The oppression of women spans centuries and borders. In virtually every country and culture in the world, women have less-than-equal status to men and they are often relegated to subservient and submissive roles. Women suffer from domestic violence, job barriers, lack of control over their bodies, and fewer options for healthcare. They often do not have a voice in matters as broad as politics or as narrow as what happens within their own families.
We asked our supporters what concrete measures churches can take to combat abuse in Christian communities and strengthen their internal response to abuse. Some of you weighed in with some great ideas and examples, which we’ve compiled below.
I was recently perusing the comments on a blog post by complementarian Tim Bayly. Two female commenters were sparring over feminism’s simultaneous assertions of female strength and female subordination through socialization. The women went back and forth on the supposed contradiction of asserting that women are, by nature, capable of “standing up for themselves” and at the same time, arguing that many women don’t have the tools to do so as a result of patriarchal socialization. The complementarian commenter felt that feminists contradict themselves by saying that women are strong, but arguing at the same time that they are still victimized by patriarchy. I was sad to see this argument leveled like a feminist Catch-22—like it is the trivia question that egalitarians just can’t answer.
Naturally, social hierarchies are safe for those at the top. They’re designed to preserve the existing social structure, which already prioritizes the needs and perspectives of the group with power. Social hierarchies don’t make less powerful people and groups safer. Rather, they exacerbate any vulnerabilities and pose danger and harm to marginalized people.
I’ve avoided writing on rape culture for a while, because it’s a difficult issue to tackle from a Christian perspective. In my experience, Christian churches don’t often talk about power and consent, and even more rarely do they truly acknowledge the reach and implications of rape culture for the body of Christ.
In stumbling after Jesus, the church has sometimes faltered. Sometimes, we’ve been the ones holding women’s bruised and bleeding hearts in our fists. And sometimes, for all our good gospel intentions, we’ve done the wounding.
Critics have done a brilliant job of establishing all that complementarianism isn’t. I am grateful for their groundwork. But today, I want to explore what egalitarianism is. I want to move beyond a justified critique of complementarianism toward a strong egalitarian theology against abuse.