I haven’t extensively written on Complementarianism in the past. I’ve often felt unqualified to speak on it. Then I saw this video:
One thing I noticed is that throughout he consistently explained the ‘roles’ in terms of men and women, but not in terms of husbands and wives. Why is this significant? Because not all men are husbands and not all women are wives, but the scripture speaks more to husbands and wives than it does to men and women in general – hence male headship. It’s not enough for husbands to be the head of their families, but males are the heads of their church or so the teachings go when carried out to their logical extreme.
My former denomination doubled-down on gender role teachings. We heard more about what husbands and fathers were supposed to do as servant leaders in Christ-like love and what wives and mothers were supposed to do in joyful submission than we did about the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, on faith, love, prayer, or any other teaching. As a result, one clear message was sent: single people are chopped liver (but they had to learn all about these things so that one day when they’re married they can be the best leadership servant and joyfully submissive helper they can be.)
The ‘roles’ teaching describes men as the spiritual leaders of their family and also the physical leaders of their family, always getting to make the final decision and have the last word in everything. This puts them in charge at church as well because all churches are groups of families. Because of the 1 Timothy qualifications, the vast majority of pastors you will ever meet are married men. Going from being married to separated or divorced is usually sufficient grounds to disqualify one from their ministry. Single people are not allowed to be leaders in the church but they can be helpers.
Paul once wrote that single people can devote all of their energy to serving the Lord without the distractions that a family brings to the table of married couples. If only the church would let them! Given the reality that statistically there are more single people than married couples, requiring marriage as a qualification for ministry means that more than of the church – the half with no distractions cannot serve God. The ones that are in church have a hand tied behind their backs because they are married and that distracts them from God having to consider their spouses and children at every turn.
I’ve heard it said that people can learn a lot through marriage, about taking two lives and making them one. But let’s not forget that singleness is also a learning opportunity – to have to rely on God alone. The church needs both perspectives.
But its not only marriage that is preferred over singleness, but as the Wretched video says – the roles of men and women are for women to submit to men and for men to lead women. He didn’t specify that was for the context of marriage, and by not doing so he might as well have said “all women are to submit to all men in general.” That’s where the chopped liver message hurts most. Statistically, there are more women than men in church. Last I had heard it was closer to a 60:40 ratio of women to men. Married or not, that 60 will never lead, teach, and in some churches they aren’t even permitted to speak. Out of the 40, only the married will advance ‘further up and further in’ the kingdom if and only if they are favored by the other leaders. The rest will only get ‘so far and no further’. One of my churches even wrote in it’s doctrinal statement that ‘Divorced men were not qualified for leadership – but exceptions could be made on a case-by-case basis.’ They also believed that women were not qualified for leadership and there were no exceptions, ever.
If I were to marry, then I would get more status. If I were to have children, then I would get more status. I forget which Bible verse says that all Christian men and women are to marry one another and have children in order to be true believers and leaders in the faith, but I’m sure it’s right up there with Paul’s words on the value of singleness. That’s what bothers me. As I am, before their eyes, I’m chopped liver. I could maintain a blog for a decade, talking about the Bible, living as bet I know how in order to follow Jesus’ teachings, but that’s apparently selfishness on my part. If these church leaders really knew me as an individual, they would see that I’m almost as unselfish as a person can be – married or single. They don’t care that I’ve learned a second language so that I can tell more people about Jesus. They don’t care about the gifts and talents I can bring to the table unless I can bring it the right way – by being married* (*it helps to be married to a man from a richer family, with connections to leaders in Christian circles, a future leader-type to get as much status as possible.) No one has ever asked to marry me – I’ve always been the only single person in my church. Even so, because churches here have so few people, finding a compatible partner with whom chemistry exists isn’t a given. You just can’t throw a guy at a girl, declare them to be married, and tell them that God will bless their relationship. It doesn’t work that way unless it’s an arranged marriage, and one cannot always arrange for one person to love another.
Jesus and Paul are often highlighted as two single men who are great examples of what one can do for the faith. Scripture doesn’t indicate what their female counterpart ought to be like. Almost all women in Scripture are described in relation to their husbands. There’s no Paulette – no precedent to define how a single woman ought to serve God in a feminine capacity. Even when Anna (a widow) is invoked, she is upheld as an ‘extraordinary Biblical example’, actually, every woman in the Bible is an extraordinary Biblical example that no woman could ever hope to match, but all men are normal examples that can be learned from and lived out even here and now. That’s probably because the idea that there’s a pink or blue approach to being Christians is a modern innovation that has no basis in Scripture.
Men and women alike are called to pray alike, men and women alike are called to take up their cross and follow Jesus alike – there’s no masculine (blue) way or feminine (pink) way of going about it. Both are to find commonalities in Christlikeness in ways that transcend gender as we know it. Because God transcends gender and marriage in ways we can’t even fathom. Yet to a Being like that, we’re not chopped liver, each of us as we are in all walks of life and lost in all sorts of sinfulness happen to be worth dying for. Was it not the prostitutes and tax collectors who beat the Pharisees into the Kingdom of God? If only the Church could realize that! If only the church could stop treating people like chopped liver, but let each individual live up to the potential that Jesus sees in each of us. Not just as wives and mothers or husbands and fathers, but as prophets, prophetesses, teachers, leaders, helpers, deacons, deaconesses, priests, priestesses, and so much more then we might just see what it is to belong to the kingdom of God in a real tangible way. We can only do that if we don’t interpret scripture while wearing pink-colored or blue-colored glasses.