I met Brian six or more years ago when he was attending our local Christian seminary. From the beginning our conversations were important: Calvinism, gender roles, human trafficking and Harry Potter, with Brian generally on the more conservative side of the issues we discussed. When we met he was a 5-point Calvinist with stringent complementarian views.
You can imagine my incredulity recently when he informed me he’d become an egalitarian. His “conversion” happening in the space of an hour, he compared his experience to Saul on the road to Damascus. That same day he began discussing it with his complementarian friend Kevin (not his real name), citing me as an example of someone with whom he’d debated gender issues. Kevin, asked: “Is she married?” When he heard I was not, Kevin replied, “She’ll change her mind when she gets married. She’ll want her husband to lead.”
Though to me it seems one’s marital status is not an arbitrary qualification for understanding theology, I’ve heard this argument before. Despite my initial reaction of annoyance to this dismissive and patronizing statement, I understand the heart behind it. There does seem to be a lack of leadership in today’s men. I myself have dated the token disengaged, lazy boy-man who will not invest in family or relationships. It’s an epidemic stemming from a consumer culture that breeds a self-first, Peter Pan mentality. I hate it. I hate it for men. I hate it for women. I hate it for myself. I hate it for kids who have dead-beat dads. It’s tragic and it’s worldly – a Holy Spirit filled believer pursuing the things of the Lord puts others first. A Christ-like Christian doesn’t knowingly use people and then abandon them. A mature brother or sister is one who unbidden picks up his or her responsibility within relationships. Faithfulness, honesty, and self-control are often lacking in Western culture, and American men are no exception.
So for the sake of my loved ones who think men ought to be the spiritual leaders of the family, I want to introduce a clarification into the discussion:
If I get married, I absolutely want my husband to be a leader. A man who not only leads, but also engages with our children and invests in our marriage.
However, what the “she’s-not-married-she-can’t-possibly-know” argument implies is that I want this of my husband at the exclusion of wanting it of myself. Having a husband who leads is not antithetical to having a wife who leads, just as having a wife who submits is not antithetical to having a husband who submits. Submission and leadership both are situational and both are mutual. I want a marriage where, putting aside pride, we both lead and submit where appropriate. When I say I want an egalitarian marriage I’m not saying I want a feminazi marriage in which I do all the leading and he does all the submitting. I’m saying I want us both to be invested and working in love for the good of the whole.