Reading from the Underside of Selfhood: Bonhoeffer and Spiritual Formation.

Author:Nessan, Craig L.
Position:Book review

Reading from the Underside of Selfhood: Bonboeffer and Spiritual Formation. By Lisa E. Dahill. Foreword by H. Martin Rumscheidt. Eugene, Ore.: Pickwick Publications, 2009. xv and 268 pages. Paper. $33.

Lisa Dahill, professor of Worship and Christian Spirituality at Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Columbus, Ohio, juxtaposes three unlikely subjects in this revision of her doctoral dissertation: female victims of domestic violence, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Christian spirituality. She advocates throughout the book from the perspective of women, specifically those at "the underside of selfhood," coining this term with reference to Bonhoeffer. The description of the dilemmas Facing abused women is one of the most powerful threads in this work.

Abused women suffer from the "soluble self" (Catherine Keller), which is contrasted to the "separative self" of their abusers. Dahill argues that Christian theology must be subjected to rigorous feminist critique, in order to be salvageable for the lives of abused women. This includes criticism of central features of Bonhoeffer's theology: his patriarchalism, his assumed perspective as a separative self, and the dangers of advocating "surrender" and submissiveness in relation to others. Other aspects of Bonhoeffer's thought, however, provide constructive material for the spiritual recovery and formation of...

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