Saturday, May 2, 2009

Not of My Making by Margaret W. Jones, Ph. D.

Welcome to the latest stop of the virtual book tour for Dr. Jones Not of My Making – Bullying, Scapegoating, and Misconduct in Churches, 410 pages, Pluck Press

I was contacted by Dr. Jones’ press agent back in late March or early April asking if I wanted to be a host for one of her stops, and I was honored. I am assuming she found me because spiritual abuse has been a periodic theme in my blog as that is the central theme of her book.

I received it in mid-April, and I finished reading it over the next few days. I believe this is a self-published work, and comes from hers and others correspondence (emails and letters), but mostly from her journal. She is a dedicated journal-er, and finds it cathartic.

In the preface, she states “many people involved in these events experienced things differently and would without a doubt tell the story differently”. Dr. Jones clearly says that this is HER story and “told from [her] point of view.” (p. 11) In the spirit of fairness, she tried to get the individuals involved to make corrections where they thought they were needed. MOST did not take her up on the offer, save for a few, and Dr. Jones allowed additions where she agreed they were indeed legitimate.

The book starts in the mid-fifties when she was molested at four years old by a neighbor after her siblings left for school. Her mother, as an alcoholic, was neglectful and her father was verbally and emotionally abusive.

When she is old enough for school, she is not accepted by her peers as her mother doesn’t make sure she is bathed and clothed in a proper manner. She goes on to talk about how most of her primary education only had people who were mean and shunning to her.

She thought college would be different, but still did not receive real acceptance until she met her husband, Lyndon Jones. They went on to get married and have two children. They being a biracial couple – she white and he black – contributed to a broad, continuing, and incomplete acceptance for her in the social and religious groups in her life.

She also was sexually abused by an uncle when she was a child, and this – plus her parents neglect and verbal/emotional abuse - attributed to her lifelong need for acceptance – FROM others and FOR herself. She admits to abusing herself (cutting/burning) to “relieve the pain.”

She ultimately finished her education – earning a Ph. D. in psychology, and goes into practice with her husband.

The book’s main theme is her experience in two different churches. The first one is a Unitarian/Universalist (UU), and the later one, Lutheran.

In the part about the UU church (starting on p. 55), she later talks about the supposed “tolerance” of the people there, and she shows how their tolerance is relative. I agree with and love her quote about it – “…it is easy to be tolerant with something you don’t feel strongly about. The true test of tolerance is when you can accept and not condemn someone for holding a different view on an issue that touches you deeply.” (p. 71)

After several incidents where she is misunderstood and misjudged, and later when the minister reveals intimate information about her, she tries to get vindication and validation for herself.

(I am HIGHLY condensing these incidents)

The second one highlights her problems at the Lutheran church she attended after the UU church. Different particulars, same underlying issues.

At 410 pages, the first 54 take up her early years while the remaining 355 encompass the other two episodes.

I don’t know if the book had any formal editing, but I believe that the book would have been helped by a competent editor. While I thought the writing to be fairly solid, I found a few parts confusing and, just at times, disjointed. And I also believe that the book could have been much shorter, while easily making the same point.

Also, fundamentally, I feel that her trying to make her view point heard over and over by all the parties involved, went on a lot longer than it would have for me. I just don’t think I would have continued to pursue vindication as long as she did. It also appears, that she believed that if people would only sit down and hear her out, they would ultimately LIKE her. I have come to believe that you cannot force people to like you – they usually don’t change after they’ve made up their minds – no matter what evidence you produce to show how wrong they are. Maybe ESPECIALLY because you show them they are wrong.

I read the whole book expecting a clean outcome that ultimately never comes – only a sense of acceptance of the situation on Dr. Jones’ part. Her own redemption, if you will.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious about her story of lifelong abuse and perhaps shares her history of neglect and mistreatment.

Dr. Jones will take your questions today.


Margaret W Jones said...

John, I read your review last night and was immediately dismayed by your lack of empathy and understanding. While most reviewers have praised my book a couple have responded as you have. As a psychologist I wonder what is different in your life experiences from those who understand and identify with my story. Perhaps that is it. Perhaps you have been fortunate enough to never have been abused and therefore cannot identify with me. That raises the question, do you have to be a survivor to get it? I hope not. I hope it is possible to empathize with others whose experience is different from our own.

Most of the reviewers who read Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct in Churches praised it a. Here is what other reviewers wrote:

This is not a scholarly treatise on human behavior, as one might expect from a Ph.D., but a well-written chronicle of events that pulls us in and compels us to turn the pages. Joanne Carnavale

. . . well written and informative -- Donna Costanza

"Not of My Making" is told in a no-frills, concise, and clean style. It's easy to follow, and the honesty that the author brings to the page is much needed in church circles. – Eric Wilson, best selling author

this book is a valuable one in that Jones points out that less sordid, yet still destructive things can and do happen inside church organizations. Whatever their points of origin, such things destroy the comforting and healing nature of religion and should be avoided. For that reason, this book should be read and studied by all people responsible for the management of the practice of religion. -- Charles Ashbacher

Not of My Making: Bullying, Scapegoating and Misconduct in Churches is available from or from

John Fincher said...

But Dr. Jones - I WAS abused - both sexually (as a little boy) and also subject to some of the worst kind of spiritual abuse - that which pounded into me I was NEVER good enough to be accepted by God. Not matter what I did, NOTHING I did was going to be enough to appease the God I served.

I consider myself a survivor - believe me, I am still healing.

I just couldn't relate to you going back time after time looking for acceptance/vindication.

Believe me, I would LOVE to be vindicated - to have those who wronged me see the error of their ways. I just don't see how, outside of divine revelation, that will happen.

I surely don't want to add to your pain. You just have to know that even when we HAVE the same experience, we don't all seek the same things in the same way.

It just seemed you were banging your head against a wall. The phrase, "glutton for punishment" comes to mind.

I hesitated to write the review, because I COULDN'T relate, although I COULD empathize. We just processed the information differently.

I'm sorry the review wasn't to your liking.

Margaret W Jones said...


You misunderstood the book and made judgments that weren't fair. Although I have often thought I should have left each church sooner, I am now asking myself if that is a reasonable expectation. I left Murray immediately after I lost the vote and only returned briefly when a friend asked me to. FXUU I originally had support. I didn't stay long after it was clear they were not my friends. Immanuel I stayed the longest. But I wasn't trying to get them to like me. I just wanted them to listen to my side of the story. I wanted to be seen, not ignored and especially not gossiped about. I wanted justice for myself and my family. Perhaps it would have been better if I had left immediately when they turned on me but church is like family. You don't leave it so easily especially when they keep throwing you some crumbs.

John Fincher said...

Dr. Jones,

I'm just an average guy seeking truth. My blog is only a way for me to chronicle my experience/growth in this world.

You say I made unfair judgments about you. Well, I read 410 pages of your thoughts/writing and I believe and able to make SOME judgment. You read a short review and made some pretty big judgments yourself about me- that I must have never been abused!

I didn't ask for this - although I AM honored. I'm sorry it wasn't completely to your liking.

Margaret W Jones said...

I am grateful you have hosted a blog stop. Thank you for that. I didn't mean to say you weren't abused. I was just wondering why some people get and others don't. My book is well written and professionally edited. So I wonder after reading your review what is going on here? I think you are being unfair when you imply i should have left sooner. This is the kind of thing said about victims of domestic violence. It indicates a lack of knowledge and understanding about the situation. So the challenge for me is how do I help others to understand.

Margaret W jones said...

It is like asking why the guy who got mugged didn't run faster instead of asking why do thieves mug people.

...and Enide said...

Doctor Jones, having not read your book, I guess the title led me to expect you'd be making more of a general statement about churches. Still, personal histories are often valuable and interesting, so I hope you'll be open to another question.

I'm curious how you think your personal history affected interaction with your churches. Do you think the behaviors you noticed at your churches are latent or specific to you in your situation?

Also, what do you think someone without an abusive background could take away to help him or her understand his or her relationship with a bullying church?


Margaret W Jones said...

Enid, My childhood history of abuse and neglect left me vulnerable and without the skills needed to recognize bullying and take effective action to defend myself. All people bully someone somewhere at some point in their life. We all sin and are often motived by power, greed and jealousy. We all have been bystanders who have chosen to do nothing when we see someone being bullied. All of us have a responsibility to recognize bullying and to speak up. All I needed was one person to call and advocate for me. Someone to say it wasn't right the way I was being treated.

The Lewis Family said...


A Survivor said...

I, too, thought Dr. Jones was banging her head against the wall. However, as a survivor of abuse myself, I understood her persistent desire to be be accepted.

There were times, when reading, when I knew she would not get what she was looking for...only because I have been there myself...albeit in a different setting. I, too, beat my head against a wall, thinking that, if I could only explain things in a way that others would understand, that everything would be OK. Like Dr. Jones, I learned that it is just not always possible.

I, also, have a review of her book on my blog. I found it to be an interesting read as she tried so hard to portray the situations in which she found herself with fairness to all concerned.

Margaret W Jones said...

I talked about this with our deacon at the women's breakfast. It is easy to say looking from the outside and knowing the final out come. But I didn't have a crystal ball. We remember the times when we try hard to fix a relationship. If we fail we say I should have left sooner. But there are times when we succeed. My marriage is an example. I had some friends urge me to leave my husband shortly after we were married and struggling to get along with each other. I have now been married for 30 plus years. I believe God expects us to try to resolve things. This is also a value shared by psychologist. Not to give up too soon. You really don't know if a relationship will work until you try.

A Survivor said...

You make a very good point, Margaret, regarding persistence. We don't know what is going to happen. Only Yahweh does. It can be very difficult to know what is truly enough versus simply running away from the hard work of reconciliation. None of us can see the outcome...we can only hope. And some of us have a more persistent hope than others.

I have learned a lot about how to recognize when things are just not able to be resolved. I have learned how to recognize signs of persistent dodging on the other person's part or of being used for someone else's purposes. However, the reason I can recognize those things is because I have been through them. They are lessons learned the hard way.

I think your book can help others who are going through similar things to be able to recognize whether or not they might really have a shot at making things work out...or not. But no one can really know for sure. We each have to try until we are satisfied that we have done all we could.

That is what I had to do with my first marriage. I went until I knew there was simply nothing left that I could do. Then, I had to get myself and my children out of there. It was not a very safe relationship to be in. But I walked away knowing in my heart of hearts that I had done all I possibly could. I have no regrets that I did that and I don't think I should have walked away sooner. I know I can hold my head up high.

That is what I see that you did...all that you possibly could. By the time you finally walked away, you knew that you had tried everything a person could reasonably try. Were you a bit obsessive at times? Perhaps, but I think it is understandable. I am sure that there were some who thought I was obsessive about making my first marriage work. I was determined!

We all want justice in this world. We all want people to work together and for things to work out. Sadly, that is just not going to happen in every instance. But at least we can say we gave it a good go!

I am glad that your marriage worked out. I know that it shows a lot of the same determination that you showed in trying to work things out with the "church" people. Thankfully, your hubby responded!