Wednesday, April 13, 2016

book review: black and white bible, black and blue wife

Title: black and white bible, black and blue wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse
Author: Ruth A. Tucker
Date: 2016
Publisher: Zondervan
Ruth Tucker, whom I first learned about, with her excellent book “From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions” (Zondervan, 1983). In this most recent book, she tells the story of being abused by her husband who was also a pastor
This is an important book for describing the theological implications of pushing a theological viewpoint to it’s extreme. Tucker says clearly that “the doctrine of male headship has sometimes been used as a cover to perpetrate violence against women” (p.23 my emphasis). She also says “I acknowledge that the headship model is a valid way to interpret the Bible (p.23 her emphasis). Sadly, many complementarians see the headship model as the only way to interpret the Bible
Dr. Tucker’s abusive husband saw the possibility of women elders as them seeking “power – women trying to take control” (p.73 her emphasis). The only appropriate response, in his eyes, was “submission to his views” (p.73).
Dr. Tucker says that “one of the reasons a fresh hermeneutic us so critical is the inherent white make bias of past interpreters” (p.75). How we are raised, not just in terms of our individual families, but also in terms of our culture (and sub-cultures) shapes how we think. (This is true no matter where you see yourself fitting in the cultural-theological landscape). Those who deny that are shaped by culture a lot more than they imagine.
As I read about Dr. Tucker’s references to Calvinist-Arminian debates, rooting theology in Calvin and Kuyper and Barth, debates about whether Calvin had feminist leanings, and the such, I wonder if theology, especially that of those in the reformed and the neo-reformed camp, is more important than how theology gets lived out as lives that are full of God’s life.
Dr. Tucker’s harrowing story of abuse at the hands of her husband—a well-educated, charming preacher no less—is written with the hope that her story would help other women caught in a cycle of domestic violence. She offer a biblical approach to counter the ignoring of abuse by pastors and counselors. Weaving together her story, stories of other women, with reflection on biblical, theological, historical, and contemporary issues surrounding domestic violence, she makes a compelling case for mutuality in marriage and helps women and men become more aware of potential dangers in a doctrine of male headship.
After I finished reading her story, I read a few reviews of her book. Some of those were very disappointing. Excuses all over the place why her understanding of equalitarianism is simply wrong, and you cannot blame the abuse she suffered on the theological system her husband lived in. Some argue that Dr. Tucker’s biography as theology fits within the increasingly popular trend to arrive at meaning via shared personal experience, what is called a storied approach to understanding our world. They argue that this ignores biblical truth. Of those that took this approach, few acknowledged the depth of the abuse Dr. Tucker and her son Carlton suffered (in fact most ignored Carlton’s beatings. Is that because he is male and so his abuse messes up the theological rationale for mistreating and abusing women? I know that sounds harsh, but it is a question that needs to be raised).
Whatever you think about Dr. Tucker’s egalitarian theology of marriage and her story, her experience and the questions she raises should push us to strive for greater understanding of Scripture, while remembering that people at the heart of the issues about which we debate endlessly.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

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