Some humans are more equal than others: Introduction

Complementarian evangelical leaders like to pretend that their view of women is something other than exactly what it sounds like. They like to pretend that feminists (with our silly, womanly emotions) are just overreacting, misunderstanding, or twisting their words.

“Real” complementarians practice godly, Christ-like leadership. They don’t dominate or abuse their wives. Feminists just don’t understand what’s really good for them–they don’t understand that complementarianism isn’t about a hierarchy. It’s just about separate roles.

“Equal, but different,” as Mark Driscoll says.

Apparently, this “difference” is enough to keep women out of leadership roles in the church and the family, and often enough to keep them out of the public sphere altogether. Equal but different. Separate but equal.

Of course, it’s a woman’s “choice” to submit to her husband’s leadership. A choice that will be judged by an almighty God with a history of striking people dead and sending them to hell.

But sure, a choice.

Women “choose” (under the threat of Almighty judgment) to submit to their husbands, who lead them lovingly and gently. It’s all good.

They’re still equal.

But, you see, no matter how nicely complementarians say what they believe, a phrase from a George Orwell book always comes to mind:

Photo by Christina Jung via
Photo by Christina Jung via

“All animals are equal, but some animals are

more equal than others.”

Having “liberated” us from the way popular culture and media objectifies, degrades, and oppresses women, complementarian leaders can now objectify and oppress us in other ways with nicer words (and with support from God).

Centuries ago, Christian men such as Martin Luther preached the same beliefs of submission and headship, without the pretense of believing in equality.

The beliefs have not changed. They’re just wearing a mask.

Changing the way we talk about those beliefs does not change their implications.

I want to expose “equal, but different” for the lie that it is.

So I’m going to be doing a short series on the words of a few complementarian leaders, showing how, despite their claims of “equality,” their views degrade, oppress, control and limit women.

I want to talk about Joshua Harris, John Piper, and Mark Driscoll this week. To make this subject less painful,  the leaders will be represented by a puppy, a parakeet, and (of course) a fluffy bunny (respectively).

I may decide to continue with the series beyond that (but long time readers of this blog know how I get with series). If anyone has suggestions of other sermons/books/blog posts by complementarian leaders that reveal the inherent inequality present in complementrianism, or if anyone is interested in writing a guest post on the subject, feel free to tell me in the comments (make sure to include a corresponding adorable animal). 

Because, I believe that, once you strip away the bullshit, the motto of complementarianism could be:

All humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others. 

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  • Love your point about Martin Luther. WORD.

  • sandraheretic

    I look forward to this series as I would any review of my childhood: with my migraine medicine nearby and a barf bag close at hand. But,hopefully, it will be a hair of the dog that will inoculate me against some of the more noxious of the beliefs so ingrained in me.

  • Something I’ve been thinking about is how complimentarianism hurts men too. Marky *insert bunny* has a lot to answer for in that regard. If you want a guest post on that, I’m happy to write one!

  • T. Dwight Davis

    Clarifying question: Do you take issue with the phrase “Equal but different” or with the way these evangelicals flesh out said phrase?

    • With the way it is fleshed out as if all women are the same and all men are the same, but all women are opposite of all men, therefore all women must be placed in a role under men’s protection. Obviously, people are different, and there are minor group differences, yet all should have access to freedom and justice.

      • T. Dwight Davis

        Thanks, that helps. Looking forward to these posts. I’m a big (thusfar silent) fan of your blog.

  • I emailed you this earlier, but I was wondering if I could write a guest post criticizing Chris “Pirate Christian” Rosebrough’s constant misogyny, specifically his extreme stance on female ordination. I’m think maybe using a koala bear for him.

  • Thanks you thank you thank you for making the Animal Farm connection! Last year the pastor at my former church gave a sermon defending complementarianism, and it suddenly hit me that complementarians are simply adapting Napoleon’s famous quote for their own means.

  • LC

    Interesting, but I think you’re missing the point. Then again, that’s natural. As women, our tendency to want to be the leader is rooted from the fall of man when God tells Eve that her “desire will be for her husband” – some may take this out of context to make it seem like women are man-crazy, but it’s actually referring to the desire for the burden of responsibility that was meant to be put on the man. If you look at in the way you are it does seem depressing and look like oppression wearing a mask – I know, I was once there too.

    Looking for answers through what other pastors say isn’t going to help. Nor is posting how awful complementariansim is on a blog going to help. As a “skeptical Christian looking for truth in this crazy world!” I suggest you look to the only one who can give it, if you are indeed a Christian, and that’s God. Ask Him to search your heart. At the same time you have to be fully open to accept what you hear from Him. For the longest I hated the whole submission thing, too. But I realized that if I’m calling myself a Christian and that I believe the Bible is true then I need to realize “Okay, God is God, so however this is – I’m wrong.” I had to ask God to help me see what I was missing. I pray you do the same. You’ll see it’s actually a beautiful thing and very far from oppression.

    Also I’m not too sure if “Skeptical Christian” should even be a thing. That’s a huge oxymoron. Either you’re hot for God or cold-hearted. There is no room for lukewarm faith.

    Good luck on your studies – it’s a very complex, yet beautiful topic!

    • Aww, this was one of the more condescending comments I’ve ever gotten.

      • caleigh

        this ^ made my crappy day just a little bit better.

      • LC

        Wasn’t trying to be arrogant. I just think you should seek God about it more than deconstructing the views of other pastors. Unless being a Christian for you is just for the title. I just suggested you go to the ultimate source – God. As Christians we’re open to having relationship with Him – why not use it if you have questions? He knows a lot more than John Piper. Good luck!

    • Todd

      disgusting post and very disrespectful as the women on tis blog have experienced the evil fruits of patriarchal rule and are seeking heeling and freedom. Not many find the narrow way because it happens to be in the center of the broad way betwwen the right-wing and the left-wing in the place of balance and harmony which can never be achieved if someone is lording it over another. Funny how you mentioned the desire a woman will have for her husband as being the desire to rule over her husband yet left out the fact that on the man’s side God says the same thing-both a result of the fall. All over the world you can see the affects of patriarchy and its tearing the world appart. Its at the bottom of all inequality and injustice and has resulted in women and the children(whose mothers are ill equiped to protect them due to patriarchal rule) living in the most horrid situations imaginable, and you support this by supporting patriarchy. It may seem like a long shot to you but everything begins with a small seed and male ego run amok is the eventual condition of a country with those laws and values. Whenever hell is mentioned in the bible there’s always a referance to an absence of water, fire is a masculine element while water is feminine. We need the balance of women leadership with male leadership to ensure the fire doesnt burn out of control-which is exactly what the devil wants.

      • LC

        I’m not rooting for patriarchy – don’t believe I ever said I was – I root for the biblical idea of relationships. You’re right there needs to be a balance. Idk if egalitarianism is the balance, but there needs to be one.

        I say people, mainly Christians, miss the point because we have someone taken on this world view that everything is about us and what makes us happy when it’s really about God and revealing His glory.

        If you think it’s about you then you might as well go find a different faith, because it’s not! Maybe it takes folks a while to understand the Christ and the Church example, so how about Christ and God…..

        Christ is submitted to God the Father, though both of them are God. Christ doesn’t see that as something oppressive, He just knows He has a different purpose even though He is 1) equal to God and 2) Having to submit to God.

        It’s the same for marriage. If it says in Genesis 2 that the wife was called to be a helper, I don’t see that as something oppressive. Think: If you had to move a table, for example, or needed to solve a math problem, if you need some “help” are you going to call on someone weaker or dumber than you? No! You’re going to call on someone who is as strong/smart, if not stronger/smarter than you. Exact same with woman – I won’t argue who’s stronger, but…..well….actually I will, clearly it’s woman! Lol

        I agree, some have twisted the words of the Bible to shut women up or keep them from doing things in the church, but you also see the other side of the spectrum where some (Christians!) just completely throw out the idea of a biblical relationship because they’ve been brought up to believe the former. There is nothing weak about what the Bible – not man, the Bible – says about womanhood.

        • “I say people, mainly Christians, miss the point because we have someone taken on this world view that everything is about us and what makes us happy when it’s really about God and revealing His glory.”

          LC, I have to say, I struggled for a long time with the idea that there is this such conflict between God’s glory and the pursuit of what I intuitively know to be good for me. Believing this caused an identity crisis in me: “Does God really see me? Does He really love me or does He just love Himself?” Then it struck me – what is the basis for the human rights ensured by the Constitution of the United States of America? God is the basis. These are inalienable rights endowed by our Creator. I don’t know any Complementarian Christian who would scoff at the Constitution of the U.S.A; certainly the Judeo-Christian values that it was founded upon are not thought to be unbiblical! The inalienable right to “The Pursuit of Happiness” is included in the Constitution. So are women still not thought of by Comps to be Persons deserving of these constitutional rights?

          God’s divine imprint is stamped on the heart of man and on the heart of woman. This imprint is a likeness to God mentally, morally, and socially, which sets man and woman apart from the animals and fits them both for the co-dominion they were to have over the earth. (Woman was not created to be man’s helper, as you say. She was created to be a “help meet”, which means a partner on his level. )
          People need to be free to reach their highest God-given, and God-glorifying human potential. Any hindrance to that human potential can be thought of as a sinful attempt to suppress the glory of God. It is why slavery is morally wrong (if only Doug Wilson could understand this!).

          Enter Complementarianism.

          In the Complementarian system, hierarchy is now believed to be the major point of the divine imprint. God’s highest agenda is to place all of us as actors on the stage of life, and the measure of our value becomes the extent to which we mimic God’s supposed intratrinitarian role relationship for everyone to see. Yes, in this system the ROLE of woman is of equal value as the ROLE of men. But the problem is the actors and actresses are not fully valued as people in their own right. God’s divine imprint is on the institutions of marriage and church, rather than the individual person, and now the very things that made mankind distinct from the animals are devalued.

          This is called oppression, even if it is a benevolent oppression. And no amount of commitment on my part can ease the unbearable tension caused by living in the face of such cognitive dissonance. (Now I have to stop being rational too (another Divine Imprint) if I want to get with the program?)

          I choose to live an integrated life, because that is how God created me to live. And I strongly urge you to go back and re-examine what the Bible actually has to say about womanhood.

          “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:33).

          “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

  • Todd

    complementarianism is simply patriarchy with deceptive advertizing which shows what God is truly behind this doctrine. I’ve read some of the ways pastors like John Macarthur describe a dominant and submissive marriage, sounds kinda sweet untill you realize the undeniable evidence shows the fruit of this pernicous doctrine. Its like getting a beutifully wrapped gift that once opened proves to be nothing more than a box of dirt.