Ruth A. Tucker is a story teller.
I have vivid and fond memories from my experience of reading her Dynamic Women of the Bible when it was released in 2014. As she unfurled and then analyzed the story of each Biblical woman, tiny shards of her own story would poke through the narrative fabric: an abusive husband, the humiliation of his ministry gaffes and trail of deceit, an unwanted but life-saving divorce. All of this contributed to Ruth’s sensitivity in sharing the ancient tales, and I closed that book with an enriched understanding of God’s female protagonists — but there was a nagging curiosity, a sense that there was so much more story-behind-the- story that had contributed to Ruth A. Tucker’s strong voice and convictions about the importance of every woman’s story.
Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife tells Ruth’s frightening tale: an intelligent, well-educated young woman marries a charming but deeply dysfunctional man who, almost from the very beginning of their marriage, uses the Bible’s teaching on marriage as a club with which to beat her (and all women) into submission. Alongside this personal memoir, Ruth steps back to provide historical and theological perspectives that she has gained, and to ask startling questions about how and why she and other women in her position and with her resources would have hidden their husbands’ abuse beneath long sleeves — and lies.
Statistics show that more than 30% of “all women murdered in America are killed by their husbands, ex-husbands, or lovers,” and yet women continue to receive counsel that they should “submit” to their abusers — or hints that the abuse they are experiencing may be the result of their own lack of submission.
Careful research probes case studies as diverse as Catherine Dickens (wife of Charles) and Meredith Vieira (television personality). Actual accounts of court cases and stories of battered wives reveal that present-day unhelpful thinking is built on a history of weakness in defending women from domestic abuse. Even some of today’s most discerning leaders and thinkers are finally realizing that they have missed the boat.
Ephesians 5 provides a blueprint for family life that is frequently distorted by abusive males or controlling and fearful church leaders. A careful reading will reveal the truth that:
- Patriarchy is not about power.
- Leadership does not involve domination.
Truly Biblical teaching will not silence a wife who cries for help, and it will not sanction inappropriate behavior by men who use Scripture as a cloak for their sin. The issue that hangs like a barbed question mark over the entirety of Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife is whether a complementarian reading of Scripture actually leads to abuse of women, or whether the theological abuse and misinterpretation of legitimate Scriptural guidelines are merely a convenient cover for men who would abuse women within (or without) any faith context. Having been on the receiving end of this misuse of Scripture, Ruth Tucker is understandably leery about “the ‘s’ word.” My own experience of Ephesians 5:21 mutual submission within marriage from day one has formed my thinking about and reading of Scripture in a different direction, so while I may not agree with Ruth on every point, at the same time, I’ve never had to defend myself against an enraged, Scripture-spewing, out-of-control husband.
Balancing the Biblical scrapbook of family dysfunction, Ruth shares examples from Scripture of strong and decisive women and of men who, like the Apostle Paul, much-maligned “misogynist,” who actually praised his female co-workers for their faithfulness.
Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife is a call to grapple with and to evaluate motives behind theological positions on the family, to provide support to women who are experiencing abuse, and to speak out publicly against domestic violence. Upheld by a high view of the sovereignty of God, Ruth found hope, and her strong voice rings out with the tough questions that will spark conversation and challenge leadership to look squarely at the issue of the respect and safety of women. I applaud Ruth for reliving the painful years in order to share in and hopefully to dispel the shame and humiliation of other women who are enduring the “often silent epidemic of domestic abuse” — and its aftermath. Whatever conclusion one reaches about roles and relationships within the family, there is no Scriptural sanction for domestic abuse.
1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God . . . 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:1,2,and 21)
This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLookBloggers program in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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