Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A known harm and a known good

A complementarian in the blogsphere wrote this to me. I have copied it here without permission because I find it a fair and respectful comment. Thank you.
    I know that this is not just a gender debate about ideas and biblical texts, but a dialogue between real people who have suffered real harm and about a Savior who has suffered to overcome the power of sin.
However, this is what I do not understand. A person who has been emotionally and physically abused has suffered real harm. A person who has not been given a voice, a person for whom someone else has acted as the literal head, making decisions, and deciding what is best for them - that person has suffered real harm.

On the other side, someone who has been abandoned or who has an unfaithful spouse also suffers real harm.

What I do not understand is how the teaching of mutual submission is one of the things that causes real suffering between two people. Why teach something that we know can cause harm, and teach against something which does not cause harm? What real harm has someone suffered from the teaching of mutual submission? I want to hear that story.

This is not about ideas and biblical texts, this is about real people who have suffered real harm. So now this is out in the open, what is the response?

1 comment:

Psalmist said...

Hello, Suzanne.

I've wondered the same thing, and asked a few times. The closest things I've ever gotten to an answer were:

"A group of egalitarians treated me badly."

"I was in an egalitarian marriage, and my husband behaved selfishly."

(These are paraphrases of the answers.)

So the harm isn't caused by mutual submission or biblical equality at all, but by people who (allegedly) behaved sinfully.

Now, it could be said that that's the deal with so-called complementarianism, too. It's not the tenets, but the abuse of them, that's the problem.

However, it's pretty obvious that there's a huge difference. You cannot abuse mutual submission without it NOT being mutual submission. There is no law against agape love, from which mutual submission comes. People can and do, however, abuse "headship" and it's still very much "headship," by the definition of those who promote and shape the movement. When a "headship"-believing man unilaterally moves his bank account, say, in order to prevent his wife from accessing the family income, he's still the "head" and she's still religiously obligated to "submit" to him (which essentially means obey and defer to whatever he says and does, as long as it's "not sin"). If she sins against him, by the rules of "headship," he can do all kinds of things (some of which the "headship" proponents are understandably reluctant to be quoted saying) to "discipline" her into submission.

"Oh, but that's not how *I* understand complementarianism." Well and good, as far as that goes. However, unless the protester accepts the truth that mutual submission is the model for marriage that we're all called to emulate (Eph. 5:21 applies to all believers, after all), then somewhere, at some point, the "complementarian" believes that a husband has rights or "authority" or some such thing that the wife does not have. It's all over the map (and that inconsistency is one of the signs, to me, that it's untenable as a Christian practice). Pretty much as long as one rejects biblical equality/mutual submission, one can call oneself "complementarian."

And meanwhile, the harm continues.

Fortunately, there are people who are waking up and rejecting this worldly practice for what it is and finding out more about true biblical equality.