BROTHERHOOD OF BETRAYAL
Multnomah, September 2003
Reviewed by Sissy Jacobson
Rachel Ward and Clay McCain met when they attended a youth retreat at First Metro Church in Atlanta. She was eighteen and had never been to church. Clay, a new Christian, had turned from doing drugs and living in the fast lane, to a life headed for the ministry. The two dated through Bible College, married after graduation, and became the golden couple, held up as an example to young people and young married couples.
Following missionary school, Rachel and Clay chose Sweden as their mission field. Clay launched their ministry by organizing the Stockholm Independent Bible Church, in what their mission board claims is record time. From a group of fifteen charter members, Rachel and Clay watched the congregation grow both numerically and spiritually until now they have a membership of two hundred. The stateside mission circles deem the McCains one of the few successful missionary couples in Northern Europe.
Now, married for thirteen years and the parents of three children, something is causing strain in the McCain household. During the past nine months, Clay has become distant with Rachel and withdrawn from their closest friends. He refuses to talk about whatever is bothering him, stating only that he is working on it. He asked that they just give him some space. Their ministry is doing so well, they have been left on their own, for the most part. The mission board hasn't seen any reason to "shepherd" them as closely as before. However, Clay has really needed a more mature, grounded Christian to confide in, but felt a distinct reluctance to call his home pastor or the head of the mission board.
Rachel and Clay had begun to question some of their home church's man-made, denomination-made rules, rules the elders, supposedly under divine guidance, amended to the scriptures. The scriptures were twisted to accommodate those rules, then they were imposed in the name of God. Some of the denomination's rules are: Christian men have to have short, tapered haircuts and cannot wear beards. Christian women can only wear knee-length or longer dresses, never pants. All church members can use only the King James Version of the Bible, can never attend a movie theater or another church, cannot play board games that include dice, cannot listen to pop music, and can never question the pastor. And the list goes on and on, even covering which musical instruments can be used in the church.
On the weekend Clay is to lead a men's retreat, he disappears somewhere between their house and the church. Rachel and some of the church members are beside themselves with worry as the hours slip by and no sign of Clay can be found. The police are notified and a notice is put in the paper. Finally, after several days, two witnesses lead them to the truth about Clay. As days pass, Rachel is alternately sad, hurt, angry, lonely, afraid. She finally has to notify people stateside. As a result, she is given seven weeks to get her things in order and come back home. She and her children are banned from the ministry as though they are they were the ones who walked away. Back in her home church, Rachel is treated like an outcast, a leper. No warm visits, no phone calls, no encouragement from anyone. Rachel and the children are the objects of "spiritual abuse." Their Christian friends in Sweden gathered around them, helped them, encouraged them, and prayed with and for them. The church in Stockholm is shocked that the home church is acting so coldly toward members of their own flock who need them so desperately.
BROTHERHOOD OF BETRAYAL by Randall Arthur is a thought-provoking, highly emotional read. The characters and situations are so realistic I had to keep reminding myself I was reading a work of fiction. It certainly made me pause and become aware of how I treat others. In this novel, Rachel feels that she has to allow herself to be subjected to the treatment she receives because she has no one else. She finally realizes she doesn't have her pastor or her church family either. Clay could not reach out to his home pastor for guidance and help when he was in need. Not at the time of his struggle, not later when he wanted to turn his life around.
This well written, in-depth novel should be mandatory reading for everyone who attends seminary. A copy of BROTHERHOOD OF BETRAYAL should be on the bookshelf of every pastor, Sunday School teacher, and church member. We need a mirror to hold up to ourselves; a glimpse of what can happen when we become unbending toward others. I highly recommend this book.
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