Last night, I watched a sermon given by a fundamentalist Christian pastor talking about complementarianism, where only men can be the leaders in the church and home. I know some of you are sick of hearing about that because I’ve just giving them exposure, but in this case, we’re not talking about Pastor Steven Anderson and his church of a few dozen.
We’re talking about Pastor Mark Driscoll and his church of several thousands.
Coincidentally, he was talking about the same ideas Anderson presented the other day — the idea that wives should submit to their husbands. I’ll give Driscoll credit — he cloaks his misogyny in Bible verses much more discreetly than Anderson does, but the effect is the same. Just check out excerpts from the sermon starting at the 4:22 mark (transcribed here):
Read with me in Ephesians 5:22–33. We’re just going to read it and then talk about it. “Wives” — what’s the word, ladies? Boy, it didn’t take long, did it? One woman quietly said, “Submit.” So, not arousing, enthusiastic, joy-filled response. “Wives, submit.” “What does that mean in the Greek, Pastor Mark?” You can always tell a rebellious Evangelical. They do word studies. They try to go to the Greek and figure out if it perhaps means something else. I’ll just read, OK. “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the” — men, what’s it say? — “head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything” — seems like a lot — “to their husbands.
(We can all thank Driscoll for reading to us the words that were right in front of our eyes like we were toddlers.) He’s setting us up here. Look! The Bible says it so you have to believe everything I say! Not only that, but we’re going to tear down anyone who might offer a different interpretation!
Then we get to the meat of the sermon: What does it mean for women to submit to their husbands?
That’s the basic idea of complementarian theology. The man is the head of the home and the leader, and the wife is intelligent, she is gifted, she is capable and competent. And when Genesis 2:18, I think, says she’s the helper, that means that she is actually more intelligent and more competent in certain areas, that he’s not, so they work together so that together they’re better.
That’s impressive maneuvering. He sets the ball, then fakes the spike. He doesn’t say The man is the head and the woman is subservient to him. Instead, he says The man is the head and the woman… does other stuff well. He’ll let your own mind fill in the blank, so that he doesn’t have to be the bad guy. It’s like Louis CK‘s bit about people who say “the N-word” — they’re making you think it so they don’t get in trouble.
That’s where Driscoll really sets himself apart from Anderson. Whereas Anderson would have gladly filled in the blank for you, Driscoll just begins the sentence and gives you the chance to figure out where he meant to go. He’s too busy defending his men-rule theology against feminist-leaning Christian women to do it himself.
Then, we get to hear about women who “cut down” their men in public. Driscoll doesn’t take very kindly to such women (46:04):
You ladies don’t, perhaps, understand this, but when you disrespect, cut down your husband in front of others, he’s in a lose-lose scenario, because if he argues back, he’s being mean; if he doesn’t argue back, he’s being weak. He’s in a lose-lose. Men with men, it’s not like this. You disrespect me, we can talk about that, right? We can actually have a bit of a debate about that. But with your wife, I’m in a bad position. Either I respond and I’m a mean husband, I don’t respond and I’m a weak husband. The book of Proverbs talks about certain kinds of women. They’re quarrelsome. They’re a nag.
In the history of Mars Hill, I’ve emphasized men, and I’ve rebuked men. Well, in the name of equality, let me now do the same for the ladies, OK? Because we believe in equality. We believe that women should be offended equally as men, right? And some women — you’re a nag. You’re disrespectful. You’re quarrelsome. Being married to you is like a life sentence, and the guy’s just scratching on his wall every day, “One more day. Just one more day.” Proverbs talks about certain women — they’re like a dripping faucet. You ever tried to sleep with a dripping faucet? Plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk. It’s what we use to torture people who are prisoners of war. A wife is like that. She just — boom, boom, boom, boom.
Ah, yes, I remember the old Some-Women-Are-Like-Chinese-Water-Torture part of the Bible. It’s how they tried to kill Jesus before the crucifixion.
This is all a buildup for Driscoll’s main point: Men and women have set roles and women must be subservient to their husbands. There can be no good relationship in which a woman is the head. There can be no good relationship in which the man is not alpha-manly. (There is obviously no room here for gay or lesbian couples.) Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. Driscoll’s actual words are “you can be equal and under authority.”
In the hierarchy of the church, God rules above everyone and husbands rule over their wives. This image isn’t a joke:
What’s scary is that this view is not limited to crazy fringe Christians. It’s a popular view that treats women as second-class citizens while pretending to treat them as equals. Because of that pretending, it gets far more traction than it should.
The most ironic thing may be the title of Driscoll’s sermon: “I am loved.”
He should have added a subtitle: “… but not as much as my husband is.”