belonging for those who often had never belonged before.

Yet, quite often, the Church does the exact opposite.

Auman's vulnerability radiates throughout "Othered." It's a vulnerability that is at first jarring, a willingness to lay out both her wounds and her healing in equal abundance. "Othered" is both theologically deep and deeply personal, a compelling blending together of biblical historicity and personal applicability. Auman explores the historic othering of God's people and Jesus himself, always leadingus back to God's hesed, his "lovingkindness," and the fact that it never wavers.

Made in the image of God, Auman trusts that God's offer of belonging is unrelenting and safe. Auman boldly invites us to name the abuses that harm us and joins us in the invitation. As someone who has been kicked out of two churches early in my adulthood, it's likely unsurprising that I resonated deeply with "Othered" and openly wept at times from remembering and the places that remain fragile within me.

And yet, I also found myself grieving the othering that occurs from being an adult person of faith with a disability, a person often left behind or placed in a corner where I am often expected to stay. "Othered" reminds me that God doesn't place us in corners or leave us behind or limit us in we exist within faith communities and within ministry.

"Othered" is a beautiful, honest calling of sorts to those who live on the margins of contemporary Western Christianity. It's a call into belonging and a hope-filled honoring of our journeys out of abusive situations and into the arms of a God who pursues the hurt, harmed, and marginalized even when it seems as if no one else does.

For those who have been othered, "Othered" is a sacred balm and gentle breeze in the wilderness. More peaceful companion than prescriptive tutorial "Othered" is an invitation back into community for those who've experienced spiritual harm.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic