In writing about complementarianism yesterday, I did something that I’m all too often guilty of doing: I talked about the more radical edge of it as if it were the whole.
In other words, I talked about complementarianism in a way that makes all those who identify as complementarian sound utterly sexist. That was not my intent, clearly.
Complementarianism as it exists in America, is a broad and difficult to define concept … so slippery, that the From Two to One marriage blog spent four posts just defining terms!
At the most minimal core, complementarianism is the belief that men and women are different in some way, and have some kind of difference in their God-given roles. I think most of us believe that to some degree.
But that definition is too broad to be useful. It’s like a man who was taking a hot-air balloon ride, and, looking down, didn’t recognize the landscape. “Engineer,” he asked, panicked that they might be lost, “where are we?” The engineer looked over the edge, looked back at the man, and said, “We’re in a balloon.”
An actual useful definition of complementarianism would need to be narrow enough that it actually excludes more than a handful of people. So what I’m talking about is the idea of God-ordained different roles, to the extent of:
- Male headship in the home (wifely submission, as opposed to egalitarianism’s mutual submission and equal leadership)
- Male headship in the church (women may be excluded from all leadership roles, or possibly just the priestly/preaching role)
- The preparation of the next generation of girls to be good wives, first and foremost.
#3 is the one that troubles me the most. I have no problem with women choosing to live in complementarian marriages, choosing to subordinate themselves to their husbands. But I do have a problem with girls being told that that’s their role, and that’s where their worth and righteousness comes from. I have a problem with girls being pushed to not get an education, to marry young, and to stay married even if the husband abuses them.
And while not everyone who calls themselves complementarian takes this approach, it is not a rare or unique thing. Heaven Ministries, Buried Treasure, and Ladies Against Feminism have all published articles questioning the need for higher education or outright advising against it for women. A simple Google Search turns up even more.
So, I guess what I’m saying is that there is a significant group within the wide tent of complementarianism that I have a serious problem with. While I don’t want to paint everyone who takes that title with the same brush, I feel like I have to stand up and speak out. Because this affects our daughters, our sisters, our female friends, and that means it affects us all.