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Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse Paperback – March 1, 2016
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Tucker’s book is nothing less than a damning indictment of the church’s tendency to justify or turn a blind eye to abuses happening within our own ranks. It is a prophetic call to re-think our theology of male and female. The church belongs on the forefront in the battle to root out and end abuse, to provide safe haven for the abused, and to see that abusers are brought to justice. -- Carolyn Custis James, author of Malestrom: Manhood Swept into the Currents of a Fallen World
Ruth Tucker’s historical and biblical scholarship has informed my own journey and that of countless egalitarians. In this book, however, her pedagogy is a story of abuse---her own. It is as powerful as it is personal, exposing the perils of a patriarchal reading of Scripture. Because Ruth’s experiences are all too common, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife is essential reading for pastors, seminarians, counselors, NGO workers, and indeed anyone who believes God speaks to us from the pages of Scripture. -- Dr. Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality (www.cbeinternational.org)
I first knew Ruth Tucker as a colleague when she was much closer to the beginning of the story she recounts in this book. Ironically (or providentially), it was when she joined a team of women scholars working on a volume whose subtitle was Facing the Challenge of Gender Reconciliation. In Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, she recounts the messy but also redemptive details of her own struggle with domestic violence---a topic that, one way or another, affects us all. This is a very courageous account that should motivate readers to action, even as it may disturb them. -- Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, professor (emerita) of psychology, Eastern University
About the Author
Ruth A. Tucker (PhD, Northern Illinois University) has taught mission studies and church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Calvin Theological Seminary. She is the author of dozens of articles and eighteen books, including the award-winning From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya. Visit her website at www.RuthTucker.com.
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I’m in agreement with other reviewers that Ms Tucker displays great courage by sharing her story. However, like a few other reviewers I find fault with several issues I find in her book.
First, this is a Christian story in that it’s written by a Christian about her own experience. She is defining the Scriptures by her story. Therefore, it’s hardly a Biblical commentary on the subject. That’s akin to many professional counselors who are Christians and call their work “Christian Counseling.” They are Christians using psychological principles rather than Biblical principles. Therefore they are not Biblical counselors.
Prior to writing this review, I wrote an email to Ms Tucker about her lack of attention to male victims. I took that liberty, because of the fact that the text in question is more than just her story. She’s commenting about victims of abuse in marriage. In the email I shared with her the newer statistics that show that more and more domestic violence (DV) researchers are revising their statistics to reveal that DV is a 50-50 equal opportunity sin with nearly as many male victims as female. Her response: “I certainly am aware of DV that men endure, but it is absolutely incorrect to say that it is 50/50 equal opportunity. This is not a matter that I want to argue with you about, but any statistics you have found to support you case are simply wrong.” The fact that she has no interest in even considering that males are as much victimized as are women is appalling to me. If we found that only the old feminist statistic of 5% of victims are male were accurate, do we ignore the male victim and fail to assist him?
If all female victimhood is based on males claiming male headship, no matter what the percentage is of male victims, what mantra do women use to excuse their violence? What is their Scripture of choice?
Why my interest in her book and this subject? I was that male victim. I lived for forty (40) years with an abuser. I can feel her pain and I don’t in any way negate her subjective witness in regard to the evils of DV. However, she uses her experience to feed on the usual feminist baloney without thinking it through and evaluating her ideas. Her book shows a lack of research into the subject. The evil to her appears to be men, men, men.
Here’s another paragraph in her eMail to me: “One of the points I made in my book was that many who call themselves Evangelicals support male headship/authority and the submission of wives. With such a structure that enforces male power combined with the far greater strength of men (on average), women face great danger-----particularly when they are told that they are to go to the church for support----an all-male elder board. They are told not to go first to law enforcement. “
Well, let me say she’s correct in that most churches of whatever denominational stripe really don’t understand the dynamics of DV, and don’t know what to do. I agree. And, yes, they ARE affected by their doctrine and their life experience. As I attempted over the years to obtain congregational support for my situation of DV, the most common refrain I heard was, “You’re the head of the house. If there are problems in your marriage it’s because you don’t love your wife enough.” So, you see the male headship passages can go both way.
Ms Tucker fails to give us a Biblical interpretation of male headship. I firmly believe in male headship in my egalitarian home (I’m remarried). The Biblical interpretation of male headship is that as Messiah loves his congregation and died for it, so am I to die for my wife. My headship allows me to be a servant to my wife, to wash her feet, to help her with the dishes when she’s tired, to do the laundry when she’s sick, and as I get to know her and know her pain and weaknesses, I always attempt to stand with her to relieve her of as much of that pain and stress as I possibly can – with the L-rd’s help. Ms Tucker takes a truly black and white approach to the male headship passage and her interpretation is that it’s either used as a club over the wife’s head, or ignored.
Since the majority of DV is in the home of the unchurched or the unbeliever, I can’t get my head around her thesis that the male headship debate is the cause of DV. I find a better culpability in our sin nature and the snake in the grass she mentions. No matter who is committing the DV, they will have an excuse. “I hit her because she burned my toast for the second time.” I stuffed her head in the oven, because….” Self-proclaimed Christian or not, there will be an excuse and it will be the other spouse’s fault. It is NOT always male headship. It’s any port in a storm, or any excuse the perpetrator wishes to use.
Another paragraph in her email she uses to excuse her lack of belief in male victimhood: “When I sought to defend myself against my husband's physical violence the situation only escalated so I would fall down on the floor (unless he had already thrown me to the floor) and tucked my head and curled into a fetal position. That was my safest position amid his violent attacks. Most men would be able to restrain their much weaker wives-----unless, of course, she is unusually strong or throwing dinner plates at him from across the room. And I do mention that scenario in my book.” My ex-wife was not large, fat, or muscular, however there was no way I could restrain her. In fact, the Proverbs say she can’t be restrained. The perpetrator of DV is never in a mood to be restrained, and if he/she needs to be restrained, it’s the police that need to do the restraining. This is just such an ignorant concept.
I’m able to validate a number of her statements about DV as they apply to BOTH men and women. She shares some principles that are scientifically correct and are found in much of the research about DV, but she makes no further attempt to bolster her story with the facts from those who have the hard facts, such as sociological researchers. Therefore much fallacy is included in her subjective evaluation of DV. I would recommend that she attend the annual DV conference in San Diego each year and learn what she obviously doesn’t know about DV.
It appears that Ms Tucker is not a proponent of Biblical inspiration and an error free Book that was written by the promptings of the Holy Spirit. She states on page 26 that “…the most profound way we exegete Scripture is through our lives.” And that’s the problem with her book. She is interpreting the Word through her personal experiences rather than the other way around. That is the basis of most doctrinal errors and heresies.
I’m saddened that she knows so little about homeschooling. On page 43 she states: “I was not seventeen and homeschooled.” She states this in a context that makes it appear that being homeschooled sets the scene for an ignorant life of naivete and foolish decisions. In fact, the research shows that the homeschooled child is by and large far more mature and ready for life than those who are exposed to a school day full of companionship with others of like maturity and lack of values that are found in the public school system. Sadly, it’s another example of a lack of scientific research.
Another failure of research is her exegesis of passages in which she is completely ignorant of modern academic investigations in the Jewish roots of the New Testament (NT) faith. One of those is her use of verses from Galatians which shows no study into the background of that book as its primary purpose is to caution gentile believers that due to their Messianic faith they have no need to be circumcised. The word circumcised in that book is NOT referring to the physical act of removing tissue from the male’s member. It’s referring to conversion to Judaism and nothing more.
Another approach to the male headship approach as the etiology of DV is a more logical approach she doesn’t mention and hasn’t probably explored. If the male is the “head” of the home, and if the wife is to submit to her spouse, that “command” is given to the wife, not to the husband. Therefore, that particular passage isn’t his to use to manipulate his wife. It’s her command to obey. Therefore, for those who believe in a more vertical relationship, they simply obey the command that’s aimed at them and they don’t nag their spouse with it. Therefore, it really doesn’t matter which approach one makes to the subject, it all comes out mutuality and equality in the end because that verse’s rationale is to speak to me so that I will obey it. It’s purpose is not to be used to continually try to get my wife to comply with my wishes by becoming her Holy Spirit.
Many of Ms Tucker’s arguments become moot when considered in light of the doctrine of ecclesiology and community. James reminds us to “Confess your sins to another another…and be healed.” It’s hard to keep problems like DV secret for long if we’re living out community as it’s portrayed in Acts 2 & 4. If we are going from house to house in community on a daily basis, we will become aware of flaws, sins, and problems in the homes of our brethren in the congregation. Male leaders in the congregation would be less of a problem for Ms Tucker if those male leaders, along with their wives, were getting to know the flock (daily house to house) and were ministering as a team to the flock. Sin can’t flourish in community. Sin will always be shouted from the housetops. Then the leadership of the congregation can deal with it, whether they are male, female, or a mixed multitude. And congregational discipline is NOT controversial. It’s Biblical and found quite clearly in Mt 18 and the entire books of I & II Corinthians.
Male leadership is quite Biblical as it’s found from Genesis to Revelation. Moses received some quite clear instructions from G-d about it. How many women were chose by Moses to be “ordained” leaders. There are no female elders in the NT. So let’s argue about Junia all day, but the clear communication of the NT is that elders were male. Are males so evil that they can’t be trusted with G-d’s work? I have a shelf of texts about the subject from both points of view, and those who support male leaders in the congregation have a good Biblical case where those who argue from the other side are prone to use anecdotal material and have little Biblical support for their position. Ms Tucker has only her prejudice against males to serve her position against male leaders.
Ms Tucker’s degrees are in church history, and yet she brings little of those studies to bear into her text. She can’t use the argument that she wasn’t writing a textbook about DV, because her methodology to talk about DV, with interspersed personal experiences, belies a simple biography. She has a goal and it is to teach us that the passages about male headship are being used as an excuse to abuse. It’s my opinion she has failed in her goal due to a lack of a solid academic approach using facts and figures that will support her thesis. I laud her attempt to communicate the horrors of DV, and in that I’m in complete agreement with her. I reject her deliberate rejection and lack of consideration of the plight of the male victim. That says more to me in making the case that Ms Tucker, while foursquare against misogyny, is really a misandrist in disguise.