Yesterday, my colleague posted this article about feminism here. Through the comments on that article, I read a very interesting exchange between Hannah Mudge (a Christian feminist) and Phil Whitall (a complementarian pastor) his summary of which is here and all of which is well worth a read. As a complementarian myself I found it extremely educational and feel very challenged about addressing the hugely pressing issue of violence against women in my preaching and pastoral work.
I am left with two real questions.
1) Hannah was unable to say what the differences actually are between men and women (not just what they aren’t – they are not personality types or gender roles). If you are an egalitarian or feminist, can you please explain to me what you think these differences are? If you think they are merely biological (like most secular feminism, it seems to me) then can you explain to me why you don’t take the position (if you don’t) of affirming same sex relationships, as people like Steve Chalke and (as far as I can tell) Rachel Held Evans would do. (I chose these examples because they seem to explicitly link their view on that issue, as far as I can tell, to their view on gender equality) That seems to me to be much more consistent. The reason I ask is that I think for the complentarian, men take the role of servant-leader and women as helper supplying-what-is-lacking and that imaging of God’s diverse nature gives a reason for insisting that equal but different is necessary for marriage. But if there are no real distinctions in role – then for what reason can you say two men or two women can’t image God’s character in marriage?
2) A more serious non academic question. It seems to me that the real emphasis on equality but without difference actually encourages men to treat women like they treat other men. This, it seems to me, is not a very healthy model because men do not treat other men very well. I can’t help but wonder if this view actually increases the risk of someone who is violent being sexually violent, because the socially accepted deference to women’s general physical weakness is removed. (As I say I’m guessing, so I may be totally out of order here.) The beautiful thing about complementarianism as I understand it is that it says to men “Generally women are weaker than you physically. Moreover, the nature of having children means that they are often removed from positions of social influence for longer periods than you. Use the “power” that gives you to serve, love, care and honour women as beautiful and precious gifts from the Lord”. I guess most feminists would find that patronising. I can’t help feeling it’s healthier than encouraging men to treat women the way that they treat other men.
I might be wrong. I have no wish to throw brickbats or rule anyone out of conversation. I want to learn. But those seem to me to be two important implications of this debate that strengthen the complementarian view.