Complementarianism framed our world, even before we knew what it was called. Yet the practice of complementarianism troubled us. It troubled us so much that we finally decided to challenge it. The Making of Biblical Womanhood tells this story.
What the example of Deborah reveals about gender authority: As women have gained increased influence in society, and as Bible scholars offer a consistent egalitarian interpretation of Scripture, gender traditionalists have had to work harder and more creatively to justify the subordination of women within the church and family—even to themselves.
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.
Marriage and friendship aren’t in competition. They aren’t two separate concepts on opposite sides of space, racing against each other to cross the finish line. They’re interconnected and intertwined, constantly intersecting to reveal a breathtaking paradigm of mutuality.
When people share their stories of harmful church teachings about gender roles, we’re accustomed to real horror stories of abuse. We also know that the problem is far more widespread, and it’s not always so overt.
Clearly, it is easy for us to lose sight of God’s ways and resort to our own default way of doing things. The popular concept of “headship”—the idea that the man is the leader of his wife and family and that he exercises authority over his wife as her spiritual covering and priest—is one such example of this. “Headship” is a word you won’t find in Scripture and, I believe, is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus and Paul on the kingdom of God. Consider three of these foundational teachings.
In January, Kristin Rosser wrote an excellent article entitled "The Consequences of Complementarianism for Men." It began with an imaginary conversation between a complementarian husband and wife. The wife expresses frustration that her husband has not prioritized finding a solution to a broken dishwasher, because the burden of hand dishwashing has fallen on his wife. Specifically, we learn that he does not help wash the dishes and has been absent at dish time. When the husband perceives that his wife is undermining his decision to purchase a new dishwasher instead of fixing their current one, he ends the conversation by saying that she must support what he does, and she agrees.