Domestic abuse by those in the ministry…

I just finished black and white bible, black and blue wife by Ruth A. Tucker.  I was introduced to Tucker’s writing back in the 1980s when she was a well-regarded professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity in Deerfield, IL, just outside of Chicago.

Two of her books that influenced my thinking were From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya: A Biographical History of Christian Missions and Women in the Maze:  Question sand Answers on Biblical Equality.

Tucker is a good scholar, a fine writer and now in this very personal memoir, incredibly transparent.

Now 70 years old, in this new book Tucker reveals her experience of domestic violence at the hands of her husband, a bright, charming preacher. This minister swept her off her feet when she was a young woman, a scholar-in-training. After they were married, though, he proceeded to verbally and physically abuse her for years, before Tucker finally left, along with her son who was in junior high school. The man and Tucker are now long divorced, and Tucker is happily remarried.

Tucker’s ex-husband repeatedly used Scripture, his own incredible bursts of anger and his 6’2″ muscular frame to abuse her and cause her to live in fear of when he would go off on her again for being unresponsive and unsubmissive, especially when it came to her embracing biblical male headship in the way he thought it should be embraced.

Though the abuse happened in the 1970s and 1980s, friends who knew of her story, and of how she finally escaped, have encouraged her to tell her story, painful though it is.  They told Tucker that other women who are suffering domestic abuse, especially those married to pastors, needed to hear her story.  Still, she has resisted until now. The awful, searing pain of those years has stood in the way.

“More than that, humiliation. Few can comprehend the depth of shame that still lingers.  And not just the shame of being married to an abusive minister, but also the awful acknowledgment of my own complicity — the failure to report my husband to law enforcement when his crimes involved in innocent foster child.”

Tucker’s is a sad, sad story.  It’s a story that made me mad.  Truth is, none of us really knows what goes on behind closed doors.  (In fact, on many occasions when Tucker was a prominent professor at Trinity Seminary, she wore long-sleeved sweaters with turtle-neck collars to cover her bruises.)

Today Tucker is happily remarried, enjoying both the company of her husband and her grandchildren. But oh the pain she endured.  And oh the painful domestic abuse that so many women endure to this very day. And sadly, some of them are the wives of pastors.

Meeting with so many pastors in my work, almost nothing surprises me as I listen to pastors tell me their stories.

Reading Tucker’s book I found myself repeatedly asking 3 questions:

What does it mean to treat others, especially my wife, the way I want to be treated? (Matthew 7:12)

What does it mean to summit to one another out of reverence for Christ? (Ephesians 5:21)

And what does it mean to love one another as Jesus has loved me? (John 13:34)

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