Mimi Haddad, writing for the blog at Christians for Biblical Equality, repeats a familiar mantra for egalitarian and progressive Christians: Complementarism leads to abuse.
For centuries, male rule has been perpetuated among Christians in two fundamental ways. First, Christians have asserted the essential difference between males and females, from which males are routinely viewed as superior and therefore the more logical option for leadership and positions of authority… It is easy to see how this can quickly become diabolical in viewing women as subhuman and in treating them as such.
Haddad then explicitly connects complementarian theology with absue:
From the moment I joined the staff of CBE, I began hearing from women who had been beaten, raped, molested, and humiliated in every way by their husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers, pastors, or other men who believed that God had given males authority over women. Clearly, the authority these men exercised had everything to with their gender and nothing to do with character. Is this the teaching of Scripture, or a distortion of it?
Injustice, abuse, and suffering are always the result of a distorted worldview. (a)
The ways in which this is a specious, malicious, slanderous and ignorant argument are legion. The conflation of gender roles with gender superiority does not come from complementarism or from historic Church theology about marriage and family, but in fact comes from contemporary worldview feminism. In secular feminism relationships are always about power.
In the Bible, however, marriage, sex, gender and relationships are about modeling the supernatural, sacred union of a loving Christ with a submissive church. Rather than a pseudo-Marxism that “sees through” sociological existence, biblical Christianity says that gender and sex have real meaning because they correspond to spiritual realities. Haddad does Christian egalitarism a disservice by borrowing so liberally from the secular tradition.
But there is another lesson to be learned here. Swarthmore is not a fundamentalist, patriacrchialist Baptist school. It’s a highly progressive, modern, politically liberal student body with its roots in the Quaker tradition. Complementarianism? It would be anathema at Swarthmore. There’s no whisper of a repressive sexual theology there.
What does this tell us? I can see three things:
1) Linking sexual abuse and rape culture to complementariansim just doesn’t work. It fails because it ignores that all sexual absuse is caused by one thing: Sin. Much of egalitarian theology actually mutes the Scriptural witness of the need for sexual redemption and purity. If anything, such subtraction is ITSELF to blame for proliferation of sexual abuse.
2) Egalitarians need to address the Swarthmore case. So far they have not. To the degree they look past Swarthmore, they will lose credibility. Where is the outrage when progressive culture cultivates rape? Will egalitarians have the integrity to acknowledge that it may not be a hermeneutical issue after all?
3) Sexual abuse and its cover up will always occur wherever there is a lack of regenerative, Christian living. This can happen anywhere. Abuse and rape are appalling but they cannot leave us with nothing to say. A resurrected Christ, offering the power of Holy Spirit life to those who repent and turn to Him in faith is the answer to sexual assault anywhere, with anyone, of any theological persuasion.