I enjoy how the Christian world tends to all move in certain directions, depending on who is leading of course. The Christian blog world is no different. This morning, I woke to numerous posts dealing with a topic that was blogged by Rachel Held Evans. I went to read her original article and should have known her site was rachelheldevans.com, but I googled it and forgot her name in the process and somehow ended up on an article about Evan Rachel Woods and her taken on North Carolina and Amendment One.
I have heard of Rachel before but have never really followed her writings. She is an author and speaker, as well as blogger. The topic that spurred so much conversation was over complementarianism. It is an ugly looking word, which should be an indicator that it might not be a fun word. You know how Christians want everything to be biblical and follow the way God set things up, so we get the term complementarianism to describe the less threatening way in which Christian marriages and relationships should work. Basically, both men and women have certain roles and abilities that when placed together will complement each other and form a stronger union, but with the man as the head.
It is a great concept, but as anyone who has been in a relationship can tell you, two people are not always working together let alone complementing each other.
Rachel, along with many others, basically point out that “complementarianism is basically patriarchy”. That is what filled my inbox this morning as people kept repeating it. She needs to have t-shirts made with that phrase because as many people were talking about it, it should be a seller. At least among the Christian types.
I see her point on the issue, as Christians have no clue how to implement a complementary marriage. I think I just made up a word. Spell check doesn’t like it, but I have the agnostic version, so maybe that is the problem. I think my wife my be right in saying I have a dorky sense of humor.
Rachel points out in her post that she and her husband slipped into a “functionally egalitarian” relationship. They made decisions together and shared household chores. There were no “gender-based absolutes” and no one was defined as the leader. It sounds like a perfectly good relationship that she and her husband have together and should continue to work as is without many problems.
For some reason, Christians have taught that the wife should basically be there to please the husband and the husband should be there to take care of the wife. Not all Christians, but it was an example that developed and was perpetuated by 50s television shows. For some reason, we tend to see things in absolutes. We cannot have a relationship where there is a clear leader and be able to respect your spouse and treat them as an equal. Maybe we could blame the feminist movement, as I bet some church people are doing, but somewhere along the way we got stuck on the thought that it just cannot happen. It must be one or the other.
Look at God for example. The Trinitarian version, as the other version does not work in this example. We have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I have a hard time referring to the third as the Holy Ghost ever since watching Eddie Izzard running around acting like the Holy Ghost saying boo. Plus it is a bit old fashioned, but if you like it, use it. Anyways, they are the perfect example of what complementarianism should look like. They are all of one mind and treated as equals, yet we still have a defined leader.
It is a great concept, but why can we not have it in marriage? Because we have two people trying to be one without either one loosing who they are. You cannot have one when the one still wants to be two. If anyone tries to be complementarian early in the marriage, they are in for one heck of a battle.
I hate to admit it, but I watch the real housewives shows with my wife. She likes them, but I support her habit. Anyways, on the Orange County series you get a perfect example of what church people want to put forth as complementarianism and the type of relationship that Rachel is calling patriarchy. The wife is in a position where she gets to grow and wants to pursue her own interests but her husband wants her to set that aside and stay home and take care of him. You have two people trying to be two people while pretending to be one person, all in the name of a biblical marriage. It just does not work and makes me wince since you know they will head for divorce without real help.
I think Rachel and others are right on the egalitarian approach, especially in the beginning of the marriage. The two need to learn how to work together and compromise. The process of becoming one flesh, in a practical sense, takes time. It does not happen overnight and in order for the process to work, there has to be mutual respect. I might be superior to my wife in arm wrestling, but not in all areas of our lives. I am not even sure I am superior to her in the arm wrestling aspect, so I know not to treat her as an inferior.
I think Rachel and others need to continue the thought out and explain why a straight egalitarian marriage does not always work though. You see, with that model, you still have two people trying to be two people. Yes, they work together and respect each other, but there are times when the two will disagree on something and if one person fails to yield, feelings on both sides will be hurt. Now you have an area in the marriage where there is a clear division and ripe for attack. People can often work through such issues, but you have to. I have seen people divorce over problems that occurred from such disagreements.
I want to say it is not a biblical approach, but modern marriage does not resemble marriages from the biblical period. The example is the Trinitarian model though. When you come to a disagreement, someone has to win out. I don’t want it to seem like a winner or loser scenario, but that is basically what it is. For the two to stay one, someone has to yield on their position. Now this does not mean a unilateral decision by the man, because there is no respect for the wife in that matter, but after open minded discussions have occurred and prayer from both parties, someone has to step back and let the other one lead. It is this instance that we see the “man” taking the lead in the marriage. Not all the times, but in times of division, only one can lead.
I would like to see complementarianism rise up and be seen in Christian marriages, but if I look for it, I look for it in people who have been married for many years. Usually like 20 years, as it takes a while for people to get it right.
I might have to read Rachel’s stuff a bit more often so I can blog on her topics early on in the day. Maybe this can be seen as fashionably late. She is a good writer, so that might be enough of a motivation.