A Complementarian Responds

A few days ago I received the following comment in response to my Men and Women in Christian Patriarchy post, and I thought it illustrated an excellent point. Growing up, I was taught that men and women are equal but have different roles. My point in my Men and Women post was that “different but equal” is a lie. I used an article by Debi Pearl to illustrate this point. The following commenter took issue with what Debi said, but tried to back up the “different but equal” party line.

BrianMI6 said…

If Debbi Pearl’s book left off as you say, (and I don’t know because I’ve not read the book yet) then you were fed a half-truth concerning the roles of men and women in the Bible.

The concept of having equal significance but different roles is accurate, if portrayed accurately. The context of the section of scripture in Ephesians where women are instructed to obey their husband comes AFTER Eph 5:21 where both the husband and wife are instructed to submit to one another.

Ah, so the husband and wife submit to each other. That actually sounds equal.

Furthermore, the Holy Spirit chose to spill more in on the pages of the New Testament outlining the HUSBANDS role in the marriage, the defining characteristic of which is the requirement to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. That’s a lot of love. His form of submission, then, is to submit to the NEEDS of his wife as an act of life.

Now wait a minute. There are two different “forms of submission,” one for men and one for women? Suddenly I’m seeing equality flying out the window here.

This being the case, all husbands need to filter family decisions through the love of their wife. No husband who is fulfilling his responsibility to God if he does not take his wife’s feelings on any family directive into consideration. Period.

Well of course, both husband and wife should always consider each other’s needs, that’s called being a good spouse. Wait a minute. What is this about the man taking a “family directive into consideration?” Why the emphasis on husbands dealing with “family decisions?” Shouldn’t that be a cooperative effort if we’re talking about equality? Shouldn’t the husband and wife take a family directive (whatever that is) into consideration together?

That being the case, the Bible is clear that there is a chain of command. The husband is to lead. There can be no democracy in a home where there are two people, each of whom have a single vote, and both vote for their own position on an issue. The frame of your writing indicates that, perhaps through proper communication techniques, an agreement should ALWAYS be able to be made. This is, of course, idealistic…a mere fairy tale. These types of situations will arise, even if they are not often.

This being the case, it would seem that your position would be that if no agreement could be struck, then no decision would be made. The issue would just fade away. This is impossible. NOT taking any definite action on an issue is just as much a decision and has consequences just the same as taking some form of action.

It is for this reason that God decided to assign a chain of command. For better or worse, when a breach is reached, one party must submit to the other. God has deemed that it be the wife that submits to her husband.

Oh, I get it! The man submits by lovingly leading and the woman submits by lovingly submitting. No wait. That doesn’t make any sense at all. This is the same exact line of reasoning I got as a child. Men and women are equal. They just have different roles. Men are to lead and women are to submit. I mean, Brian goes so far as to endorse a “chain of command” and say that “there can be no democracy in the home.” Where’s the equality in that? It’s all a smoke screen. No matter how they say it, it always amounts to the same thing: men are to be in charge and women are to follow. These roles are NOT equal. Brian simply proves my point.

Let me ask a question. If I said that whites and blacks are different but equal, that whites are created to be leaders and blacks to be followers, what would you call me? If I said there is an ordained chain of command, and that whites are to lead while blacks submit, but that in their leadership they must lovingly take into account the needs of blacks, what would that make me? If I said there could be no democracy in a nation that was made up equally of whites and blacks, where each would vote for their own needs, and that therefore whites must make the decisions and choose the direction for society while blacks acquiesce, what would I be? A RACIST. And, when you make the same exact arguments on the basis of gender rather than race, you are a SEXIST. This isn’t equality. Let me say that again: this is absolutely and positively NOT equality.

Brian laughs derisively at the idea that a husband and wife can make decisions as a team, and that they will always be able to reach an agreement, is “idealistic…a mere fairy tale.” I disagree. My husband and I have been married for years now, and our marriage is a partnership between two equals. We have never had a time when we couldn’t come to an agreement. I would contend that if you have two people who love each other and want what’s best for the family, there will be no situation in which they can’t come to an agreement. It’s about teamwork and cooperation, not about a competition where one partner must win and the other must lose. Brian may call this an idealistic fairy tale, but actually, it’s my life, and it’s very very real.

If you say that this is demeaning and ridiculous, then by the same logic the man could say that it is demeaning and ridiculous that he submit to God.

Actually, I think the idea that submission is a good thing or should be valued is antiquated and backward. Sure, you should obey the laws, and obey your parents when you’re a kid, but you have reasons for those things. I value love, I value compassion, but I don’t value submission.

It then becomes clear that you simply wish that the Bible was written differently than it was. You wish that it said that both the man and the woman were to submit to God in the same way that the man alone is told to right now. We might all want to rewrite the Bible.

Brian must not have read much of my site. I have no need to disprove this or that passage, or cut something out, because I don’t see the Bible as divine. I see it as man made. Yes, a lot of passages of the Bible treat women like property, but to me this makes perfect sense given that the Bible was written by ordinary men within a culture where sexism and misogyny were the norm. Brian’s accusation that I am trying to rewrite the Bible makes it clear that he knows there are Christians who interpret these passages differently from how he interprets them; it’s just that, personally, I don’t see the Bible as inspired or valuable or something I should base my life on, so his accusation that I’m rewriting it falls rather short. While we’re at it, I should mention that I don’t believe in God either.

Lots of people take scissors to it now. They usually start with the idea of hell and move on from there. Your writing reveals that you have decided to fashion a god to your own liking in your heart. This is just as much idolatry as fashioning one of wood or stone. You are guilty of breaking the second of the Ten Commandments.

Hebrews tells us that its is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. It’s not really fearful to fall into the hands of the (non)god that you’ve created because he’s totally accepting of you and would never judge you as the God of the Bible promises to do.

The good news is that, you’re right…your god won’t pitch you into hell for your unrighteous actions and attitudes. The bad news is that your god doesn’t exist and the God who DOES exist is keeping tabs for the Day of Judgement.

Classy. Brian finishes by damning me to hell. Believe it or not, this is the first time I have been damned to hell. I want to thank Brian for at least being straightforward about his belief in an evil, twisted God who sends people to burn in eternal torture for “unrighteous actions and attitudes.” You know, a God who is so narcissistic as to punish people with a fate millions of times worse than the holocaust for not worshiping him. I really don’t think such a God exists, or any God at all, but if I die and find myself in the grips of the twisted, evil God Brian describes, I will be the first to lead a rebellion.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.