Ruth Tucker was my neighbor when I first moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1997. At Baker, I’ve published a number of her books; she writes about people, mostly women. I thought I knew Ruth Tucker, but I never knew this woman or this story. Her starkly titled autobiographical confessional details circumstances in her life I could have never imagined.
A young bride marries a well-educated, charming young evangelical minister and is subsequently exposed to all manner of abuse—emotional, spiritual, physical, and sexual. For almost 20 years she endured this harrowing union before she finally escaped with her son and later was divorced.
Her genre here may be called theological biography or biographical theology, as Tucker tells not only her own story, but weaves in those of many other women and men along the way, using them to speak to the theological debate over male headship—often called complementarianism. While rambling at times, this raw, moving memoir tells her story as a vehicle for promoting theological change in the evangelical church.
Tucker has been criticized for defining an entire theological understanding out of her own experience. Can her complementarian ex-husband be used as an exemplar of this theology as it takes root and advances to its logical abusive conclusions?
Readers will need to determine if she makes her case, but it seems clear that the ways most “Christian” abusers justify their abuse is with complementarian theology. As Tucker has said, “The relationship between domestic violence and male headship would not exist if all husbands loved their wives as Christ loves the church. But sinful human nature as it is can easily transform headship into domination and from there to domestic violence. A husband committed to equality in marriage may also become violent with his wife, but he has absolutely no doctrine of headship to fall back on.”
This book is not an easy read, but it highlights the tactics of abusers, the way the Bible can be used to manipulate and control women, and the way evangelical churches, in particular, have failed to respond pastorally. Domestic abuse is whatToday’s Christian Woman once called “The Silent Epidemic”. Tucker’s biographical manifesto puts a face on the issue and gives voice to a troubling topic that churches, whose membership is made up of almost 60 percent females, must lean in and confront. (Zondervan)
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