No Sanction for Domestic Abuse

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:

  1. Patriarchy is not about power.
  2. 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.

 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 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)

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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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Published by

Michele Morin

I am a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. I have been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 27 years, and our four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Nonetheless, two teens still remain at home, and along with an incorrigible St. Bernard, we laugh, make messes, clean them up, and then start all over again. I love hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop me in my tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. I lament biblical illiteracy and advocate for the prudent use of "little minutes." I blog at Living Our Days because "the way I live my days will be, after all, the way I live my life." You can connect with me on Facebook or Twitter.

28 thoughts on “No Sanction for Domestic Abuse”

  1. I’ve been staring at the blinking cursor for many minutes now not knowing how to begin. I didn’t want to say too much or too little. Wouldn’t it be better discussed in private rather than open comment? The topic is too close, too wide too deep, the project almost defies discussing at all. But I’ve been working on it, off and on, for more than two years.

    Honestly, I didn’t seek the topic, it landed on me. The stories kept coming and it seemed logical that I had to do something with them. Why me? Maybe it’s because I know how since I’ve been publishing for nearly twelve years so I have the skill set and the vehicle. I also have second hand experience through close relatives.

    What I have learned in the process is that this problem is epidemic now and after editing so many versions of the same theme, I have come to the conclusion that it’s not just domestic abuse, as we describe it, it’s something much more sinister. It has all the hallmarks of the antichrist spirit determined to destroy everything in every way possible. Divide and conquer. It acts out in all manner of ways, narcissism, control and power-lust. It has unlimited bag of techniques to enforce the agenda including dogmatic Biblical interpretation.

    But lately I’ve been rethinking whether to abandon this. To walk away. I took a hiatus from the stories because it’s painful and depressing but mostly because I noticed an anger building in me that I didn’t like. Even in the past few days I’ve said to someone else, by way of rationalization for stopping, that what difference will a collection of stories, after the fact, make? Will it stop a young woman from marrying the wrong one? Red flags are usually only visible in hindsight anyway. What is the point?

    And then you post this. And now I’m all weepy with conflict. :-[

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      1. Thank you, dear. You are such a good and open vessel and yet you likely have no idea how many ways, great and small, that you are used by our amazing Father.

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  2. Like you, Michele, I only know “submit” in a loving way. But my heart breaks for the women who “wear long sleeves” in the name of submission. Thank you, friend, for sharing and sparking conversations that change thought patterns and bring freedom.

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  3. As someone who’s professionally worked with DV victims in the past, I loved this. It’s so hard for women to leave, and it’s even harder when church leaders condone (intentionally or unintentionally) their abuse. God’s plan for marriage and families does not in any way involve abuse!
    I loved working with victims and being able to be a light in the darkness for them. I have to share a story of a woman who was so broken down by her abuser. He was abusive, physically and mentally, to both her and their daughter. She was lost, didn’t know what to do, and the solution she’d come to was to cheat on him so he wouldn’t want her anymore. She was so ashamed she wouldn’t even look at me. I told her, “It’s okay.” Yes, adultery is a sin… but to know that Heavenly Father knows our hearts, and that our intentions are so important to him is inspiring. To know that he knew her situation perfectly, and even if he wouldn’t condone sin, that he was there to forgive and rebuild the broken woman sitting across from me. The look on her face when I didn’t shy away or shame her was that of hope.
    I say all that to say.. thank you. Thank you for broaching this difficult but important subject!

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    1. What an amazing story. So heartbreaking and then hopeful. Thank you for sharing it here. I do believe that there is a way for us to move beyond theological confusion and address the issue of women who live in fear and shame.

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  4. Oh my! I was just talking with someone about this subject recently. My heart breaks for those who feel they have to stay and submit to this kind of act. I know a pastor’s wife who is in this kind of relationship and it is crushing to know she is in it for life unless the Lord does something for her. I think I may have the book sent to her, thank you for the recommendation, Michele, and for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.

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  5. This: “there is no Scriptural sanction for domestic abuse.” is definitive enough for me, and I’d say it applies to abuse of any kind. Human life is sacrosanct and we do well to honour and love one another more. I’m blessed that what you have described is out of my realm of experience. But other types of abuse have coloured my early years and still leave an ugly stain and sour taste. Healing is a process, and in the writing of this memoir I hope and pray that Ruth Tucker would achieve a greater degree of resolution and peace. And that her painfully wrought words would find an echo in another’s heart, would show them there is hope on the other side of despair and they don’t have to live a closed and covert life. Thank you for alerting us to this book, Michele, and its potential to reach and help all who need to read it.

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  6. There’s so much shame when living in an abusive household. And with shame comes silence. It takes tons of courage to get out of the relationship and heal. How strong Ruth is for sharing her story! I always hear my pastor’s voice in the back of my mind: “Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church.” Thank you for linking up to Let Us Grow, Michele!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Michele- this book sounds very raw and vulnerable. I am not sure that I could read it. I pray it would be a good book for other women who are suffering in their marriages from abuse. Blessings on your Sabbath! May it be restorative and refreshing!

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  8. Michele, thanks for sharing this book. I’m sure domestic abuse is much more rampant than we are led to believe. I’ve heard of men hiding behind a wrong view of scripture in order to justify abuse, but as you said, “… there is no Scriptural sanction for domestic abuse.” May God give grace and help those women who are feeling trapped to be able to get out of those situations and that people would believe them. Blessings to you!

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  9. I have a good friend who has experienced exactly this all the way through the unwanted divorce and is still reeling from the backlash she received from those who should have supported her. It makes me so angry and makes me feel so helpless to do anything but pray and love her. I am so thankful that you shared this book. I will be passing it along! Thanks for sharing this post at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com this week!
    Tina

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