Recently, a friend asked me an unexpected question. “Do you identify first as a Christian or as a feminist?” I was surprised by but not unprepared for her question. I’d considered it before, and the answer is complicated. Stick with me here.
I was raised in something of a theological echo chamber where my complementarian convictions went undisputed. All diligent Bible readers would obviously conclude that men were to lead, and even more obviously, that women were not to be pastors. What could be simpler?
As I wrote this article, I was en route to a conference for Air Force Reserve chaplains. Only three hours before, I received a call from my baby's pre-school. They informed me that my daughter was running a fever and needed to go home. I rushed to pick her up, take her to the pediatrician, and drop her and her antibiotics prescription off with my husband so I could get to the airport in time to catch my flight.
The term “priest of the home” is an attempt to put more leadership, control, and responsibility on men, stripping women of the equal access Christ died for. This term, which never appears in Scripture, is an attempt to uphold patriarchy, a sad reality women have endured ever since the fall.
I once heard a pastor compare women to teacups. He explained that husbands need to treat their wives like fine china, gingerly, with the tentative hesitation as one approaches a foreign thing, separate from themselves.
"For the husband is the head of the wife, is that not what the Bible says?" my friend asked in all earnestness.
"No," I replied, "that is not what the Bible says. Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. How is Christ the head of the church?"
"I guess," he responded, "he is the Holy Spirit."
On the way home from church, my preoccupation with our conversation puzzled me. Why is it, I thought, that someone like my friend had spent so much time serving as pastor and yet had not grasped this basic truth of which Paul spoke? A lifetime of sermons and I had rarely, if ever, heard about how Christ is the head of the church. The essential exposition is not the husband as head of the wife. The critical question is, "How is Christ the head of the church?"