Complementarianism can be so queer

Even though I was raised as a southern baptist I never heard my church or parents debating the roles of women and men.  My mother and father lived out traditional (western) roles…until my mother found a career she loved and her kids were old enough to not need a helicopter.  She loved her work, we needed the money and so both of my parents worked AND my mom was still the primary in-home caregiver.  My dad was and still is a very strong man, worked as an iron worker from the age of 20-60 and yet is still the one who tears up a little when we give him just the right hallmark card.  Regardless of who was mommy and who was daddy, what I lived was balance that provided all we need in many different aspects.  And that can and does happen regardless of the gender make-up of a relationship.

Even the language of “mutual submission without basing it on gender.” gives me the willies.  My mamma never submitted to my dad – and he never expected that of her.  Why must there be a submission of one to another?  How about a partnership of equals where decisions are negotiated with compassion and respect taking into consideration the totality of each circumstance and person?  Well yeah, that does take more work.  Of course, all the talking about complementarianism vs egalitarianism is really only happening in a small subsection of culture. And not to mince words (because y’all know I do, ha) there seems to be a heaping helping of willful ignorance in some circles ’cause frankly – many Christians have ceased this conversation decades ago and the secular world couldn’t give a rip.

But as it turns out, it seems I am living a my own little queerly complimentarian lifestyle.

See my partner and I compliment one another – in the words of JM – she completes me.

We are so very different – I am peace loving Jesus freak and she is a by-the-book, gun-toting cop (nearly 18 years on the job, thank you ma’am).   She loves action flicks and horror movies, I love dramas and romantic comedies.  We both love to cook but she goes for sweet while I dig savory. She’s all military corners and my shoes can hang around in a pile for weeks.  She runs twice a week and practices Aikido four or five days a week while I play Just Dance 4 and ride a beach cruiser around the ‘hood once in a while.  She is really in to Financial Peace University and I’m not sure what our balance is this week, or last.  I run the kids all order creation, sew Girl Scout patches, help with homework and she creates safe and reliable boundaries for them to test at every turn. She plays “rough and tumble” games (as our 10 year old calls them) and I play board games with the kids. She volunteers as security at the massive school yard sale (running the Incident Command System for Household Items, CLothing and Furniture) while I organize the toys and fold the gently used baby jammies.  I love to talk about reeeeealaaaaationships and feeeeeeelings – she’d rather tell a fart joke.  (Oh yeah, and this is her favorite kind of therapy session.)

Our partnership, our very family, relies on each bringing her gifts and challenges to this journey and offering what the other needs, when she needs it.  Balance, mutual respect all bound by love is what makes it work. PTL

So as I see it and live it, gender composition of a relationship has nothing to do with notions of complementarianism.  Nope, ANY well balanced relationship, grounded in love and hoping for a long future, will draw upon one another’s strengths and and rise up to support one another’s weaknesses. And yes, I realize this is an over simplification of an unnecessarily complex debate. I am not the least bit interested in a literalist, legalistic reading of scripture that is only literal and legal regarding notions a gasping patriarchy hopes to cling to.  I am much more interested in a narrative of love, compassion and mutual respect.

I sure hope you have someone who you complete and who completes you.


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162 responses to “Complementarianism can be so queer”

  1. “Regardless of who was mommy and who was daddy, what I lived was balance that provided all we need in many different aspects. And that can and does happen regardless of the gender make-up of a relationship.”

    No, it cannot. The reason it cannot is that only a man can best teach a little boy how to become a man, and only a woman can best teach a little girl how to become a woman. That’s part of the reason why gender is not irrelevant to marriage and especially to parenting children.

    The bizarre thing is you start off by saying how you had a mother and a father and they were both loving/involved in your life. Yet the rest of your article is an attempt to deny the importance of these gender roles, even to the point of whether such distinctions do or should exist.

    “Why must there be a submission of one to another? ”

    The short answer is because the Bible commands it. There are reasons for it, but I’m not going to waste time and effort writing an involved answer when I know it will simply be ignored. I will happily look up the verses if you are going to thoughtfully consider them. But something tells me you have no interest in doing that. Your bio says you were a pastor at some point, so I should not even have to be telling you any of this.

    Again, why do you insist on calling yourself a follower of Christ/Christian when you not only disregard but proudly and openly deny His teachings? It truly is mind boggling.

  2. My husband and I complement one another. We each have our go-to roles around the house. But we make an effort to talk about and be explicit about how we compliment each other – to make sure one person isn’t doing all the work! Each of us has our spheres: like he will vacuum and mop, and I will dust and clean the bathroom. I will shop and cook, but he cleans up the kitchen after dinner and takes care of all the trash and recycling. We each do our own laundry. I always get a bit edgy when I hear about couples where one person does ALL the housework. Unorthodoxly, in my group of friends I know of two couples where this is the male and the female does next to nothing at home. While they are defying overly traditional gender roles, I get just as uncomfortable hearing about this as I would if I heard about a woman doing all the work. I can’t help but think, “one day that person is going to just blow up and tell you to get off your butt and learn to cook/clean/shop etc.!” But I guess some couples are more content with an imbalance than I would be! To each their own?

  3. When it comes to traditional Christians and assigned gender roles, you can bet it was never a woman who long ago suggested that women should be “in submission” to their husbands.

    The very concept of gender-based complementarianism is a creation of males. And while it’s nice that this concept speaks of the male and female complementing one another in their own particular roles, it still favors the man. The woman’s “submission” complements the man, where the man’s “love” complements the woman. This, to me, is complete nonsense, and presents a heavily lopsided order of accountability. There is nothing of genuine equality or mutuality in such an arrangement.

    What I wholeheartedly I agree with you on, Kimberly, is that an ethic of complementarianism should be based on mutually engaged mindfulness, respect, and love, rather than based on either partner having a penis or a vagina.

  4. my partner and i complement and balance each other..but we are both complete individuals and in who are are.

  5. Makes sense what Kimberly writes. Who needs the old models of relationships, who’s the boss, who’s “the man” and all that rot. So 1950’s. Be authentic you first, then find a partner who is kind, loving AND complimentarian. No brainer, it comes from the heart.

  6. Hello,

    enjoyed reading this. I think, all to often, Christians are living in denial: denial of the complexity of life; denial of who we are. Often, they live in self-composed bubbles of “rules” (which make little or no sense ethically but merely reflect how limited their scope is with respect to the issues they apply to). But is this the way to live? I don’t think so… I think we to get back to what the object of scripture is: the love of God and how we express this love through the action and outworking of the Holy Spirit. This s not synomynous with the denying the unceasing and unavoidable rhythms of life. We have to absorb these rhythms and we have to accept how we are. If not, we merely turn God into an array of concepts/ideas/ideals/rules (these say more about us than God) and forgot that He is a person who loves us in spite of anything we have done. I feel God perfects what we already have (Jesus used the skills of fishermen to do something really amazing, spreading the gospel of Truth, of the living God) and does not change us as such. Jesus was God incarnate, the restoration of the “good” humanity God had in mind in the Genesis parable. We should not casually read the bible nor make it say legalistically satisfying things but merely accept that it says a lot more about us and raises a lot of questions about us. Casual, convenient “rules” (like gay relatiionships are wrong, no sex before marriage) lack of any ethical foundation that it is questionable whether they are applicable or meaningful at all. We have to accept the complexity of life and live for Christ within that complexity. We have to be welcoming and loving, as Jesus was.