Beneth Peters Jones, wife of Bob Jones, III (president of Bob Jones
University), wrote a book titled Mount Up on Wounded
Wings: For Women from Hurtful Home Backgrounds (published by BJU Press:1994). Although this book cannot be
recommended, some of the material in the book could be considered helpful. There is a presentation of the Gospel at the
beginning of the book and Mrs. Jones sounds some helpful warnings. For instance, she urges a woman not to seek counsel
from a man if she has a background of incest (p. 61). She does "not advise the world's
group' approach," because:
"Too often it becomes a get-nowhere, repeat-endlessly, feel-sorry-for-me morass from which progress is never made" (p.
62). She stresses the need for women to forgive those who have sinned against them (pp. 68-73). And, she has sense enough
to say: "The human heart's murky depths and twisted contents are beyond anyone's understanding" (p. 63, italics hers).
However, the good things in this book are more than overshadowed by her seriously tainted
Mrs. Jones is a good example of good intentions flawed by naive incorporation of the very worldliness that Bob Jones University would claim to oppose, namely, psychological myths presented as self-evident facts. If the errors of this book were merely maudlin sentimentality, there would be far less concern and it would not require a critique. However, the book incorporates notions from pop psychology and may serve to manufacture victims, or at least encourage a victim mentality in women. In reading this book, women who claim to have found Christ sufficient in their struggles may now discover that they are still "wounded" and must go through a prescribed treatment that may instead debilitate them.
By lumping together a wide range of hurtful early life events, ranging from mild displeasure to physical and sexual abuse, Jones's book could make almost any woman feel that her present problems are due to her childhood home, primarily her parents. By spreading the net of victimhood, Jones betrays the real victims of rape, incest, accident, and torture. In her attempt to make her net of victimhood Biblical, Jones gives examples from Scripture of what she identifies as "victims of impaired pasts" (p. 48). On pages 47-48, she identifies these victims for us: Moses, Samuel, Joseph, and Timothy! But which of these men endured years of incest, repeated rape, severe physical abuse, and torture? Somehow, an imperfect childhood and one filled with sexual and physical abuse are lumped together as if all cause seriously "wounded wings" that prevent the mature bird [woman] to fly.
Jones says, "The point of this writing, therefore, is not to dwell upon time past, the home's hurtfulness, or its particular wounds." But, the focus of the book is precisely on woundedness and victimhood, so much so that a person may easily enter into this broad category of woundedness and become a victim while reading the book. And the focus is emotionally charged with such statements as, "the most monstrous life wounds are those received in childhood -- when physically, mentally, and emotionally the victim is cruelly taken advantage of, when he or she is helpless" (p. 15). While harming children is grossly sinful, children are often far more resilient than adults are. Words like most monstrous life wounds do indeed apply to real victims, but not to all children in the broad category Jones presents.
In her book Manufacturing Victims, the author, Dr. Tana Dineen, reveals: "What the Psychology Industry is doing to People" (cover). If one reads Dineen's book along with Jones's book, it will be apparent that Jones's book does something to its readers that is very similar to what the psychology industry does to many of its clients. Dineen speaks about psychologists who "go about rewriting private memories, playing on emotions, dictating how events are to be experienced, and casting people into victim roles" (p. 13). Jones does all of this, and very well indeed, throughout her book. One of the methods used by psychologists, according to Dineen, is that of generalizing. Dineen describes generalizing as "equating the exceptional and the brutal with the ordinary and the mundane; thus ignoring the differences which set victims apart in an insulting effort to extend and blur them with the more common experiences of a lifetime. The Psychology Industry assumes the capacity to psychologize the mundane, using metaphor to create an absurd realm of similarities, equating the thought with the deed, the dream with the fact, and the illusion with the reality."
The broadness of Jones's category of woundedness is evident in such statements as: "Sexual looseness marks particularly the child of an incestuous home, but it can also result from any of the hurtful home types" (p. 31), which include such common homes as the "unsaved home" (non-Christian parents) and "the inconsistent Christian home" as well as "the incestuous home" (pp. 16-20). Furthermore, Jones's metaphor of wounded wings carries much emotional baggage and may cause one who felt some parental rejection to feel very wounded indeed and begin to define her life as crippled and wounded, though now, through the specified process presented by Jones, she can see herself as "mounting up on wounded wings," overcoming a great emotional handicap that was previously just a minor personal injury long forgotten. On the other hand, for those who were severely harmed in childhood, such a metaphor can so grip the person as to cause her to see herself more as a wounded bird than as a child of God.
Another serious problem with Jones's book is her prescription for healing. She presents a dogmatic process one must go through to get healed. She insists that it is necessary to "Name your wounding" (p. 56). One must name it to oneself, to God, and then to a "trustworthy friend or counselor" (p. 57). She says, "Why is it necessary to name your hurt so specifically? Because until your wound is brought into the realm of thought, speech, and action, it remains in that of emotion, a compartment of the human self which cannot be directly changed or medicated" (p. 57). This certainly puts God in a box. Does He only work His healing through Jones's method?
Jones's insistence that women must overcome denial and name their wounds sounds like the advice of psychologist Judith Herman in her book Trauma and Recovery: "The ordinary response to atrocities is to banish them from consciousness. ... Remembering and telling the truth about terrible events are prerequisites both for the restoration of the social order and for the healing of individual victims" (p. 1, italics in original).
Dineen criticizes such a belief and says: "Few people recognize the subtle but profound effect of psychologizing inherent in statements like these. In these excerpts, which are consistent with the theme of the book, Herman expresses her conviction (theory) that terrible events (specifically sexual and domestic violence) cannot be forgotten, must be remembered and talked about, and that society as well as the individual, depends on this for health" (p. 40).
Dineen emphasizes the unsubstantiated psychologizing that exists in such statements. She criticizes the pathologizing of experiences. She says: "Pathologizing the experiences of victims turns their normal feelings into abnormal states and their normal reactions into emotional problems" (p. 45). Dineen asks, "Why do we believe that victims are weakened by their experience and that they can never recover unless they cease to deny the devastating effects of 'the trauma,' uncover it, face it, confront it and go through the required psychological process, changing themselves from 'victim' to survivor' and, finally, to victorious 'thriver'?" (pp. 56-57).
Yet, Jones naively participates in this process as she accuses women of being in denial and having to name the wounding. She even has God participate in this psychological process by saying, "He [God] has been patiently waiting for you to tire of your denials; to weary of your attempted disguises; to turn from your misdirected gropings for help; to run, at last, into His arms and weep out your anguish on His breast" (p. 59). While the last half of that sentence is Biblical, the first half is Freudian. Without using Freud's name, she presents his teachings on denial and deterministically associating present problems with past upbringing. She even presents Freud's defunct hydraulic theory as she pathologizes problems. She says: "Physical problems particularly appear in those who deny the reality or sublimate reactions to their painful past experiences. If a sufferer suppresses in herself emotional response and rational examination, she does something akin to capping a volcano: she redirects the eruption. There must be release of some sort: pain's lava denied in mind and heart eventually explodes in the body" (p. 31, bold added). She states this as if it were fact, when it is simply a now unproved notion of Sigmund Freud. Yet, this myth dies hard, particularly in "Christian" circles where such myths are promoted by trusted teachers and institutions. With no footnote reference or other evidence, Jones even associates glaucoma with denial and not naming the emotional wound (p. 31).
Jones has also borrowed a number of other notions from psychology, primarily the idea of one needing self-worth (p. 23), a person suffering from a "damaged self-image" (p. 27), and the so-called need for a person to forgive oneself (p. 73). One does not find these ideas in Scripture, but rather in the psychological teachings of Alfred Adler, Abraham Maslow, and Carl Rogers. Throughout the book Jones presents personal opinions as if they are factual. None of her authoritative-sounding statements are documented or footnoted. One such unsubstantiated statement presented as fact is:
"There is one especially pervasive fear which may grip the heart of someone who bears home hurts: the fear of repeating the experienced horror should she herself become a parent. Numerous studies have shown that those who have been hurt themselves very often become hurters in turn" (p. 89).
Where is her documentation to support this? There is documentation that refutes Jones's statement. For instance, researchers
Joan Kaufman and Edward Zigler (Yale University) demonstrated that the widely held "belief that abused children are likely to
become abusive parents" is not a hard and fast rule. Instead of being the rule, it is the exception for an abused child to
become an abusive parent. Kaufman and Zigler note that some of the earlier research had problems with methodology. While
about 30 percent of those who were abused repeat the cycle, 70 percent do not. In fact, one study they looked at identified
82 percent who did not repeat the abuse with their own children. The belief that the abuse cycle was inevitable has kept
people in the cycle. Parents who were abused as children no longer have to be intimidated by such myths as the one Jones
helps promote. And, parents who abuse can no longer excuse their behavior on their own
While a woman's thoughts are important, Jones mishandles Scripture by using Proverbs 23:7 as a proof text for that idea. "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee." This Scripture is warning against eating the bread of one who has evil intentions. Even though the person offers bread "his heart is not with thee." Outward appearances cannot be trusted because, "as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." This verse is not teaching that a person will be right if only he thinks right, but it is regularly misused this way by "Christian psychologists."
Jones evidently wants her readers to know how deeply she identifies with their woundedness, but one immediately wonders who might be wounded through the telling exposure of the first sentence in Chapter One. She declares: "This book is intended for the Christian woman whose home background, like my own, was marred by pain." As one reads about all the causes of woundedness, including incest, alcoholic parents, physical abuse, and other causes of wounding children as they are growing up, one wonders about Mrs. Jones's parents. What kind of parents did Beneth Peters Jones have? What did they do to so wound their daughter that she has devoted a book to women who suffer from childhood hurts? The sentiment is echoed through the book with phrases such as: "We who bear scars from home wounding" (p. 70); "we wounded ones" (p. 74); "we women with wounded wings" (p. 80). Did her parents have expectations too high to reach or did they sexually and physically abuse her? Because she only refers to her home background being "marred by pain," and because she goes into details of the various ways people can be wounded, she leaves the door open for speculation about what happened to her. Thus, in a very real way, Beneth Peters Jones violates her parents' reputation as well as the Fifth Commandment of God.
While on the one hand Jones urges an abused woman not to seek counsel from a man; on the other hand Dr. Bob Wood, who is executive vice president at Bob Jones University, gives evidence in his 1994 video presentation "Scriptural Principles for Counseling the Abused" (a BJU produced and marketed video) that he has counseled many women with sexual abuse backgrounds. During the tape he talks about cases in which he counseled abused women, yet he did not once caution his listeners and viewers regarding problems with men counseling abused women. The counseling of a woman by a man, and especially the counseling of an abused woman by a man, is a serious enough issue that Bob Jones University should speak with one voice about the matter, rather than two obviously conflicting voices of the executive vice president and the wife of the president.
Assuming that Bob Jones, III, president of Bob Jones University, is harmonious with his wife's writings raises questions about his own receptivity to psychological myths and a psychologically tainted understanding of Scripture. It would be interesting to hear him say whether or not he believes all that his wife teaches and to what degree her misteachings are being promoted at Bob Jones University.