Monday, February 23, 2009

Complementarianism or Chauvinism?

I've been thinking a lot over the last few days about the complementarianism; for those of you who don't know, it's basically the idea that men and women have specific, God-designed, complementary, gender roles in their marriages and in the church. Some will even take it as far as to say those roles should carry over into every other aspect of life: work and politics being two specific examples. The two most obvious ways this plays itself out in Christian life is that only men are allowed to be pastors, and the man is considered the head of the household. Those are two controversial topics in and of themselves, to say the very least.

But I am a complementarian. I'm a converted one, but I am a complementarian. I grew up in denomination that ordained women, and didn't see a problem with it, and I never really thought much about gender roles in marriage growing up. I've become convinced, that in those two particular situations, the Bible does prescribe different gender roles. The most all-time most popular posts on my blog are about just these subjects.

Nevertheless, I'm very nervous about much of what I see in in the complementarian community. I think it's led to excesses that subjugate women in ways the Bible never said. The Internet Monk has recently spoke about this topic a bit; I've also been thinking about it for my own personal reasons, in my marriage, and with the pending birth of my first daughter.

Let me give you an example from my own life: A couple of years ago, our church did the "Every Man's Battle" study, a look at how to best avoid the temptation of lust. Though I didn't like everything about the study, I found it generally pretty helpful, and still use some of the techniques I learned from it in my daily life.

My problem came, not as a part of the study, but at the end of it, when we had a guest speaker come in to talk to us about lust. He's a guy that I won't name, because I know him, and respect him and his thoughts in some areas. But the theme of his talk, basically, seemed to be that we shouldn't lust after women because we were sinning against their fathers or their husbands.

Here was the argument: When you lust after a woman, because they are under that authority of a man, then you primarily sin against that man. If that woman is married, you've sinned against her husband. If she is not married, you've sinned against her father. If she has neither father nor husband, then you've sinned against the church, who is the primary authority over her in the absence of the other two, according to this line of thinking.

Now, I just don't see the Biblical warrant for that. I think it's stretching the text, at best. And it does the very thing that critics of complementarianism say they do; subjugate women to a role of lesser person. Is a sin against a man greater than that against a woman? I think I can answer that with an unreserved no. The whole idea strikes of chauvinism disguised as complementarianism. I don't want to judge any one's heart, but that's the way this kind of think will certainly be perceived.

The complementarian position is supposed to be one that says men and women are equal but different. Any complementarian position that does not completely affirm the equality of women in the eyes of God is just plain wrong. Those who advocated complementarianism are going to get lots of slings and arrows anyway. We need to be more careful.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Haiku for My Church

Aslan on the move.
What is going to happen?
He will show us soon.