A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

“Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife” — a review by Scot McKnight

 

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Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. We are re-blogging, with his permission, his review of Ruth Tucker’s new book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife [Amazon affiliate link*]. 

Normally we don’t publish a post on Saturday but we have so many in the queue already, and we wanted to slot this review in relatively soon.

*****

Worst-Great Book of the Year

I don’t know how to describe Ruth Tucker’s new book, without calling it what this post is called: it’s a very important book about an awful subject. The title makes it as clear as possible: Ruth Tucker knows her Bible and her ex-husband was a pastor and that Bible was read with exquisite simplicity and alongside that Bible world and church world in the heart of American evangelicalism, Ruth’s husband was physically abusive again and again. It is the worst-great book of the year — the abuse of women is not a new topic, nor is the abuse by a Christian husband nor even by a pastor. The worst of subjects in a book that captivates and a book like this or this book needs to be on the shelf of every church library, of every pastor, and the subject needs to be known in all churches. This is a great book about a terrible subject.

I cannot blog through Ruth’s story, but I can highlight some themes in this book.

First, if you are being abused, get help today. If you know someone who is being abused, do something about it.

Second, I was there. I consider Ruth a friend, not a close friend but a colleague-kind of friend to whom I can (and have) written a number of times and engaged in discussion. Ruth was my colleague at Trinity many years back when her husband was regularly abusing her — physical violence covered up with the clothing she chose to wear.  I was there and knew nothing about the abuse. I am more than grateful to discover now that others did, that Ruth told the president, that Ken Meyer told her to get a separation and to seek shelter with her son. But I have to tell you: as I read this book I was amazed all this was going on under the surface of Ruth’s life. She was no pushover; she was tough and smart and articulate and willing to engage in arguments about all sorts of topics. I’d call her feisty. But I was unaware of the abuse, saw no signs, and she was not talking publicly about her turbulent family life. As I read this book I kept thinking this: (1) How could this all be going on without our knowing it? and (2) abuse lives undercover all the time. Ruth’s book tells that story brilliantly. The looming issue of shame prevents so many women from seeking help.

Third, abusers like her ex-husband use theology to prop up and justify and empower their abuses. Her husband was a big-time complementarian — and I’d be careful to use that term in this context because the word for it is “hierarchical” or “patriarchal” or “dominant.” He used his (mis)theology of complementarianism (“from the kitchen to the bedroom”), his verbal skills, his corrupted and perverse mental skills to justify his abuse of Ruth and their son. I’m not blaming complementarianism, I’m blaming the abusive male who uses an idea to his own advantage. I would, however, raise a red flag here: complementarians, especially those with strong views of it, need to be vigilant about how that subject will be heard by males with abusive and violent temperaments. The use of this theological subject by abusers is toxic and sick, but it’s one of their favorite topics. Ruth routinely weighs in connecting his distorted complementarianism-as-patriarchy with her husband’s abuse: males were for him superior and in authority, women were inferior and were in submission.

Fourth, this topic is so perverse that pastors and teachers and leaders who instruct vulnerable women to be better wives or more submissive should be held accountable for the abuse that nearly inevitably will occur. The only tolerable wisdom is for pastors and leaders to find shelter and pastoral care and personal, relational reconstruction into the life of the abused woman.

Fifth, the incomprehensibility of the seeming submission of the abused victim in these situations is culturally and ecclesially buoyed up — women often do not seek shelter because they will not find support by churches and pastors, because some pastors will actually suggest or claim the abused woman (not the abusing husband/male) is the problem, because by leaving they can trigger more violence and fear for their life and fear for the life of their children and family members, and because of the shame that comes over the woman for confessing they are Christian and living in an abusive situation. We must create situations where this story can be told in safety and honesty.

When I read Ruth’s book in galley form I was not only overcome by her story but I was teaching at an event, and at breakfast the next morning I began to talk about the book — and a woman began to talk and she told us her story of abuse and shame and that no one would believe her — and the whole table became pastoral care.  You need two or more copies of this book handy to give to any woman who needs to hear someone tell her story and point her to redemption.

****

Click here for the original review published at Patheos.

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ get a small percentage if you purchase via this link. 

10 Comments

  1. Sarah

    still no talk about holding men accountable.

  2. Anonymous Pastor's Wife

    Barb, Thank you so much for sharing the review of Ruth Tucker’s new book. When I became a pastor’s wife some nearly 37 years ago, I remember hearing Ruth speak at a conference and reading her early books. For a young pastor’s wife, she was an inspiration. Now on the other side of life ready to retire, she continues to inspire with sharing her life as an abused pastors’ wife. I thank the Lord that I have never had to walk in her shoes. But having followed this blog since early 2012, I know that there are many pastors’ wives who have endured the abuse that Ruth shares and the hostility and total lack of acknowledging abuse that is so common in the evangelical church – in its pews and in its pulpits! A big thanks to you and Pastor Crippen for continuing to expose abuse for what it is! May our Lord, Bless you both as you continue to ‘fight the good fight’ on behalf of women everywhere, suffering from abuse and then alienated by their pastors and churches.

  3. Denise

    Had to look up complimentarianism.
    Never heard the word before!
    Maybe you should have given a definition—-sometimes taking for granted people are familiar with terms.
    Never heard it used theologically!

    • Hi Denise
      On this page, we give links to two websites: CBMW, which is the flagship for complementarianism; and CBE, which is the flagship of Egalitarianism.

      Sorry that we hadn’t thought to put a definition of complementarianism into this post.

    • Denise

      Thanks Barb— will read it.
      Not aware of the sites !!

  4. standsfortruth

    Thank you for your mention of this book Barbara. I will order this one.
    Before I was aware that books even exhisted on the nature of abuse, I would take solice in reading bibliographies about authors that lived a life of unspeakable forced captivity.
    Seeing that these women were able to go through the nightmare of that abuse, and experienced alot of the same senerios and feelings that I was going through, but finally escaped their demise in the end, made me feel some sence of hope in mine.

  5. Karen

    Thank-you for the review. Currently reading Battered Into Submission at the moment to better understand the dynamics of abuse within the family. This book is an eye opener with floods of tears being shed for the light bulb is constantly being lit up in my mind, giving me a better understanding of why the Christian church neglects those who are desperately in need.

    I ordered Ruth’s book and am looking forward to reading and learning some valuable survival tools from her book as well. I am in awe how patriarchy is similar in many respects, to the culture of Islam, in how women are treated. It is shocking.

    • Hi Karen
      I read Battered Into Submission very early in my fog-lifting journey, and many light bulbs came on for me too. However, in those days, Lundy’s book Why Does He Do That hadn’t even been published …

      I’m not wanting to discount the light-bulbs that have been coming on for you through reading Battered Into Submission. But you might find it interesting to read this comment I made about it. I was responding to a pastor who said on this blog that Battered Into Submission was required reading for all the elders in his church.

      Here are a few observations I have about the book Battered Into Submission

      1. It was written in 1989 which is a long time ago.

      2. The Alsdurfs’s book was a great step forward when it first came out. It exposed a lot of things which had been hidden under the rug before then in churches. It talked about how churches and leaders and christianese doctrines have often compounded the suffering of domestic abuse victims. If it were the first book a pastor or victim might read on this topic, it would turn on many lightbulbs.

      3. However, the Alsdurfs relied a fair bit on the writings and saying of authors & professionals who were seen as ‘up there’ in the DV sector at the time, whose constructs and language are now under critique from those in the vanguard of the field. Response-based practice is now demonstrating that ‘battered woman syndrome,’ which was a construct created by Lenore Walker, has led to difficulties in the justice system for victims of domestic abuse.

      And here is a post about how the ‘battered woman syndrome’ construct is one of the many ways that victims of abuse have been wrongly pathologized:

      The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and other labels which are used to discredit and pathologize victims of abuse

  6. hope

    I read Ruth Tucker’s book “Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife” in one setting. I couldn’t put it down. She had some wonderful insights. I especially appreciated her bringing to light what Elizabeth Elliot’s stand on Domestic Violence was. It was hard to hear because I have always admired and idolized Elizabeth Elliot. But I am grateful to know the truth.

    Unfortunately I noticed some areas of concern with her book that may lead victims to wrongly view their abuse. One is that she did not call the marital rape that she experience what it truly was — rape. She wavered on calling it that and in the end did not define it as rape. That makes me concerned to have another victim read it because they also might not see their own experience with marital rape as rape.

    Another concern I had was when she was in the kitchen doing something (I believe it was washing dishes but I am not sure.) that her husband had told her to do and he then told her to stop. She continued and was physically abused by her husband. Her son said to her that she shouldn’t have kept going and essentially blamed his mother for the abuse. In her book, she accepts that blame from her son even though it was not warranted. She was not to blame for her husband violence — ever. I am concerned about this because others may read her story and follow her same line of thinking and allow others to place blame on them.

    I also am concerned that she did not really call out John Piper on his unbiblical views of men, women, and marriage. Perhaps her friendship with him makes it difficult to call a spade a spade in that case.

    It made me sad that she never reported that her husband was molesting her foster daughter. He probably continues to do that same behavior even to this day because he was never turned into the law.

    I am grateful for her honesty and what I learned from reading her book.

  7. Valerie Hobbs has written a good review of Ruth Tucker’s book:

    Book note: Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife

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